Time magazine has named Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, his wife Melinda, and the musician Bono as its 'Persons of the year' for their charitable work, it said over the weekend.

The three grace the cover of the 26 December edition of Time magazine, which goes on wide sale from Monday and received the magazine's annual honour "for being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow", it said.

The Gates' charitable work is typically done through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000. It is run by Bill Gates’ father, William H Gates Sr, and Patty Stonesifer, and has an endowment of about $29bn (about £16.4bn), according to the foundation's website.

The Seattle-based organisation works both locally, supporting at-risk families in the states of Washington and Oregon, and globally, promoting equity in healthcare, education and public libraries.

Of the roughly $10bn (£5.6bn) it has granted since inception, about $5.8bn (£3.3bn) has gone on global health initiatives such as battling Aids and malaria and about $2.6bn (£1.5bn) has gone to education-based initiatives. Spending on projects in the Pacific Northwest has totalled around $570m (£322m).

The Gates welcomed the award in a statement.

"We realise that we’ve been extremely fortunate in business, and we want to give back in ways that can do the most good for the most people. But we also believe that everyone has something to offer – time, money or energy – that can help others," they said in the statement.

"Together we’ve all made important progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Too many children in the developing world face lives without health, hope, or opportunity. Too many children in the US are not getting an education that prepares them for success in life. Working together, we can solve these problems. These children are our children, and their futures depend on all of us."

Musician Bono, best known as the front-man of U2, is well known for his charitable work and was lauded by Time magazine as being "the rocker who has made debt reduction sexy".

"There are a lot of people who could be here," Bono said in a statement on his band's website. "What's really key is, all of us are in agreement that this generation can end extreme poverty. And by that we mean stupid, daft poverty where 3,000 kids are dying every day of a mosquito bite in Africa. Malaria. We can fix stuff like that."