Our story

The Gates Foundation’s journey began in Washington state.

When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched in 2000, Bill and Melinda chose to establish their philanthropic roots at the place they called home: Seattle.

Bill Gates Sr., the first employee of the newly formed foundation and an early philanthropist in the 1950s, helped set the tone for our local work—directing resources to issues like family homelessness, education and scholarships, and early learning. Bill Gates Sr.’s legacy and commitment to showing up and giving back stays with us today.

There is one lesson I’ve learned over the years as a father, lawyer, activist, and citizen which stands above all the others. It is simply this: We are all in this life together and we need each other.
By Bill Gates Sr.

We’re committed to giving back to the region that has given us so much.

Inspired by Bill Gates Sr.’s commitment to show up for his neighbors, Bill and Melinda prioritized investments in Washington state in the Gates Foundation’s early days.

The same year our foundation launched, we created the Sound Families Initiative to address family homelessness in the Puget Sound region, an issue that we felt deserved more resources and attention. Sound Families helped build more than 1,450 transitional homes for families—and inspired us to make a decade of additional investments to improve the crisis response system for people who entered into homelessness. We continue to fund local solutions to this complex issue today through our Community Engagement work. 

Across the state, we’ve invested in scholarship programs, helped strengthen our state’s early learning system, and funded a range of other education solutions for more than 20 years. While our strategies have evolved over the years, education remains the core focus of our grantmaking across Washington.

Each year, we make grants totaling nearly $40 million to support communities, students, and families in Washington state. Our investments continue to be inspired by what community members and our partners prioritize—and what our colleagues are learning in our national education and economic mobility work.


A new focus on postsecondary enrollment
We announced a new statewide focus on helping more students enroll in postsecondary programs after graduating from high school. This work will support locally led collaborations across the state united by a common goal: to help students see a clear path to success after high school.
COVID-19 response
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we worked with our partners and other funders to respond to the local community's needs with timely investments. 
College Promise Coalition launches
With our support, the College Promise Coalition launches, bringing together public and private partners to advocate for affordable, accessible higher education opportunities for Washington students.
Discovery Center opens
The Gates Foundation Discovery Center opens at our Seattle headquarters, providing an interactive space to connect the public to the work of the foundation, explore solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, and take action on the issues that matter to them.
Charter schools approved in Washington
Washington State voters approve Initiative 1240, allowing the option of high-quality public charter schools, offering flexibility and additional options for families looking to get students to college.
Road Map Project launches
We help launch the Road Map Project in South King County, creating centralized support for a collective, community-driven effort to improve education and economic outcomes for young people in seven school districts.
New family homeless strategy
We commit $60 million over 10 years to the Family Homelessness Initiative, a housing-first approach based upon evidence-based practices in other communities across the country that have succeeded in reducing family homelessness.
Foundation for Early Learning launches
We help launch a statewide Foundation for Early Learning with a $10 million grant. The organization builds on Melinda’s experience with the 1998 state commission, and later merges with Thrive Washington.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launches
Launch of Sound Families
Bill and Melinda launch Sound Families to address family homelessness in the Puget Sound region. Between 2000-2008, Sound Families helped build more than 1,450 transitional homes for families with children in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

Learn more about us

Our mission
Everyone should have access to the opportunities they need to design the future they want. That belief drives our work in Washington state.
Our team
We’re a team that lives in and loves Washington state. We work every day to give back to our local communities.
What we do
We work with local and regional partners to help students see a clear path to success after high school.