Melinda French Gates is still giving away her fortune—but no longer promises it will all go to the Gates Foundation
When Melinda French Gates cofounded the Giving Pledge in 2010, she and her now ex-husband, Bill Gates, promised to give away the bulk of their fortune to the Gates Foundation.
In an update to her now-solo pledge posted on Wednesday, French Gates adjusted that promise. She writes that “philanthropy is most effective when it prioritizes flexibility over ideology”—and no longer explicitly promises that her money will go solely to the foundation. The Wall Street Journal reports that French Gates, whose net worth is now valued at $11.4 billion, is planning to “spread [her fortune] among philanthropic endeavors.”
“Today, I’m reaffirming [my 2010] commitment,” French Gates writes in the new post. “I recognize the absurdity of so much wealth being concentrated in the hands of one person, and I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away—as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible. The ultimate goal of any philanthropist should be to render the need for philanthropy obsolete.”
In his own letter, also posted on Wednesday, Bill Gates writes that the Gates Foundation remains his “top philanthropic priority.” (The Microsoft founder’s wealth is today valued at $130 billion.) The former couple created the foundation, which has an endowment of $65 billion, more than 20 years ago as the main philanthropic outlet for their wealth. The foundation has recently added new trustees as it overhauls its governance in the wake of the Gateses’ divorce, which was announced in May 2021. In recent years, French Gates has also focused her work on her investment firm Pivotal Ventures, which addresses gender inequality.
French Gates’ new letter is reminiscent of a recent missive from her colleague in philanthropy MacKenzie Scott (the pair have collaborated on the initiative Equality Can’t Wait, which awarded $40 million to ideas to advance women’s power and influence). In her own recent letter, Scott (who began distributing her fortune at a rapid pace after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) similarly reflected upon her views on philanthropy.
Both French Gates and Scott wrote that the definition of philanthropy should encompass more than giving away vast amounts of money, instead accounting for gifts of time, support, and resources by people of all income levels. Scott described her experience not identifying with the label “philanthropist” because it recalled to her “financially wealthy people who believed they knew best how to solve other people’s problems.” French Gates shared a similar sentiment today: “It’s important to acknowledge that giving away money your family will never need is not an especially noble act.”
Never miss a story: Follow your favorite topics and authors to get a personalized email with the journalism that matters most to you.