Outside the United States the giving habits of the rich are a bit different from the Gates way.
Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu is the third-wealthiest billionaire in the world and is Latin America's richest man. Helu earned his $23.8 billion in telecom -- América Movil, his wireless company, and Telmex, his landline company.
The 65-year-old started the Foundation of the Historic Center of Mexico City, dedicated to restoring colonial buildings in Mexico City's historic city center. He's invested approximately $700 million in this project.
Sweden's Ingvar Kamprad ranks as the fourth wealthiest man no the Forbes list, with a nest egg totaling $28 billion. The 79-year-old made his fortune when he founded Ikea, the hip home-furnishings company.
Kamprad founded the Stichting Ingka Foundation, which has a reported $36 billion in assets. The foundation grants money to "innovation in the field of architectural and interior design." The articles of association of Stichting Ingka Foundation, a public record in the Netherlands, state that this object cannot be amended. In fact, if the foundation wants to alter its aim, only a Dutch court can make those changes, and make only minor ones.
Ikea said it uses the majority of the money to build an asset base that will secure the future of the company. The company has concentrated its gifts on its own home front, with the past two years of donations going to the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden.
Lakshmi Mittal, the Rajasthan-born Indian billionaire, ranks as the fifth-wealthiest person in the world. Based in London, the 56-year-old steel titan owns Mittal Steel, the largest producer of steel in the world. Mittal's net worth is $25 billion. A couple of years before Gates started his foundation, Mittal started the LNM Group Foundation in 1998 to support health and education needs of the poor, particularly in India.
The Rockefeller Foundation, created in 1913, is one of the oldest philanthropic family foundations in U.S. history. The foundation, started by John D. Rockefeller, has grown to $3.2 billion in assets and gives out about $124 million in grants annually. The foundation is dedicating more of its assets to global causes, and now two-thirds of grant money goes to supporting global initiatives.
So could a foundation have too much of a global focus and leave America behind? Not according to Richard Tofel, spokesman for Rockefeller Foundation.
"You want to look at where you need to focus most of your efforts, not just draw an arbitrary line," Tofel said. "There are very important needs in this country, but there are a lot of things -- important human needs -- that have to be seen from a broader, global perspective."
Tofel said that despite what most people think about the "foundation world," it is not competitive like the corporate world. "Foundations have the same complementary ends," added Tofel.
Tofel said Rockefeller's International AIDS Vaccine Initiative sparked the Gates Foundation's Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. Going forward, that's a trend people can expect to see in the world of billionaire-run foundations: a collaborative effort.