The world’s biggest charity has 46.8 billion dollars in the bank – half as much as every charitable organisation in Switzerland put together. Let’s put that into perspective.

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.

A compa­ri­son 

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.

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