'Swing for the fences': Warren Buffett's advice headlines Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's 20th annual letter

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  • Warren Buffett told Bill and Melinda Gates to “swing for the fences” when he pledged most of his fortune to their foundation in 2006.
  • The billionaire philanthropists titled their foundation’s 20th annual letter, “Why we swing for the fences.”
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will expand its focus from improving education and healthcare to tackling climate change and gender inequality.
  • “The world can’t solve a problem like climate change without making big bets,” Bill wrote.
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Warren Buffett told Bill and Melinda Gates to “swing for the fences” when he pledged to give most of his vast fortune to their foundation in 2006. The famed investor’s advice has stuck with the billionaire philanthropists: “Why we swing for the fences” is the title of their foundation’s 20th annual letter.

“When you swing for the fences, you’re putting every ounce of strength into hitting the ball as far as possible,” the Microsoft founder and his wife said in the letter. “You know that your bat might miss the ball entirely-but that if you succeed in making contact, the rewards can be huge.”

“That’s how we think about our philanthropy, too,” they continued. “The goal isn’t just incremental progress. It’s to put the full force of our efforts and resources behind the big bets that, if successful, will save and improve lives.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent nearly $US54 billion in 20 years, its founders wrote, with 45% going towards global development, 29% to global health, 16% to US programs, and 10% to other charitable programs.

They primarily focused on healthcare and education, but will now prioritise gender equality and tackling climate change as well, they added.

“When Warren urged Melinda and me to swing for the fences all those years ago, he was talking about the areas our foundation worked on at the time, not climate change,” Bill said. “But his advice applies here, too. The world can’t solve a problem like climate change without making big bets.”

Buffett recently topped the list of America’s biggest givers after giving nearly $US15 billion to charitable causes between 2014 and 2018.

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