Foundation FAQ

General FAQ

Foundation co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates believe that all lives have equal value and they have always been determined to use their resources to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life.

You can learn more by visiting the Our story page.

Our co-chairs do not operate the foundation with any intent to profit from its charitable activities. Furthermore, all U.S. private foundations are subject to legal restrictions that prohibit them from being operated in ways that personally benefit their founders. Any financial earnings by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust and profits realized by the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund charitable holdings must be used for charitable purposes. Under this structure, Bill and Melinda have given away more than US$59 billion so far to cure disease, save lives, and help the world’s neediest people.

The foundation is governed by a board of trustees, which in 2022 was expanded to include the CEO and five independent experts as board members. The members of the board work alongside foundation co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, and contribute their diverse perspectives, backgrounds and expertise to help guide and strengthen the foundation's governance and strategic direction.

You can learn more about the role of the board of trustees in our 2022 Annual Letter. The trustees are listed on the website’s Leadership page.

Group portrait of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates along with Board of Trustees members: Tom Tierney, Ashish Dhawan, Minouche Shafik, Mark Suzman, Helene Gayle, and Strive Masiyiwa during Foundation Week in Seattle, Washington, on July 12, 2023.
A group portrait of co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates along with board of trustees members: Tom Tierney, Ashish Dhawan, Minouche Shafik, Mark Suzman, Helene D. Gayle, and Strive Masiyiwa in Seattle, Washington.

Since the foundation’s inception, every choice we’ve made has been in service of our mission of helping to ensure that every person has the chance to lead a healthy, productive life.

We do not set the world’s agenda; as a foundation, we respond to it. Our work is guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of concrete, measurable commitments made by every country in the United Nations to its own citizens. From those shared priorities, we identify a subset of areas—from improving vaccination rates to advancing women’s economic power—where we have the funds, expertise, and relationships to be part of the solution and where transformational progress is unlikely without our involvement. Geographically, we seek to help those who live in places with a high burden of disease and poverty.

You can learn more about how the foundation thinks about and uses its influence in our 2023 Annual Letter.

The foundation works closely with government partners, and we share our views and learnings on shared priorities, including global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. As a private foundation, though, we do not engage in or provide project support funding for lobbying communications as defined under U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. When engaging with government partners on legislation, the foundation operates under the IRS lobbying exceptions, which allow the foundation to educate, provide technical assistance, share nonpartisan analysis research, and work with governments on jointly funded projects.

We make all our investments public in a searchable database, and we are transparent about our priorities and strategies. We report regularly to the International Aid Transparency Initiative Standard, the Foundation Center’s Glass Pockets reporting initiative, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and we also post our audited financial statements and tax returns. Additionally, the vast majority of the research and data we fund is made publicly available.

You can learn more about our transparency efforts here and our open access policy here.

The foundation discloses all of its financial and tax information on the website’s Financials page, and annual expenditure reports for every year since 1998 are available on the Annual Reports page.  .

We work with a diverse array of organizations, including governments, nonprofits, for-profits, faith-based groups, civil society organizations, and academic institutions, as well as with many individual experts, to advance our mission of helping to ensure that every person has the chance to lead a healthy, productive life.

In the case of private-sector organizations, we work with companies that have experience creating and delivering innovative products and services that can help improve people’s lives. When opportunities arise to involve private-sector organizations that would not otherwise participate in making progress toward our charitable objectives and that bring expertise and resources to the table, we seek to create incentives for them to do so—and to take action that does the most good for the most people.

You can learn more about our work with the private sector here.

Embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion into the foundation’s practices is the only way we can achieve our mission. We seek to achieve bold, innovative outcomes through increased diversity of talent, equitable practices, and an inclusive culture. As we pursue those outcomes, we must also understand our immense privilege and responsibility and look critically at our own culture and practices to ensure that we are listening and learning.

The foundation’s DEI Progress Report 2022 documents and reports on our current work including division action plans, leadership trainings and innovations in recruitment and hiring, and critical work with partners—without whom our work would not be possible—that demonstrate DEI is a priority across all foundation programs, divisions and leadership. A piece written by our CEO Mark Suzman provides a further articulation of our progress, challenges, and road ahead.

You can learn more by visiting our DEI webpage.

The Foundation Trust holds the foundation’s endowment, including the annual installments of Warren Buffett’s gift, and funds the foundation. Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are trustees for the Foundation Trust, and the endowment is managed by Cascade Asset Management Company. The Trust assets are organized separately from the foundation and are managed by a separate team of independent investment managers who are not directly affiliated with the foundation. 

The two-entity structure enables the foundation to separate its program and program-related investment work from the management and investment of Trust assets. 

The foundation and its staff have no influence on Trust investment decisions, strategies, or activities.