Community & Government

Connect Through Curiosity

Melinda French Gates

Lesson time 09:46 min

Melinda encourages members to get curious about their recipients and to form connections that will make their work resonate.

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Topics include: Fly Under the Radar• Curiosity Is Key• Approach Giving with a Learning Posture


- I would say for almost any type of giving you do, it's deeply important to connect at some point with your recipients. You might be able to start by saying, look, I saw this on a trip I was on-- maybe a business trip. And I know there's need there. So I'm going to go do some research online, and I'm going to make a few investments and a few organizations tackling that issue. But I don't think it's till you really get out and are with some of the recipients and kind of understand their lives that you really connect in a way that you say, I am going to stay on this topic. I'm going to stay determined to help this change. [LIGHTHEARTED MUSIC] When I first started in philanthropy, I did what another female philanthropists had taught me. She said, Melinda, you'll be so much more effective if you can fly under the radar. Just go in with your t-shirt on and your pair of khakis, and just listen, and ask, and see if people will let you in their homes. And I really learned from that, that over time, it became more difficult for me to do that as I became better known in philanthropy. But do you know, to this day, when I go to a country, I still make sure that I do what I call field visits. And I do ask the partner organizations, when I go out beyond the big city, to not tell people who I am. And I don't take city officials, even though they want to come and show me their project, because I feel if you can, in philanthropy, connect with the humanity of the other individuals, you learn things. They will tell you about their lives and their needs and their real circumstances. And it's when you begin to understand more about all the circumstances around them that you can realize, OK, this thing that I might have done or this donation I might be making, wow, I first have to help the person take down this barrier before that. Like a woman, if you stay long enough and you build enough trust, they'll start to tell you about the abuse that happens in their home or how if they could only get this other thing that they need-- maybe a bicycle for their child so that child could go to school-- then she'd have more time on her hands-- the mom-- to be doing other things and using her money in other ways. I think one of the things about philanthropy I never would have guessed when I started is how surprised I get, how many times I have been surprised. I'll give you an example. I was going around with a group of scientists one time in Southeast Asia, and we were going around and talking to people in this particular village. They weren't using their tuberculosis medicines. And the scientists all had a couple of theories about why that was. And they were kind of there to learn and to check it out. But I just was unsatisfied. I felt like, at the end of this two hours of walking around and talking to partners who'd been working on it, talking to some people in homes-- finally, this woman is speaking with us. She had several children. She h...

About the Instructor

One of the greatest philanthropists in history, Melinda French Gates has dedicated her life to giving back to the world. Now she’s teaching how you can identify your own unique assets—time, money, specific skills, or even your voice to discover a strategic path that can turn your power into progress.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Melinda French Gates

A philanthropist and advocate for women and girls, Melinda French Gates teaches you how to take what you’re good at and use it to create change.

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