To improve its processes and ensure that it makes dramatic progress in this century against the problems it is working to solve, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it will separate its program work from its investment activities. It has also decided to spend down its assets within fifty years of its founders' deaths.
The restructured foundation will consist of two entities: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which will hold the foundation's endowment, and a program foundation. The trust will include the annual installments of Warren Buffett's gift to the foundation, valued at approximately $31 billion, and, in turn, will fund the program foundation. Bill and Melinda Gates will be sole trustees of the asset trust, and the endowment will continue to be managed by a team of outside investment managers.
The second entity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will conduct the foundation's programmatic and grantmaking activities, and will have as trustees Bill and Melinada Gates and Warren Buffett. The program foundation will also control IRIS LLC, which will hold the property and manage construction of the foundation's new campus.
The foundation's work will likely conclude by the end of the 21st century. Acording to a foundation press release, the decision not to establish the foundation in perpetuity underscores Bill and Melinda Gates' optimism that the foundation can make enormous progress in addressing the comparatively narrow set of issues on which it has chosen to focus — improving global health, reducing extreme poverty, and, in the U.S., improving access to a quality education and to technology in public libraries. Beginning in 2009 and continuing through the next decade, the foundation's payout target will be approximately $3.5 billion per year.
In addition, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the foundation will establish three advisory boards comprised of scholars, nonprofit leaders, and other experts to help evaluate its grantmaking in global health, global development, and U.S. programs. Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer told the Chronicle that the move should help mollify critics who have suggested the foundation needs to include a more diverse range of voices and opinions in its decision making. "[This change will provide] outside expertise and perspectives and hopefully the very bold voices that will help us."