“Dear Warren. Ten years ago, when we first got word of your gift to the foundation, we were speechless. It was the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything,” said Bill and Melinda Gates in their annual letter, which they published this week on their website, GatesNotes.com.
They were referring to the gift of US$31 billion — the bulk of his fortune — which the Berkshire Hathaway chairman bestowed on their foundation in 2006.
“We knew we owed you a fantastic return on your investment,” said the Gates in the letter. “Your gift doubled the foundation’s resources. It’s allowed us to expand our work in US education, support smallholder farmers, and create financial services for the poor. But in this letter, we’re going to tell you about our work in global health — because that was the starting point of our philanthropy, and it’s the majority of what we do.”
Gates went on to list his favourite numbers associated with Buffett’s gift.
“If we could show you only one number that proves how life has changed for the poorest, it would be 122 million — the number of children’s lives saved since 1990... If you add it all up, 122 million children under age five have been saved over the past 25 years. These are children who would have died if mortality rates had stayed where they were in 1990.
“Remember the laugh we had when we travelled together to Hong Kong and decided to get lunch at McDonald’s? You offered to pay, dug into your pocket, and pulled out… coupons! Melinda just found this photo of me and ‘the big spender’. It reminded us how much you value a good deal. That’s why we want to point you to this number, 122 million. Saving children’s lives is the best deal in philanthropy.”