Alliance anniversary poll: Gates and Ford had most positive impact over last 25 years


Elika Roohi and Charles Keidan


Alliance readers have identified the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Ford Foundation as the two standout foundations which have achieved the most positive impact on the world over the last 25 years.

This is one of the key findings of a special Alliance survey to mark the 100th issue of Alliance and the publication’s 25th anniversary.

The survey, which looked at the influence and impact of philanthropy over the last 25 years was conducted in April 2021, collected over 280 top-of-mind responses from participants in almost 60 countries. It asked readers views on the most influential philanthropists, foundations, movements, and trends. It also surveyed respondents about what region of the world they expected to see the most growth in the philanthropy sector over the next 25 years, as well as which issues will rise in prominence.

Gates Foundation divides opinion

When asked ‘if you had to name one person who has had a significant positive impact in the field of philanthropy over the last 25 years, who comes to mind’, 19% of respondents answered Bill Gates. However, when asked the same question regarding who has had a significant negative impact, nine per cent respondent Bill Gates.

‘Bill Gates has created by far the largest philanthropic institution during the last 25 years by setting the tone for philanthropies way of operations for many of its peers and by taking philanthropy to the table of policy makers,’ noted one positive respondent.

Conversely, another commented: ‘Bill and Melinda Gates have no awareness of the control they have taken over the medical priorities in the developing world.’

The survey took place against a backdrop of Bill Gates’s high profile role in tackling the Covid pandemic but before news of Bill and Melinda Gates divorce, and allegations of past sexual harassment from a Microsoft employee and Bill Gates associations with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein received renewed scrutiny.

The Ford Foundation received near-universal praise for its commitment to core funding through its BUILD initiative, its innocative use of endowment resources to increase spending at a time of need and the leadership of Ford President Darren Walker.

George Soros’s Open Society Foundations was also commended by readers for its politically edged philanthropy promoting human rights and civil society.

Who’s had an impact? For good…

When asked who the most positive figures in philanthropy over the past 25 years have been, readers highlighted an eclectic mix of sector figures. Top of the list was Asha Curran, a founder of giving platform Giving Tuesday, philanthropy scholar and critic Edgar Villanueva, best known for his book Decolonising Wealth, Ginny Esposito, an expert in family philanthropy and former head of National Committee for Family Philanthropy. Also mentioned was Oak Foundation vice chair and climate philanthropist, Kristian Parker.

…and bad

When asked who has held philanthropy back, readers answered the Sackler family, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, and Jeffrey Epstein.

‘Every billionaire philanthropist who normalised rampant, unfettered capitalism by whitewashing it with big gifts and the accompanying press releases and self-congratulation,’ wrote one respondent, summing up many views.

To read the full survey results, as well as the rest of the 100th issue, visit

Elika Roohi is Digital Editor at Alliance, and Charles Keidan is Executive Editor.

To order a copy of the new issue, subscribe to Alliance today and get a special offer.

On 16 SeptemberAlliance will be celebrating its birthday with a special event exploring the past, present, and future of philanthropy with expert guest speakers. Register for the event here.

Alliance magazine has been celebrating its 25th anniversary all year with a special event series, commissioned essays and analysis, and webinars. For more, visit

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *