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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gives $30 Million to United Way of King County

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Rick Rafael
Phone: 206.461.3740

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today gave United Way of King County $30 million, the largest single gift to a social service agency that serves the Pacific Northwest. The money is to be used to offset operating and administrative costs at United Way of King County (UWKC), thereby making more of the funds raised in its annual campaign available to address community health and human services needs. In addition to the outright gift, the Foundation has pledged to match up to $5 million a year over the next 11 years to build the endowment fund to a point where it will cover all operating costs.

"Melinda and I are investing in United Way of King County because we believe it's one of the best ways anyone can help build a stronger community," said Bill Gates. "Through their strategic approach designed to address the full range of our health and human services needs, United Way of King County adds value to every dollar that is donated."

Joanne R. Harrell, president and chief executive officer at United Way, said, "This represents an extraordinary opportunity for our community to continue its long tradition of helping those in need. It means that United Way will be able to pay a portion of its administrative and operating costs out of this gift and make more money available for direct services."

Harrell pointed out that none of the Gates gift will go to United Way's annual fund-raising campaign. "It is very important for people to understand that this gift is a long-term investment in the financial integrity of United Way, and is designed to free up more of our annual campaign dollars to help people in need in our community.

"It means that Bill and Melinda Gates have tremendous faith in the people of King County in their support of United Way. Over the next 11 years our goal will be to raise $5 million a year and realize the matching grant. Success means we ultimately will be able to cover all administrative costs of United Way so that all donations will provide services to those who need them."

United Way of King County's operating costs are 10.9 percent, among the lowest of any local United Way in the country. In the past three years they have dropped from 12.1 percent.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gift was announced this morning at a press conference at one of United Way's partner agencies, the Central Area Motivation Program, by Shan Mullin, a Seattle attorney who is chair of the United Way of King County Endowment Board.

Mullin said donors to the endowment have the potential to increase it to more than $140 million. "Our long-term goal is to be able to tell donors that every dollar they give goes directly to helping people in this community and is changing people's lives. If we can raise $5 million a year and realize a $5 million annual match, we can essentially move every penny of every dollar our donors give each year to services that help people in King County."

William H. Gates Sr., co-chair of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, "This community has a strong tradition of looking after its needs by giving to United Way of King County, perhaps the best local United Way in America. Our hope is that as we work together to build the endowment to be able to cover all the operating costs, even more people will see the value of donating to United Way."

The Gates gift will be held in perpetuity at The Seattle Foundation and is to be used only to offset UWKC's administrative and operating costs. The principal will remain untouched and five percent of the investment returns will be distributed annually to UWKC to offset a portion of the amount that donors pay to cover operating costs.

"This is a gift to every person in King County," said Rick Fersch, the president and chief executive officer at Eddie Bauer who with his wife, Patti, is heading up United Way's annual campaign this year. "Whether you're a donor to our community through United Way, an agency with programs funded by United Way, or someone who uses services that United Way funds, this gift will benefit everyone."

The $30 million is one of the largest gifts to a local United Way in America. According to United Way of America, the largest was $50 million made to United Way of Central Indiana in 1998 by the Lilly Endowment.

The Gates family has a long history of supporting the work of United Way. William H. Gates Sr. served as chair of an annual UWKC campaign in 1989. His late wife, Mary, was chair of the UWKC board of directors, and was instrumental in beginning the UWKC's volunteer center. She also served as board vice president and chair of the executive committee of United Way of America. Bill Gates III has served on both the local and national United Way boards.

United Way of King County is a local, nonprofit organization that has been supporting health and human services programs in our community since 1921. This support is provided with funds raised through an annual community-wide fund-raising campaign that responds to the year-round assessment of problems, issues, and service needs in King County. United Way is governed by a 56-member volunteer board of directors, and there are several hundred other community volunteers who serve in a variety of programs and activities. The volunteers are supported by a staff of 86. For more about United Way of King County visit the web site.

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