What do you get when the world's richest man joins with one of the world's most powerful and connected negotiators?

An association of titans that rivals the world's governments' commitment and ability to stamp out AIDS and other global health risks.

And this in the wake of Warren Buffett giving away the bulk of his fortune -- some $30-odd billion -- to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a gesture of unprecedented charity.

It seems everywhere you look, companies as varied as Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and Motorola are making it their job to either give away vast sums of money to charity or make their businesses more employee- and eco-friendly. Check out who's who on Business Ethics magazine's list of the 100 best corporate citizens (you might be surprised at who tops the list).

Megaphilanthropy ?
Are we in the midst of a new era of corporate philanthropy? Is it the ferocity of Mother Nature over the past couple of years fueling this generosity? The reluctance and/or inability of governments to step up to the plate and get the job done? Or is it a new way of thinking about the distribution of wealth and resources on a planet that is projected to have a population of more than 7.5 billion by 2020?

Whatever the reason, the partnering of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bill Gates with former President Bill Clinton seems a logical development in this new climate of corporate and individual philanthropy.

What each Bill brings to the table
Gates, with his foundation beefed up (to put it mildly) by Buffett's donation, is in a position to make an immense impact by underwriting health programs for things such as childhood vaccines, preventing AIDS, and combating the age-old threats of malaria and tuberculosis around the world. Vaccine companies such as Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE:SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) may someday see a surge in demand, and research centers and universities stand to take in vast sums of money to develop treatments and license them to big pharma to manufacture and distribute them where they're most needed.

Clinton may not have $60 billion to work with, but he has something Gates does not -- political contacts and negotiation skills to persuade local governments to take a more active role in improving the health of the world's poorest citizens. And while Gates does his work in the private sector, Clinton has the potential to galvanize and unite not only governments, but also activists and the pharmaceutical industry, in a common cause. The impact the partnership could have is tremendous -- the beginning of the first "super NGO."

"It's not an exaggeration to say the two Bills are leading the world in the fight against AIDS," says Trevor Neilson, former spokesman for both President Clinton and the Gates Foundation.

So, what exactly do the two propose to do together? Consider a project that the Gates Foundation undertook with Merck (NYSE:MRK) to provide free drugs in Botswana that struggled, in part, because that country doesn't have the medical infrastructure needed to distribute the drugs. No matter how much money the Gates Foundation may have to provide free drugs to a community, it doesn't do much good if the local government and populace is unwilling or unable to cooperate in distributing it.

And that's where Clinton steps in.

So far, Gates and Clinton have little in the way of a formal arrangement, but next month they will solidify their partnership with a high-profile joint appearance at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. And this week, the two Bills traveled and spoke together in Africa about AIDS.

It remains to be seen exactly how closely the two Bills will work together and what they will be able to accomplish, but the current trend toward high-profile megaphilanthropy among corporate, political, and entertainment giants (think Angelina Jolie and Bono) can only bring a surge of desperately needed help to the global community.

From Billanthropy to Foolanthropy
At The Motley Fool, we've had our own philanthropic endeavor (with a cute name) for nine years running now. In keeping with the spirit of expanding our own corporate giving, the Fool has coupled with Hilton Family Hotels this year in our annual charity drive, Foolanthropy. Although we may not have $60 billion to throw around, we have raised an impressive sum, with the help of our generous readers, for charities ranging from the Humane Society of Louisiana, Mercy Corps, and Heifer International to Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, and First Book.

What type of investor are you? Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick, and Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are Income Investor selections. Starbucks and Whole Foods are Stock Advisor picks, and Dell is both a Stock Advisor and an Inside Value pick. Take the newsletter that best fits your investing style for a free 30-day spin.

Fool editor Carrie Crockett was co-chair of the Foolanthropy 2005 campaign, along with David Gardner. She owns no shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.