Information and news about philanthropy

Howard Buffet

Farmer and philanthropist, Howard Buffet, made it his mission in life to help end global hunger. He was recently interviewed by PBS on his current work in Africa helping farmers to generate sustainable agricultural solutions.

Buffet told PBS that his foundation, The Howard G. Buffet Foundation, invests in global food security while currently working on a few different projects. Primarily, they are building three hydro plants in the Eastern Congo. Hydro plants produce impressive amounts of electricity for communities.

Harvard University professor, Juma Calestous, told PBS news how the willingness Buffet shows to go hands-on and visit the Democratic Republic of Congo has brought him respect across the continent.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where not many donors are interested in operating,” Calestous said in a PBS news video. “He’s taking very high risks in going to those areas.”

Howard Buffet said in the video that areas of conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are where impoverished people need the most help because they have devastated infrastructure and no governance. However, his other project is taking place in the peaceful nation of Rwanda, focused on training young Rwandan farmers.

“I also think we [the U.S.] have a huge responsibility internationally, because we are a leader,” Buffet said in a PBS news video. “And we need to maintain that leadership.”

Buffet’s work in Africa is critical because although the continent has vast agricultural potential, its per capita food production has drastically declined. The Howard G. Buffet Foundation seeks to invest where others have not and it fills critical gaps that lead to sustainable change.

“We’re not going to end world hunger,” Howard Buffet said in the PBS video. “But, you know, I think every step we can take in that direction is something positive.”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr

Malaria Research

According to the Gates Foundation, malaria continues to be a major health concern in almost 100 countries, infecting 207 million people and killing 627,000 individuals in 2012 alone. Despite an increase in malaria funding over the past several years, challenges remain in completely eradicating this disease.

However, fighting malaria is one of the Foundation’s main missions and the organization has contributed $2 billion to the cause to date. Notably, the Gates Foundation launched a multi-year strategy known as Accelerate to Zero in 2013 that focuses on making new partnerships for more efficient, affordable drugs.

In addition, this past April, the organization offered the biotechnology innovations firm Amyris an additional $5 million, in the form of a stock buyback, for its malaria research project.

Amyris is a biotechnology innovation firm whose partnership with the Gates Foundation spans roughly ten years. Replacing the relatively expensive and time-consuming method of directly extracting artemisinin from the Chinese Sweet Wormwood plant, Amyris created a new strain of Baker’s yeast microbes that produce artemisinic acid. According to the firm, the result is a “precursor of artemisinin, an effective anti-malarial drug.”

With malaria research grants from the Gates Foundation and partnership with the Institute for OneWorld Health and the University of California, Berkley, the organization has since distributed the microbes to Sanofi for mass manufacture.

In 2015, the company was awarded the United Nations Global Citizen Award for this continued effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Amyris is also expected to develop faster, cheaper methods of manufacturing pharmaceuticals that otherwise require elaborate processes for extraction.

This year’s renewed grant will ensure the application of this technology and the actual reduced cost of malaria medicine.

According to John Melo, the CEO of Amyris, the firm’s goal is the complete eradication of malaria through low-cost and sustainable cures. He further stressed the importance of future cooperation between private and public sectors in battling other epidemics.

Haena Chu

Photo: Flickr

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

SVCF’s mission is to channel the excess wealth flooding Silicon Valley into worthy, charitable causes around the world. One of the systems SVCF uses as a means of helping nonprofits all around the world is Donor Circles.

Each circle has its own focus or philanthropic cause. Currently, the Donor Circles include Donor Circle for the Environment, Donor Circle of the Arts, Donor Circle for Africa and Donor Circle for Safety Net.

Each Donor Circle consists of individuals interested specifically in the circle’s cause who wish to fund nonprofits in the given field that are in need of support.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

Aside from these Donor Circles, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation also gives grants and scholarships to individuals.

On an individual level, two of the issues SVCF specializes in are immigration and education.

In a brief describing the work they do for immigrants in Silicon Valley, SVCF acknowledges a pervasive obstacle in immigrants’ successful assimilation: lack of access to educational resources and aid. The organization attributes immigrants’ difficulties in finding work to an “insufficient number of effective English-language learning, job training and legal services.”

In a San Francisco Chronicle article about SVCF, two recipients of Silicon Valley Community Foundation grants recount some of the challenges they faced as new immigrants. Ramon Alvarez, a 28-year-old Mexican-born immigrant, says that he used to fear interactions with native English speakers, but with the help of SVCF, now he will “talk to anyone.”

In a community with booming affluence, an organization like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation stands as a crucial mobilizer for the many causes that truly deserve the world’s attention.

Liz Pudel

Sources: SVCF 1, SVCF 2, SVCF 3, SVCF 4, San Francisco Chronicles

Photo: Wikimedia Commons,

Global Innovation Fund
A new investment firm called the Global Innovation Fund recently announced its first round of grants and equity investments, reports Devex, a media platform for the global development community.

In the evaluation of potential investments, says Devex, the London-based Fund focuses primarily on the projected impact on the world’s poorest. It professes a strong adherence to evidence-based programming, valuing concrete plans and results over the implausible.

The inception of the Fund, launched in December 2014, marks an increasingly popular trend of private sector firms experimenting with new business models geared toward development and poverty alleviation in underprivileged places around the world.

USAID describes the Fund’s business strategy as “a venture capital-like approach to investing in a wide range of social innovations, drawing on the success of the industry to discover and support innovative ventures that have the potential to scale across the developing world.”

This strategy bears similarities to a number of new experimental business models, such as social entrepreneurship and impact investment, which are reshaping the way the private sector and development communities think about the developing world.

According to USAID, the Fund is currently seeking innovative ideas that will both spur development and turn a profit “from a wide range of potential partners, including social enterprises for-profit firms, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and others.”

Collaboration, in other words, is the new name of the game.

The Fund’s website lists numerous examples of the work they have done and the kinds of ideas they are interested in.

PoaPower, for instance, is a social enterprise designed to supply low-income consumers in off-grid Kenya with clean and affordable electricity using a pay-as-you-go system. PoaPower’s £150,000 loan from the Global Innovation Fund will support the development of this unique model, with which it aims to serve 100 to 200 households in the Mount Kenya area.

The Fund seems to show a preference for ideas that have not only positive effects for economics or finance, but also health and safety. Large-scale health problems and poverty often correlate.

On its website, the Fund announced it provided a £160,000 grant to SafeBoda, a Ugandan company that aims to curb an epidemic of road accidents by instituting an Uber-like system of safe motorbike taxis and encouraging the use of helmets.

If successful, such a venture would not only save lives, but save money for the country. According to the Global Innovation Fund’s website, over “60 percent of the surgical budget at the main Kampala hospital is spent on treating motorbike crash injuries.”

Among the Fund’s investments in medical and food security programs is Valid Nutrition, which aims to distribute a paste based on locally grown ingredients that could reduce widespread acute malnutrition. The Newborn Foundation is another organization which aims to supply poor areas with low-cost pulse oximeters that can improve the detection of neonatal infection and reduce infant mortality by an estimated 25 to 30 percent.

All of these ideas are said to be cost-effective and scalable. Most importantly, the Global Innovation Fund affirms they will “improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people around the world.”

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Devex, Global Innovation Fund, USAID
Photo: Flickr

Hewlett Foundation
The Hewlett Foundation was established by Hewlett-Packard co-founder William Hewlett and his wife Flora in 1966. Since its creation, the foundation has become one of the largest in the nation, with assets totaling $9 billion.

The Hewlett Foundation headquarters are located in Menlo Park, California, in a building that reflects the foundation’s pledge toward social and environmental change. It was certified Gold-level under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, becoming the fifth building in the country to ever do so.

The foundation focuses on local issues such as education reform for the state of California as well as global poverty reduction. It also focuses on limiting the consequences of climate change, improving reproductive health in the developing world and advancing the field of philanthropy.

The Hewlett Foundation partners with grantee institutions, such as nonprofit organizations and government entities to reach their five programs’ goals.

The Education Program offers grants in order to increase economic and civic engagement through “deeper learning” education.

“We focus on a couple of really important leadership skills like ‘collaborate productively,’ critical thinking, ‘communicate powerfully’ and ‘complete projects effectively.’ Along with making sure students are keeping up with the content, they are getting these life skills that they’ll need to be successful in college and the workplace,” said Rahil Maharaj, a student of Impact Academy of Arts and Technology in Hayward, California that focuses on deeper learning skills.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Hewlett Foundation donated $113 million to the University of California, Berkeley in 2007 — the largest private donation a university had ever seen at that time.

The funds were used to create 100 new endowed professorships at the college and provide financial help to graduate students.

Three-year general operating grants are presented to organizations that work in research and analysis, communications, community organizing, advocacy or technical assistance to improve conditions for state policymaking in education.

The Environment Program works to conserve the ecological integrity of the North American West and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the impact of global climate change.

The Hewlett Foundation donated over $9 million to the Instituto de Energia e Meio Ambiente of Brazil in grants from 2007 to 2012 to fund projects promoting clean air and sustainable transportation policies in Brazil.

The Global Development and Population Program was created to help people around the globe develop their capabilities as successful members of society.

Grants offered by this program are used to promote responsible governance across the globe, to create sound policy in developing countries, to improve the quality of education and children’s learning overseas, to ensure international and domestic access to family planning and reproductive healthcare and to reduce teen pregnancy.

$3 million was donated by the Hewlett Foundation for building the capacity of African policymakers for reproductive health issues between 2010 and 2013.

The Performing Arts Program is unique to the San Francisco Bay Area, with grants that ensure a wide range of artistic disciplines are offered to people in order to ensure continuity and engagement in the arts.

These grants also provide California students with equal access to an arts education and help the state provide proper infrastructure for effective work. The Hewlett Foundation has donated over $255 million in grants over the last 15 years to reach these goals.

The Effective Philanthropy Group provides grants in order to increase and improve the information available to donors about nonprofit performance and to develop strategic philanthropy.

The Hewlett Foundation is a good example of an organization that is making a difference both on a local level and a global level.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Hewlett Foundation 1, Hewlett Foundation 2, Hewlett Foundation 3, Hewlett Foundation 4, Hewlett Foundation 5, Hewlett Foundation 6, Hewlett Foundation 7, The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Photo: Flickr

David BowieDavid Bowie was unique among famous figures. Not only was he a superstar in the music world, he was also a superstar in the world of helping the hungry, sick and poor. His death in January 2016 came as a blow to both worlds.

David Bowie’s charity work involved supporting causes related to disadvantaged children and youth, human rights, poverty and hunger, women’s issues, disaster relief and AIDS relief/reduction.

According to Look to the Stars, David Bowie took part in many charity activities, including 21st Century Leaders/Whatever It Takes, Every Mother Counts, Keep a Child Alive, Save the Children, the Lunchbox Fund and War Child.

According to their website, 21st Century Leaders is a nonprofit foundation with the mission of influencing well-known people “to raise awareness and funds for international development causes, thereby leading the way in promoting positive environmental and sustainable human development solutions.” David Bowie was one of their leaders.

Whatever It Takes is a project through which artists donate artwork or sign products to raise money to fund global development causes, including environmental protection, the alleviation of poverty and the provision of child services. Bowie designed a plate for Whatever It Takes.

Every Mother Counts is devoted to making pregnancy and birth safe for every woman. Bowie donated a song to their cause, which raises money to help maternal and childcare programs all over the world.

Bowie also performed songs for Keep a Child Alive, a nonprofit organization with the mission “to realize the end of AIDS for children and families, by combating the physical, social and economic impacts of HIV,” according to its website. The organization works in South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and India, helping 70,000 people a year.

Bowie also contributed to Save the Children and the Lunchbox Fund. In 2014, Save the Children worked in 120 countries and helped 166 million children. The Lunchbox Fund is a nonprofit organization focusing on “education via nutrition by providing a daily meal for orphaned and at-risk school children in township and rural areas of South Africa,” according to its website. The lunchboxes simply provide a meal to a child who goes to school, offering an incentive to stay in school.

David Bowie donated songs to albums for War Child. War Child is an organization that “works toward a world in which no child’s life is torn apart by war,” as stated on its website. The group has helped almost 100,000 children and adults directly and 500,000 indirectly.

Through these charities alone, David Bowie’s charity legacy lives on and continues to have an effect.

Rhonda Marrone

Sources: Look to the Stars, 21 Century Leaders, Whatever it Takes, Every Mother Counts, Keep Child Alive, Save the Children, The Lunchbox Fund, War Child
Photo: The Imaginative Conservative

Leonardo DiCaprioLeonardo DiCaprio’s charity work spans a wide range of worthy causes. He has used his celebrity status to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS, conservation efforts, disaster relief and poverty alleviation. According to the celebrity news source Look to the Stars, DiCaprio has made charitable contributions to 20 different foundations in support of 17 causes.

In 1998, when he was 24 years old, DiCaprio recognized the importance of protecting the environment and the need for building a sustainable future. He established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) to contribute to this cause.

Since 2010, the LDF has donated over $30 million to fund high-impact environmental projects in more than 44 countries, according to the organization’s website. “I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” DiCaprio said in an interview with the Telegraph in January 2016. “I believe mankind has looked at climate change in the same way, as if it were a fiction. But I think we know better than that.”

DiCaprio’s unwavering commitment to the environment earned him the role of United Nations Messenger of Peace in September 2014. “[DiCaprio’s] global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a press conference at that time.

Charity Navigator, an organization known for guiding intelligent giving, noted DiCaprio’s involvement in the National Resources Defense Council, WildAid and the World Wildlife Fund on their list of celebrities who put their star power to good use. The LDF raised over $25 million at its inaugural gala in July 2014 thanks to auctioned items from Bono and Simon de Pury, according to Vogue Magazine.

DiCaprio’s charity work extends beyond the realm of fundraising galas or speaking to world leaders. While most celebrities use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for self-promotion, DiCaprio’s accounts are devoted to causes he cares about.

“Leonardo’s website and social media platforms are also dedicated to inspiring the public to take action on key environmental issues,” the LDF website says, regarding DiCaprio’s social media channels. “Growing in reach from just 500,000 followers in 2007 to over 25 million in 2015, Leonardo’s fans have engaged on an array of issues protecting key species — sharks in California, tigers in Asia, elephants in Africa — and calling on world leaders to address climate change.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s ability to leverage social media for good has not gone unnoticed. Complex Magazine cited DiCaprio as one of 11 celebrities that used social media for good in 2015.

Summer Jackson

Sources: Complex, Look to the Stars, Telegraph, UN, Vogue, Charity Navigator
Photo: Google Images

Silicon Valley Community FoundationIn December 2015, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) awarded $50 million in matching grants to support 24,450 nonprofit organizations in the United States and 45 other countries, according to CSRwire.

This is the largest total to date, beating out last year’s total of $23 million in matching grants. SVCF gives matching grants through its partnership with YourCause, which is the leading Software as a Service provider of employee engagement resolutions.

YourCause provides companies with a variety of employee engagement techniques including volunteering and charitable giving.

Maeve Miccio, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for SVCF, said, “SVCF is proud to say that we sent more than $50 million in matching grants to nonprofit organizations around the world in 2015. We applaud our corporate clients and their employees who have made philanthropy a priority through employee engagement programs in their workplaces. Their gifts support everything from education to the arts to hunger relief programs, and their generosity is inspiring.”

Matching grants come from corporate funds, matching the amount of money donated to a charity by an employee of that company.

According to CSRwire, nearly one-fifth of the total matching grants SVCF awarded by December 2015 came from PepsiCo employees and matching grants from the PepsiCo Foundation.

“PepsiCo believes in investing in our people and in the communities where we operate,” according to Andrea Seek, Director of Global Citizenship for PepsiCo. “It is gratifying that our partnership with SVCF and YourCause has allowed us to help improve and strengthen our communities around the globe.”

Around 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies have programs to match employees’ donations with corporate donations, according to CSRwire.

Approximately $2.1 billion was donated by the U.S. in 2014 by companies around the world through matching corporate gift programs.

SVCF is the largest community foundation in the world and continues to work toward innovative philanthropic solutions to challenging problems.

Jordan Connell

Sources: CSRwire, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Photo: Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Lilly EndowmentFounded in 1937 by three members of the Lilly Family (J.K. Lilly Sr. and his two sons, Eli and J.K. Jr.), Lilly Endowment is one of the largest private philanthropic organizations in the United States. Based in Indianapolis, it derives the bulk of its funding from gifts of stock in the family pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company.

Lilly Endowment focuses its activities on education, religion and community development. The founders of the endowment had a burning desire to help the people of Indiana; thus, the bulk of charitable initiatives and grants offered by the organization are geared towards activities in Indiana.

Since its inception, various programs have been developed under each of the endowment’s principal focus areas. These are programs that the organization funds on a regular basis.

Lilly Endowment recognizes the importance of education as an instrument of change and development. The organization gives grants to educational institutions and programs that seek to improve the quality of education across Indiana. Emphasis is placed on supporting higher learning institutions in order to increase the number of people with a bachelor’s degree. This is in response to Indiana’s ranking as one of the states with the highest number of people over 25 without a bachelor’s degree.

The three major programs in the education division are the Community Scholarship Program, the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program and the Summer Youth Program Fund.

Established in 1987, the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program was developed with the aim of renewing the commitment of educators across Indiana to delivering quality education. During the program, school media specialists, teachers, guidance counselors and principals are given financial backing and time to tend to their personal development and growth.

The Community Scholarship Program was founded in 1998 and seeks to improve the level of higher education attainment in Indiana. The program offers four-year, full tuition scholarships with an additional 900 dollars per year for educational materials. Community foundations in Indiana play an integral role in the administration of the scholarships.

The most recent program that was added to the education section is the Summer Youth Program Fund. Through this program, Lilly Endowment provides grants to organizations that provide constructive and safe activities for children from 4-19 years of age to engage in during the summer. Organizations that receive funding include tutoring centers, churches, community and sports centers, art centers, overnight camps, parks and theaters.

Eli Lilly once mentioned in Madison Magazine that the cause closest to his heart was character education. In order to bring about the development of individuals with moral fibre and upright character, Eli Lilly supported numerous religious causes leading to the establishment of the religious arm of the endowment.

The religious branch of Lilly Endowment seeks to enrich the lives of Christians and congregations across America by improving the capacity of pastors already engaged in the work of ministry and educating a new crop of pastors. They do this through supporting theological institutions and providing opportunities for established ministers to renew their commitment to ministry.

The Indiana and National clergy renewal programs are long-standing initiatives that Lilly Endowment supports as part of its religion arm. Founded in the years 1999 and 2000, respectively, the programs seek to provide pastors with time they can use to recharge their spiritual batteries in order to better serve in ministry. Congregations also use the programs as opportunities to grow the capacities of lay pastors.

The programs both offer grants of up to $50,000 to churches for renewal of their pastors.

Community development is the third major division of Lilly Endowment. Under this section, the organization funds programs that improve the quality of life in Indiana. These are programs that create the kind of economy that can attract lucrative, developmental businesses to the state. Projects and organizations that have received funding in the past include low-income housing projects, neighborhood revitalization projects and arts and culture organizations.

An initiative under community development is the Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) program.

Established in 1990, the endowment uses GIFT to support the establishment, growth and success of community foundations in Indiana’s 92 counties. The community foundations, in turn, provide Lilly Endowment with an avenue to improve the quality of life throughout Indiana. The GIFT program has undergone five phases and is currently in its sixth phase.

The continuous growth and expansion of these programs will enable Lilly Endowment to fulfill its overall objective of creating change and fostering development in Indiana.

June Samo

Sources: Lilly Endowment Community Development, Lilly Endowment Religion, Lilly Endowment Education, Lilly Endowment, General, Learning to Give, ISI News

David BeckhamDavid Beckham’s adoring fans will have the opportunity to take a piece of him home thanks to the David Beckham: The Man exhibition and auction this year.

Phillips will host a viewing and gala auction for David Beckham: The Man at its London gallery that is open to the public.

This innovative international gala auction is part of a high-profile, three-year global philanthropic program and exhibition of signed contemporary photography featuring and celebrating David Beckham, according to UNICEF.

The works will be on display from Feb. 27 until the auction on March 10. The proceeds from the auction will go towards 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund and the Positive View Foundation.

“This wonderful project in support of my own 7 Fund at UNICEF and Positive View Foundation will help create change for children and disadvantaged young people around the world,” Beckham said in UNICEF’s press release for the event.

7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund was founded in 2015 to mark the tenth year Beckham has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 7 aims to protect millions of children from danger and provide help when they need it most, according to the fund’s website.

“David Beckham is the quintessential modern man, his fame far exceeding that of a sportsman. He is universally recognized, an icon of modern masculinity and a magnet for photographers,” David Beckham: The Man Curator Kathy Adler said in UNICEF’s press release for the event. “His appeal is ubiquitous: he is happy being a gay icon, a teenage idol, a spokesperson for sport, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.”

In the 10 years Beckham has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he has traveled to Sierra Leone, South Africa and the Philippines to see UNICEF’s work in action.

Beckham used his celebrity status to call attention to the adversity faced by impoverished children around the world and continues to raise awareness in his role as a global ambassador.

Beckham has also met with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to request more be done to help children affected by malnutrition around the world, according to Beckham’s ambassador page.

The Positive View Foundation was founded in 1994 as a philanthropic photography project and has morphed into an organization that helps disadvantaged young people in the U.K.

Over 50 pieces of photography from 27 different photographers including Annie Liebovitz, Nadav Kander and Inez & Vinnodh will be available for bidding, according to UNICEF.

Summer Jackson

Sources:, Positive View Foundation, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: Caught Offside