Philanthropic journey examines a new course of direction

Bill and Melinda TED2014

When a rich couple of marital status in America reaches a middle-stage, they are likely to talk about a new plan to work together. A new plan often starts with a target area to spend a large portion of their time. The target can be anything, whether education, health, sports or arts, as long as it is aligned with principles to doing good.

But if they pick the complex causes which they can have the most impact on the world, the difference emerges in approaches and results. Melinda and Bill Gates walked seaside of the long beach with hand-on-hand. After a long and intensive conversation, they decided to eradicate diseases such as polio and malaria. This is more than two decades ago. Since then, they have produced a measurable result.

The Gates foundation was founded in 2000, employing 1,750 people in Seattle. Those people are successful professionals such as academics, management consultants, and often experts in the fields. They work around the clock in the institution which grants $4.1bn in 2019 out of its immense $50bn endowment from a billionaire such as Warren Buffet. During the pandemic, the foundation promised to spend $1.8bn fighting against corona virus.

The Gates Foundation helps save the world in charitable giving. The size of charity is astonishing. In foreign aid, it gave out more than 11 times as much as the next-largest and marked the 12th largest donors. Only American government helps more in monetary terms than the foundation in the contribution to World Health Organization.

Hand-writing a numerical number on the check takes a short time. Reaching the decision on what number and where to takes a much longer time in grants to a promising partner. As long as each partner is successful in meeting the prescribed targets, the difference in managing a day-to-day operational style does not emerge.

Currently, it appears that it doesn’t necessarily work perfectly as it was planned beforehand. It is not easy to judge which one is better the other, either. So the debate commences. I take Bill’s approach.

There are three reasons I support his style; resource, decision-making, and cues for others. For a start, let’s talk about resource. In any organization, an economic theory applies. In theory, the resource is limited. The organization has a vast amount of force with $50bn endowment and 1,750 competent employees. But the time has passed more than two decades since 2000. Time is not vastly available. They need the results to keep going.

The second area is decision-making. The results on grants should be measured. Otherwise, they cannot evaluate and select the applicable partners in practice. A non-profit organization under the leadership of Askaan Sante received $900,000 with 13 staffers to focus a public health in Dakar. Some rates and scores work in monitoring the performance.

The third concern is the impact on other billionaires in tech titans of the west. They watch on which cause to pick and how to manage the foundation. The bosses of GAFA, at least two of them, have been educated in business schools in America. Tim Cook of Apple and Andy Jassy of Amazon received MBAs from Duke and Harvard respectively. The focus must be data-driven style for the growth strategy. The day-to-day method is subject to verification.

It is not exactly clear what Bill and Melinda talked about during their long conversation along the quiet seaside in Africa. They picked the cause for sure and established the foundation. They might not have discussed how to run the organization. No one knows because it has come to the reality until it appears yet.

During a long journey, if they find a solution to resolve a complex problem on poverty and to run the organization, that would be a nice story to doing good with charity and hopefully a proven theory of managing the institutions in the textbook of business schools in America.

Source: The Economist, “Philanthropy, Shifting foundation”, September 18th, 2021

The Economist correspondent raised two questions. At the beginning of the story, the readers are asked the first question. Will thedifference (between Bill and Melinda) in empasis set the foundation on the novel course? The second question comes at the end. Will the influence of Melinda’s style outlast the difference?

The British newspaper does not address their opinion.

Taught marketing @ universities in Tokyo for a decade, ex-I-banker & mgmt consultant @ Kurt Salm (Accenture Technologies now), Georgia Tech educated