Some people who have more money than they can possibly spend in a lifetime make a valiant effort and just keep spending. Others take a more philanthropic approach, setting up foundations to distribute their wealth in areas such as education, medicine, or technology. It's never too late to start planning your own foundations, so here are some facts about the world's largest.
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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Believing that "every life has equal value," Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, established their foundation in 2000 with $106 million. The foundation's goals include improving health care and education, fighting extreme poverty, and providing increased access to information technology. In June 2006, Warren Buffett, the world's second richest person (behind Gates), pledged ten million shares of his company's stock (worth nearly $31 billion) to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As of April 2006, the foundation's endowment exceeded $33 billion, which means that to keep its charitable status, it must make approximately $1.65 billion in annual charitable contributions. In addition to his ample financial gifts, Bill Gates has also pledged his time to the foundation, announcing that he will phase out of his managerial role at Microsoft by July 2008 to focus on charity work.
The Wellcome Trust was founded in London in 1936 on the death of pharmaceuticals mogul Henry Wellcome. The mission of the Wellcome Trust is to promote research, improve human and animal health, and improve the understanding of science and medicine. As of September 2005, Wellcome's endowment was approximately $23.2 billion, making it the largest charitable foundation in Great Britain and the second largest in the world.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute was founded in 1953 by aviator, moviemaker, and millionaire industrialist Howard Hughes to promote medical research and education. The initial endowment consisted of 75,000 shares of Hughes Aircraft stock. After Hughes' death in 1976, the endowment quickly grew from $4 million in 1975 to $15 million in 1978. During this time, the institute became more involved with genetics, immunology, and molecular biology. Another increase in the endowment occurred in the mid-1980s when General Motors purchased Hughes Aircraft, and by September 2005, it had reached nearly $15 billion.
In 1937, Lilly Endowment, Inc., was established by Josiah K. Lilly, Sr., and his sons with stock from Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals company. While the endowment, which now totals $10.8 billion, is 13 percent of the company's stock, the foundation is separate from the pharmaceuticals company. The foundation's primary recipients are in community development, education, and religion. The Lilly Endowment is the largest private foundation in the United States to contribute mostly to local projects, with 60 to 70 percent of its annual funds going to charities in its home state of Indiana.
Founded in 1936 by Edsel Ford and two Ford Motor Company executives, the purpose of the Ford Foundation was to fund scientific, educational, and charitable projects. Today, the foundation's mission includes promoting democracy, improving education, and reducing poverty. In its early years, the foundation supported National Educational Television, which was replaced by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1970. At the end of 2006, the foundation's endowment was approximately $12 billion. In that year alone, the foundation gave out nearly $530 million in grants for projects focused on community and economic development, education, media, arts, peace, social justice, and human rights.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was established in 1936 by Robert Wood Johnson II, the son of Johnson & Johnson founder Robert Wood Johnson and later a World War II army general. The foundation focuses primarily on improving the health of all Americans by helping to provide quality health care at a reasonable cost, improving the quality of care for people with chronic illnesses, promoting healthy lifestyles, and reducing the problems caused by substance abuse. With an endowment estimated at $9.4 billion, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation made $403 million in grants in 2006 to support these causes.
W. K. Kellogg Foundation
Believing that "all people have the inherent capacity to effect change in their lives, in their organizations, and in their communities," breakfast cereal magnate Will Keith Kellogg founded the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in June 1930. Throughout his lifetime, Kellogg donated more than $66 million in Kellogg stock and other investments to the endowment, which today has assets of more than $7.8 billion. During the 2005-2006 fiscal year, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded $329 million in grants, including $39 million to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Hewlett-Packard cofounder Bill Hewlett and his wife, Flora, formed the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 1966 to address social and environmental issues. With more than $8 billion in assets, the Hewlett Foundation donates approximately $300 million annually. The foundation distributes grants worldwide in the areas of global development, education, performing arts, reproductive health, and environmental issues. It also funds programs to aid underprivileged communities in the San Francisco area where the foundation has its headquarters.
Robert Bosch Foundation
The Robert Bosch Stiftung (Robert Bosch Foundation) was established in Germany in 1964 to fulfill the philanthropic and social pursuits of Robert Bosch, founder of the automotive parts company Robert Bosch GmbH. Today, the foundation has an endowment of approximately $6.9 billion, of which 92 percent is stock in Robert Bosch GmbH. In 2005, the foundation distributed around $75 million in grants to promote education, international understanding, science and research, and health and humanitarian aid. The foundation also operates three health and research facilities in Germany.
The David & Lucile Packard Foundation
In 1964, David Packard, the other half of the Hewlett-Packard team, and his wife, Lucile Salter Packard, established the David & Lucile Packard Foundation. The foundation's mission is "to improve the lives of children, enable the creative pursuit of science, advance reproductive health, and conserve and restore earth's natural systems." The foundation's endowment is approximately $6.2 billion, and it awarded $224 million in grants in 2006.
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