Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Bill Gates Third Annual Letter for the Gates Foundation – A Passion for Causes and Determination to Achieve Results
The Bill Gates Annual Letter
Vaccination has been a major priority for the Gates Foundation and this year it is front and center in Bill's letter. Bill highlights the importance of results with the polio vaccine - and they are impressive. To many younger people polio may seem like a foreign and exotic disease, but not to me. My first grade best friend died of polio, and I still remember the surrounding details that I won’t bore you with here. Both of our parents initially decided against us lining up for the somewhat controversial vaccine, but after she died I was promptly brought to our family doctor for the shot. Polio has been wiped out in the United States due to mandatory vaccinations. It can be wiped out everywhere on earth with inexpensive vaccines. I am ecstatic about this commitment to wiping out polio.
Bill also talks about malaria and AIDS. His remarks have facts that have emerged from taking and analyzing data that will help advance doing things better in the future. There is a fascinating chart graphing the impact on IQ of disease. Bill cites this impact on human potential as a major reason for his and Melinda's commitment to these world health projects. Both his passion for the causes and his determination about improving results shine through his comments. All nonprofits can learn from this commitment to the benefits of the cause and the emphasis on results.
Like many of the Gates Foundation projects, their work with agriculture is innovative and seeks to make fundamental long term change. They have worked with small farmers to meet quality standards and form cooperatives to meet bulk standards to be able to sell to world food program relief projects, They have been successful in doing this. This addresses a major problem with large scale food aid causing market problems for local farmers.
The next topic is education – the main area of the foundation’s funding in the US. His two big areas of concern – hours spent in school and rewarding teacher’s excellence. The Gates Foundation always marches to it own drummer and here too this is true. They are working with teachers’ unions rather than trying to conquer them in developing teacher excellence.
Bill wraps up his letter talking about the Giving Pledge and its origins to which he credits Warren Buffett. It wouldn’t be a Bill Gates annual letter without accolades for Warren Buffet. Although originally focused on the wealthiest people in the United States, he and Warren have been invited to discuss this idea with groups in China and India. You just can’t hold a great idea back I guess.
The Gates Foundation uses Bill's annual letter to accomplish so many things. It informs us on a new level about world health. He thanks nations and individuals and publicly encourages future support (advocacy done well). He presents results and gives us insight to his vision for the future. Yes, it is a long letter, but it holds your attention throughout. Bill Gates is an excellent communicator about the causes the foundation supports and we can learn a lot about how the Foundation operates from reading this letter.