Bill Gates Letter to Warren Buffett

Our 2017 annual letter is addressed to our dear friend Warren Buffett, who in 2006 donated the bulk of his fortune to our foundation to fight disease and reduce inequity. A few months ago, Warren asked us to reflect on what impact his gift has had on the world.

It’s a story about the stunning gains the poorest people in the world have made over the last 25 years. This incredible progress has been made possible not only by the generosity of Warren and other philanthropists, the charitable giving of individuals across the world, and the efforts of the poor on their own behalf—but also by the huge contributions made by donor nations, which account for the vast majority of global health and development funding.

Our letter is being released amid dramatic political transitions in these countries, including new leadership in the United States and the United Kingdom. We hope this story will remind everyone why foreign aid should remain a priority—because by lifting up the poorest, we express the highest values of our nations.

One of the greatest of those values is the belief that the best investment any of us can ever make is in the lives of others. As we explain to Warren in our letter, the returns are tremendous.

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.

We knew we owed you a fantastic return on your investment.

Of course, philanthropy isn’t like business. We don’t have sales and profits to show you. There’s no share price to report. But there are numbers we watch closely to guide our work and measure our progress.

Our goals are shared by many other organizations working to save and improve lives. We’re all in this together. So most of the numbers we look at don’t focus just on how we as a foundation are doing, but on how the world is doing—and how we see our role.

Warren, 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.

We’ll tell the story through the numbers that drive our work. Let’s start with the most important one:

Read the rest of the letter here

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