The foundation was founded on December 1994 and was first named as the William H. Gates Foundation. The main focus of the foundation were global health and community needs in the Pacific North west.
In October 2006, the foundation created two trust structure called Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which distributes grant money, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust which manages endowment assets.
The foundation believes that every life has an equal value. They work to help all people lead a healthy life. In developing countries, they focus on the improvement of people's health and lifting them out of hunger and poverty. In the United States, they seek to ensure that people have access to opportunities that would lead them to succeed in school and in life.
There is a new, seven-foundation partnership established that support nonprofits to become more effective and engaged. The Fund for Shared Insight has announced its first round of grants, which are intended “to encourage and incorporate feedback from the people the social sector seeks to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and grantees; and share lessons.”