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Bill Gates has held the title of richest person in the world many times since 1995, recently falling to second place behind Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Over the past two decades, Gates and his wife, Melinda, have spent much of their money on charity, encouraging other billionaires to follow in their footsteps by signing the Giving Pledge.
The Gates couple launched the pledge with Warren Buffett in 2010, asking signatories to donate a majority of their wealth to charity either during their lifetime or in their will.
In the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter from this year, Gates wrote that he and his wife discussed spending a lot of time on philanthropy before they even got married.
“We think that’s a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money,” Gates wrote. “Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.”
This is how Gates and other billionaires in the tech industry spend the money they pledged to donate:
Bill and Melinda Gates have donated billions since launching the Giving Pledge.
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Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his philanthropist wife, Melinda, have donated more than $36 billion through their foundation to fund programs related to global health, education, emergency relief, poverty, and more.
Since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched in 2000, the philanthropists have donated about $2 billion to fight malaria. And in 2014, during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the foundation pledged more than $50 million to help fight the virus.
The foundation has also donated $75 million to create the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, which investigates childhood deaths in developing countries.
In 2016, Bill Gates and other philanthropists pledged to donate $100 million toward eliminating malnutrition in Nigeria. Bill and Melinda also pledged $38 million in grant money to a Japanese pharmaceutical company, which aimed to develop a low-cost polio vaccine.
Melinda Gates has spearheaded an initiative to advance opportunities for women around the world, from expanding the availability of contraception to raising awareness of “time poverty,” the concept that hours of unpaid work like household chores rob women of their potential.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also pledged $80 million to support programs that advance gender equality and to gather data on the worldwide gender pay gap.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares to charity.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2015 that he intends to give away 99% of his Facebook shares – then valued at $45 billion – during his lifetime.
Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were some of the first people to sign the Giving Pledge in 2010, and they have focused their philanthropic efforts on education and medical research.
Before the 2015 announcement, they had already donated more than $1.6 billion toward philanthropic causes, including $25 million to the CDC Foundation for fighting the Ebola virus. They have also donated $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital – which has since been named after Zuckerberg – through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
In an effort to improve public education, Zuckerberg and Chan decided in 2014 to donate $120 million to schools in the Bay Area. Four years earlier, they had pledged $100 million to the public school system in Newark, New Jersey.
Through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was founded in December 2015 to advance the couple’s goals in healthcare and education, the pair also pledged to donate at least $3 billion over the next decade to “cure all disease” by the end of the 21st century.
Larry Ellison focuses on medical research and education in his giving.
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Oracle Corporation co-founder Larry Ellison, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2010, has donated millions to educational and healthcare causes through the Lawrence Ellison Foundation.
In a letter announcing his participation in the pledge, Ellison wrote that he has given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and he intends to donate billions more in the future. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ellison’s net worth is currently $55.3 billion.
Paul Allen has donated $500 million to his institute for brain science.
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Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2010, has focused his philanthropic efforts on science research, from preventing epidemics to saving species from extinction.
He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which studies the genetic causes of brain cancers and other diseases, and has invested roughly $500 million in the research facility. In 2014, he pledged $100 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Allen has donated $2 billion to philanthropy, according to financial research company Wealth-X. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts Allen’s net worth at $26.5 billion.
Elon Musk’s foundation supports science education and renewable energy research.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has donated primarily toward science and engineering education, renewable energy research, pediatric research, and human space exploration research.
In 2011, when a tsunami devastated Soma City in Japan, the Musk Foundation donated $250,000 to build a solar power system there. Last year, Musk donated $15 million to Global Learning, a program run by the nonprofit XPRIZE to develop software that can help children in developing countries teach themselves basic math and literacy skills.
His net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is $21.7 billion.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna donate hundreds of millions each year through the Good Ventures Foundation.
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Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, signed the Giving Pledge in its first year.
In 2011, Moskovitz and Tuna co-founded the Good Ventures Foundation, which partners with GiveWell and the Open Philanthropy Project to find causes to support.
Some of the foundation’s recent grants have gone toward reforming the criminal justice system, farm animal welfare, and biosecurity. According to its website, Good Ventures provided $314 million in grant funding last year.
Moskovitz’s net worth is currently $17.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Azim Premji is using his wealth to reform the public school system in India.
Indian business tycoon Azim Premji, chairman of the IT services company Wipro Limited, is working to improve public education in India through his foundation, which has opened a nonprofit university focusing on education and human development.
Before signing the Giving Pledge in 2013, Premji donated about 8.7% of Wipro Limited’s total stock – then valued at roughly $2 billion – to create an endowment for the Azim Premji Foundation. His net worth is currently $15.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
According to Wealth-X, Premji donated another $2.2 billion to the foundation in 2012, followed by $3.8 billion more in 2015.
German businessman Hasso Plattner has been donating toward global health and education for over two decades.
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German businessman Hasso Plattner, co-founder of software company SAP SE, launched a foundation roughly 20 years ago to focus on global health and education.
In 2005, he donated $35 million to the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. He signed the Giving Pledge in 2013, and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates his wealth to be $14 billion.
Plattner also co-founded the Wildenstein Plattner Institute in 2016 to digitize historical art materials like artists’ correspondence and stock books from art galleries.
Earlier this year, Plattner’s foundation donated roughly $4.9 million to the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, which is in Romania.