On January 24, 2000, Bill and Melinda Gates announce a gift of $5 billion in Microsoft stock to their namesake foundation. The contribution raises the total Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation endowment to $21.8 billion and makes it the largest philanthropic trust in the United States.
The gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation builds on and consolidates previous family and corporate philanthropic efforts to promote greater social equity in four areas: global health, education, public libraries, and support for at-risk families in Washington state and Oregon. The Foundation (technically a philanthropic trust) is guided by Microsoft co-founder William H. "Bill" Gates III (b. 1955) and his wife Melinda French Gates (b. 1965), and directed by his father, William H. Gates II (1927-2020) and former Microsoft executive Patty Stonesifer (b. 1957).
The couple continued to support the Foundation with sizeable gifts, including about $3 billion from a special one-time dividend paid to Microsoft stockholders in 2004. On July 20, 2004, Microsoft's board of directors voted to issue a special dividend of $3 per share, payable to shareholders of record in November. Gates, the largest individual holder of Microsoft stock, immediately said he would donate all his proceeds to the Foundation. "The pledge today is recognition that our world, the nation and our region -- now more than ever -- can and should dramatically improve equity in health, education, and access to information and human services for vulnerable families," he said. The gift brought the Foundation's total endowment to about $30 billion.