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Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Innovation in the Non-Profit Sector.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 27, 2006

Lots of folks don’t see either Bill Gates or Warren Buffet as innovators. Buffet often says he doesn’t “get” technology and doesn’t invest in it. Much of his company’s money is in insurance. And you know the rap on Microsoft so there is little to add to that.

But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does have a deserved reputation for innovation. By applying tough performance metrics in a non-profit space—drugs and vaccines for fighting and preventing malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS—this, the biggest charity in the world, is making significant progress. By making strategic investments with key partners, it acts more like a Silicon Valley VC firm than a traditional charity or foundation. It’s a novel non-profit model, perhaps not for everyone. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations have made huge inroads in battling disease and hunger over the decades. But for people looking for new models of organizational innovation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a place to examine.

Reader Comments

manuel toscano

June 28, 2006 7:43 AM

I think that many are underestimating the impact that this event will have on the future of both innovation in the non profit "industry" and the possibilities of global change that it will generate.

Y K Kok

June 28, 2006 5:11 PM

Three cheers for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for restoring a compassionate human face to capitalism. The wonderful models put up by these two great persons will surely inspire many successful entrepreneurs to do their parts in making a significant difference in the lives of many unfortunate people all over the globe.

The sheer size of their donations, half the fortunes of Bill Gates and almost the entire fortune of Buffet Warren, speaks volumes on the innovative business outlook of these great entrepreneurs. They look at their worlds, their lives, and the true value of money with different perceptions. And their creative perceptions create their realities and make their lives meaningful in the capitalist world where greed is the rule rather than the exception. Their unconventional examples of philanthropy are truly great and inspiring.


June 28, 2006 11:19 PM

Capitalism used for the postive benefit of humankind is the best use of all the forces of capitalism.

Asif Khan

June 29, 2006 5:21 AM

Two of the richest men in the world, Two role models, Two examples in themselves and great friends set another example in the world. They won't go down in the world as the richest men but also as the biggest philanthrops.

Two hats to Gates and Buffet and hope this money is utilised in the best of the way to eradicate pain and poverty in the world.

Anniece Ross

August 11, 2006 2:39 AM

Giving is great. But not all help is helpful. I admire the Gates Foundation because they are asking the question how will we know we are successful. I believe they think they will be successful when governments take over the production and distribution of medicines and therapies they have provided the guaranteed market for that made the companies create the medicines. After development costs are met, medicines should be no more than cost to produce and distribute. The Gates Foundation has taken the risk and they provide development money. That is what profit is for, so companies should not have to make huge profits. That is helpful.

However, my friend Ted Jennings has a matrix that he uses to test whether help is helpful.
Self Friend,family Professional Institutional

The best, cheapest help is developmental selfhelp. All benefits go to the individual. Next developmental help of Friend,family but now it is a trade. Their aims are not exactly your aims. You have to return the favor. ... (you see where I am going) The most detached, most wasteful, with its own agenda of selfperpetuation is Institutional. But by far the most costly, most wasteful, most distant help is Institutional Remedial (which is what the Gates Foundation is doing). Sometimes that is all that can be done, but the drive should be back toward developmental selfhelp. How far the Gates Foundation can proceed toward this is the real measure of helpful help. I wish them all the luck in the world and hope this helps.

Anniece Ross

August 28, 2006 2:15 PM

Bruce: One of the great business innovations applied to philanthropy has been microlending, as in the Grameen bank.

I heard Melinda Gates say they are looking into microlending as a way to empower women, so they can at least afford to buy a microbicide gel (if one is ever developed, since trials have stopped...which requires a business or political solution, not technical). Women find ways to evade and get clean kits, she said, basically a razor blade and a clean piece of string, to prevent infection at birth for mother and child. Developmental selfhelp. Very helpful. Very hopeful.

The modern business corporation is the world's greatest invention for the processing of information. Science is the method for determining if the information is true and should be acted on. Innovation in business is crucial to our survival. Thanks for keeping us informed about innovation in business. Anniece

Rickie Sumlin

September 3, 2006 10:52 PM

To NussbaumOnDesign. My name Rick Sumlin, I am 45 years old with a family of (3), with (3) kids. I am emailing to address a question to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet or fan staff. I am a private inventor, I have several invention ideas. I love great invention ideas, I seem to live an breath new product development. I do not possess the expertise, or financial base.

For those that are fortunate enough to fulfill their dreams with their inventions is a good thing. And I have one that is patented and I was fortunate enough to win a BRONZE MEDAL at a WORLD TRADE SHOW. So my question is. Common people like myself have a major problem financially supporting their inventions.

How does one connect Bill Gates and Warren Buffet or any other Philanthropist that gives to other worthy causes other than what they normally invest in. For instance inventors like myself, there are so many people like myself that could use the help, but will never receive it because they're not connected with the right people. So although this email may never get considered for that matter even read, we just keep dreaming.

I myself would like to accomplish my goals, and I know that if I was to ever get the chance and receive help with my invention. One day in turn I could help someone else. Although my invention may not be what Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is interested in, it's the Independence, and Financial means that one has that is so meaningful to the next person in life; no matter what that may be.

If there is someone that you can forward this email information too, please do not hesitate. It doesn't matter who it is that helps. Thank you in advance. I leave the description and contact information at this time. The name of my invention is called "THE HAPPY BUNKER.

A new revolutionary type of bunk bed. Juvenile product. Inventor is seeking seed money for prototype, and may negotiate the sale of new product with the right company. Royalties will be shared with investor person in regards to investment turn around.

A sum of $200,000 to $700,000 dollars is needed; for all phases of design and marketing and would ensure the maximum royalties for inventor as well.

One company in San Fransisco, CA shows tremendous interest in "THE HAPPY BUNKER. They label the revolutionary product the "TEE PEE BED". It seems to be the talk at the company's round table.


Product is similar in size and basic shape to standard bunk beds, but incorporates lightweight, durable materials and clear plastic in its construction.

The bed is supported by four large hollow posts formed from clear molded acrylic or some other suitable clear plastic material. The posts are quite wide, with rounded edges, and are wider at the top and base than in the middle, for an attractive, curved appearance. Tops of post are equipped with illuminating lights to prevent night fears.

Within the posts at various levels, stuffed animals or popular children's characters are displayed within the clear plastic of the post. Child interacts with a learning station, (Play Station) that displays 123's and ABC's etc. Play station plays a audible prelude of that particular character.

The rails at the sides of the product and the ladder also have unusual designs to appeal to children; they are formed from acrylic and covered with rubber for safety. The ladder is spiral for easy access to top bunk.

The beds have an inset area for the mattresses; they are formed from lightweight, durable materials. Bed has two small drawers in the sides. For a sporty look bed is equipped with soft cushiony saddle bags to store personal items.

The drawers provide extra storage space for clothing or other items, (especially valuable in a room shared by two children).


Combines sleeping and playing functions for children into one area. Aids as a comprehensive learning tool starting at a young age. Provides the level of safety necessary.

Helps a child feel more secure and comfortable in his or her bed via friendly decorations and memories of play there.

Reduces night fears, which can prevent both children and parents from getting a good night's sleep .

Mesmerizing lights provide gentle illumination at night which further comforts the child.
Provides increased floor and storage space in a child's bedroom.

Inventor, Rickie F. Sumlin
Hawkinsville, GA
31036 RR2 Box 2730

(478)783-9247 daytime M-F 7:00am-4:00pm
(478)783-2542 evening EST.


Anniece Ross

December 15, 2006 3:52 PM


Read the morning business news RE concrete coating that eats smog. Put on buildings in Rome, it clears the air around it. Can be used for paving, also. What a great idea, what a neat product.

Technical guy at Italcementia said, what inventors and developers often say: photocatalysis has been around since the 80's (innovation) BUT we didn't see any practical applications for it (creativity).

Model is Charles Sanders Peirce's comment on existential graphs that he had thought of 14 years before he > it: I must have seen that it was possible, I just did not see the value of it. Innovation occurred, judgment of creativity NOT.

Best for the holidays.
P.S. my vote for 2006 innovation is a tool for developing tools: Google's new BETA for fulltext patent search.

Regards, Anniece Ross

rick broadwater

January 12, 2007 11:41 PM

In this world so media brainwashed and technology dazzled are there any persons of power left that can appreciate good old common sense? I am an HVAC contractor with 25 years real world experience that knows the claims made currently by Trane,Carrier etc. for SEER values are only obtainable in laboratory conditions.
I share the fate of others with great ideas,we lack the credentials necessary to be recognized. I have made numerous attempts to contact the major HVAC manufacturers with a concept I have developed that will rival the impact the heat pump had on the industry when it appeared.
Another innovative design could reduce cooling costs for structures like the BIG BOX stores by 20% or more.
Another concept utilizes condensate to reduce head pressure in units from residential to industrial size.
All of these designs require very little additional development and also intended to aid in the reduction of energy consumption and to slow global warming.
Should there be others who share the value of low tech common sense solutions and find themselves in the position to do more than talk about our wasteful energy policies please ask them to contact me.

Rick Broadwater
Common Sense Concepts

guy young

August 25, 2007 3:25 AM

I,have an invention' that will create new jobs for people and will help those who suffer from breathing conditions all over the world my only problem is that I,don"t have the capital to get my idea off the ground,I"belive that if bill gates , was to see my invention he would invest in it" i know personaly that my idea is a great one because my family belives in it also so MR,GATES IF YOUR OUT THERE PLEASE GET IN TOUCH SO I, CAN SHOW YOU MY IDEA THANKS.

Chris Aguon

March 28, 2008 3:33 AM

To, whom ever this may concern, I have a great invention Idea that I've brought to many invention help places that love the idea, but the up front costs and capital is so hard to come up with to, give my invention a jump kick, This product will definetly be the new thing of all ages. please help!

ann redmond

October 26, 2008 3:08 PM

In the past there were great people and organzations that supported great ideas and communities..I was gong to pitch an idea..but find my self only wanting to sell it...In the 70,s I put all my hours to creating people parks children play grounds, community garden projects in unkept properities..created jobs for unemployed teens. Now years later my son 19 I find I want to create not just a job but a place to support adults recreation themselves and reaccessing there ways to fit in the work amd volunteering worlds ..If you come up with a team that wants to create and pursue this need I am here. Lets look at the population as skilled and resouceful and accapable of learning so we can move into the next decade . Thank you Ann Redmond


May 29, 2010 7:14 PM

great info on these new business models. High carbon use companies look out! What happened to the Phone Sex industry with the emergence of the adult website may ha[[en to you!

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June 12, 2010 12:04 PM


June 12, 2010 11:14 PM

Good Article , i will follow article every month thank delightsale


June 18, 2010 3:39 AM

Downstream focus creates innovation. Humankind coupled with businessdynamics and technologies create a supersociety.

The supersociety allows us to live with downstream focus. Which in turn brings new innovations.

Rather than fighting the current upstream, find what it is that you love... love to do, something that brings you true joy. That is your downstream focus. That is the conscious mind you should strive to live in. Then you have found the answer to the question of all mankind. The answer is happiness.

If you understand this. Then you will understand why Warren Buffet and Bill Gates choose to do what they do and how they inspire others to do the same.


July 19, 2010 11:19 AM

I hope that we can have total support from the government to realize these Low carbon business models one day at a time.


October 26, 2010 12:33 AM

I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.

Hayden Hormann

December 11, 2010 2:52 PM

I’d be inclined to comply with you on this. Which is not something I typically do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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December 18, 2010 7:22 AM

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December 31, 2010 5:24 PM


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January 2, 2011 8:52 PM


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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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