The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s largest private foundation. According to the charity’s factsheet, its wealth amounted to 46.8 billion dollars in 2018. Wikipedia states that spots two and three are held by the UK’s Wellcome Trust, with 26 billion euros in 2018, followed by the Open Society Foundations (OSF). This group of charities created by the philanthropist and investor Georges Soros has around 18 billion dollars at its disposal. They campaign for democracy and support civil society initiatives across 120 countries. The Wellcome Trust was founded by the pharmacist, businessman and philanthropist Sir Henry Wellcome. This charity supports projects focused on healthcare research, while the globally active Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aims to improve healthcare provision. In addition, the Foundation advocates for access to education and technology and is working to eradicate poverty. All told, the three biggest charities in the world have assets of more than 90 billion Swiss francs. As a comparison, in 2018 CEPS showed that Switzerland’s 13,000 or so charities had assets of around 100 billion Swiss francs.
On average, each charity in Switzerland manages assets of 8.2 million Swiss francs. This makes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 5,700 times larger than the average Swiss charity, and even bigger than the guarantees provided by the Swiss Confederation during the coronavirus crisis, which the Federal Council increased to 40 billion Swiss francs on 3 April. However, the Foundation doesn’t quite have enough to give America a helping hand: by the end of July, the US stimulus package totalled three billion dollars. And so we’re clear, Microsoft had a market cap of around 1.5 billion dollars (1,500,000,000,000) at the end of July 2020.
Dynamic and diverse
Charities in Switzerland are smaller, with 80 percent having assets of less than five million Swiss francs in 2018. That said, this diverse sector is shaped by dynamic developments. The 2020 Stiftungsreport showed that 349 charities had been founded in the past year, and 70 percent of the 13,293 charitable organisations had been founded in the last 30 years. There are 15.6 charities for every 10,000 residents in Switzerland, with the canton of Basel being the most densely packed with charities, at 45 per 10,000 residents, and Aargau the least, at 7.0.