The financial crisis is affecting everyone, from our foundation to our partners. We know that it has hit our grantees, and the people they’re trying to help, especially hard.
Non-profit groups rely on steady funding to carry out their work, but with an uncertain economy and a volatile stock market, funders are having an increasingly difficult time meeting their commitments. Like all of our fellow foundations, we’ve been thinking a lot about what the downturn means for our work, and would like to explain our perspective on what we are doing:
Stay focused on our issues We’ll stay focused on the core set of issues where we think we can do the most good: increasing opportunity in the United States—primarily through education—and improving health and fighting extreme poverty in developing countries. Within these areas, we’ll continue to follow the evidence. We will make grants in the areas where the data tell us we have the best chance to make the greatest impact.
Even as we make our own grants, we also try to encourage other funders, such as governments, businesses, and other foundations, to do their part. This advocacy is especially important in tough times. When government officials write next year’s budgets, it may be tempting to cut back on the very programs our grantees care most about. We will continue to advocate, within the legal limits on lobbying, for funding and policies that advance the work we’re doing with our partners.
Grow our payout We are planning to grow our payout in 2009 by about 10%. This is lower than previously planned, but represents the commitment of our co-chairs’ and leadership to our mission during a difficult time.
Keep operating costs low We have always tried to be great stewards of the resources that have been entrusted to us. Even as we work to make sure that every grant dollar goes as far as possible, we also strive to keep our operational costs low. I have asked our employees to reduce expenses wherever possible, and we are closely scrutinizing our budget.
Continue learning There’s still a lot we don’t know about the effects of the economic downturn. How will it affect the budgets of the cities, states, and nations that we work with? What about multilateral organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, and what about the businesses whose innovations are critical to improving people’s lives? We are working with all of our partners to understand these issues better in the coming weeks and months.
It is important to underscore that we remain hopeful about the future. Bill and Melinda Gates are great optimists. They know how much better the world has become in the past century, and they’re confident that, even with the challenges we face today, life will continue to improve for billions of people.
Jeff Raikes Chief Executive Officer
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