The Philanthropists Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates announced in May that they were divorcing and then gave a huge donation of $15 billion to their foundation in July. The money will support the funding in global health, development, policy and advocacy, and U.S. education well into the future.
The donation increased the endowment to about $65 billion and is the Gateses’ biggest infusion of money into the foundation since 2000, when they transferred Microsoft stock then valued at $20 million.
When they announced this year’s gift, the two philanthropists indicated they planned to continue running the foundation together for the time being but announced through the foundation that if after two years either one of them decides not to work together, then French Gates will resign as co-chair and trustee.
Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates say they will still work with the Giving Pledge, the campaign they co-founded with Warren Buffett in 2010 to encourage billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth through philanthropy.
French Gates wrote that she will continue to support efforts to fight poverty and “advance equality for women and girls and other marginalized groups.” Gates wrote in his Giving Pledge letter that the work of the foundation will continue to be his “top philanthropic priority” and that he plans to increase his giving in other areas like “mitigating climate change and tackling Alzheimer’s.”
Nonprofits that focus on those causes are likely to reap big rewards, given that Bill Gates’s net worth is pegged at about $137 billion and Melinda French Gates’s at $6 billion.
Meanwhile, Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny’s, $500 million contributions to the University of Oregon tied for second place on the list. The gift will be used to expand the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and follows a $500 million donation the Knights gave to launch the science campus in 2016. The Knight Campus aims to speed up the process of transforming new scientific discoveries into medical treatments and other developments to improve people’s lives.
Phil Knight, whose net worth stands at about $60 billion, earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the university in 1959. The couple has given the university a total of at least $1.6 billion to date.
Also tied for No. 2 is a $500 million challenge pledge the financier George Soros made through his Open Society Foundations to Bard College for its endowment. The pledge aims to persuade other donors to back the college’s effort to raise $1 billion over the next five years.
Next on the list is a $480 million donation to Northwestern University from Patrick Ryan, founder of Ryan Specialty Group, an insurance services company, and his wife, Shirley. The Ryans, whose net worth stands at close to $8 billion, gave the money to their alma mater for a variety of programs.