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Last week I attended Sitecore Digital Trendspot 2014 and listened to the UK CEO of POSSIBLE, Justin Cooke, speak on how his agency helped transform the annual missive from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and more than doubled its expected reach.

As you are probably aware, Bill Gates has dedicated much of his recent life and indeed billions of dollars to philanthropy.

In 2000 The William H Gates Foundation was renamed The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as of 2008 Gates has taken a full-time role co-chairing the charitable foundation.

By May 2013 Bill Gates had donated 28bn dollars to the foundation and yet is still currently the richest man on the planet with a personal fortune of $76bn. 

The foundation’s aim is to tackle the world’s ‘toughest problems’. Extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries, and the failures of America’s education system.

One of the key methods of communication that the foundation uses is an annual letter, written by Bill Gates himself, in which he shares in a frank way the foundation’s goal, where progress is being made and where it is not.

The first letter was written in 2009. It’s a lengthy and detailed look at the work of the foundation. It contained a few images, two or three charts and featured shareable sections that could be forwarded to Facebook or Twitter.

Over the following four years the letters followed a similar format, although in 2013 you can see the influence of the infographic take hold.

However for its latest incarnation, published in January 2014, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sought to extend the letter’s reach.

Partnering with POSSIBLE, the letter took on a completely new design.

Instead of discussing the foundation specifically, Bill and Melinda Gates chose to write about the three myths that keep the world from accelerating success against poverty and disease.

The letter was formatted according to those three myths. Each part can be directly accessed from a navigation bar across the top, which remains throughout the entire experience.

It’s a far more visual experience, with images providing a before and after look at the changing landscape of poverty.

There are still infographics in the letter, but this time they are optimized to get across a single idea or point, rather than conveying statistics in a scattershot manner.

Information pertaining to the letter, but may be regarded as tangential, can now be included thanks to the use of other media.

In a chapter on the arguments around aid dependence, a SlideShare has been included to give the reader an insight how foreign aid works.

This is great for any reader that wishes to drill further down into the subject.

The number of videos included with the letter has now tripled. Video is a key way to get information across in a quick and concise manner. The letter does this at its most effective in this two-minute video featuring Bull Nye.

The layout of the letter is also made more ‘readable’ by breaking up the text with space, images and other media. There are just as many words as the previous letters, but here the letter is made easier to read by utilizing more manageably sized paragraphs.

Another key feature of the letter, which improves its accessibility across all devices is that it’s entirely responsive, adapting to fit any size of screen. 

The images, SlideShares and videos are also optimized for mobile and the navigation disappears into the menu button in the top right corner.

The most important feature of the letter, which not only increases the interactivity of the letter but also ensures attention is retained and the likelihood of sharing is increased, is this simple tool.

Within each chapter, a simple question is asked. Do you agree or disagree? This reveals the results of an ongoing poll in regards to the question.

At the end of each of the three chapters there is a ‘share this section’ button. According to POSSIBLE, after reading the first one or two myths, 1.6% readers would click the button. For readers who had finished all three myths, 4.8% would click on share.

The letter was expected to reach 500,000 readers. Thanks to its new highly interactive, responsive, content-rich and easily shareable design, the letter reached 1.2m people within three weeks.

Read the letter in full here: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Letter 2014

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 14 April, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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