Gates CEO Says Foundation Has Room for Improvement

In his first annual letter as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeff Raikes acknowledged that the world's largest foundation needs to improve its internal processes and the quality of its outside partnerships, the Seattle Times reports.

In his letter, which was included in the foundation's recently released 2008 annual report, Raikes said his first priority is to "make sure our internal processes run smoothly." Raikes cited data from the foundation's first-ever employee survey, which found that staff members believe "it can be hard to get things done at the foundation." In response, said Raikes, "We need to clear some hurdles so we can all focus our energy on the people we aim to help."

The CEO's second priority is to improve the foundation's relationship with its grantees. "Starting with me," the former Microsoft executive said, "everybody at the foundation needs to make a concerted effort to listen more carefully to what our partners in the field have to tell us." In a time of economic uncertainty, he noted, such changes can help to ensure that each dollar spent has greater impact.

According to the report, the foundation paid out $2.8 billion in grants and other charitable expenses last year and expects to increase that amount to $3.5 billion in 2009, despite a loss of about 20 percent in the value of its portfolio, from $38.7 billion in 2007 to $29.5 billion in 2008. Global health accounted for 65 percent of the foundation's spending, and Raikes said the foundation plans to spend tens of millions of dollars more to help fund the final phase of clinical trials for a malaria vaccine.

Kristi Heim. "Gates Foundation CEO Sees Room for Improvement." Seattle Times 06/03/2009.