The Power of Philanthropy to Change the World

The Power of Philanthropy to Change the World

Every year I look forward to receiving the annual report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation because it is always full of encouraging and energizing facts concerning recent trends in the world we live in. This year is no exception.

The recent report is in the form of a progress report to Warren Buffet concerning the impact of their massive donation to the Foundation a few years ago. It cites data concerning some major trends that demonstrate remarkable progress in the quality of life of hundreds of millions people around the world. This progress was, in one way or another, influenced by the power of philanthropy. Sometimes by spurring local governments to action, sometimes by creating incentives for business to respond, sometimes simply by bringing an issue to public attention. The report is quick to point out that these improvements are the result of many philanthropic organizations not just the Gates Foundation. By virtue of its size, however, we can be sure that the Gates Foundation is a major player.

Some examples from the report:

  • According to the UN, the number of childhood deaths has been cut in half since 1990. This means that there are 122 million children alive today that otherwise would have died had the survival rate stayed the same.
  • The biggest contributor to this enhanced survival rate is the widespread use of vaccines. Today, worldwide, coverage for the basic package of childhood vaccines is the highest ever at 86%. This is up from just 20% in 1980. Philanthropy provided the funding source so that drug companies had the incentive to develop, produce and deliver the vaccines to poor countries that could not afford to buy them without philanthropic help.
  • Major contributors to newborn survival rates include breast feeding, hygienic umbilical cord cutting and Kangaroo care. Kangaroo care means putting the baby in direct contact with mother’s skin to raise body temperature. Philanthropy serves to educate people about these nearly cost-free measures.
  • Today, more than 300 million women in developing countries are using contraceptives, which is up from 200 million just 13 years ago. When women are able to time and space their pregnancies, they are more likely to get an education, to earn an income and to have healthy children.
  • And, finally, worldwide, extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 25 years.

Participation in philanthropic activities is one of the great rewards of retirement. One way to participate, of course, is by means of direct financial donations. But we also have the luxury of participating by contributing our time, energy and talents, many of which we developed in our working lives.

Would you please share your creative ideas for philanthropy?

Bill Kindler

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