Gates Foundation Backs Array of Efforts to Jump-Start Coronavirus Giving and Advocacy


by Michael Theis

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working on a multipronged effort to spark greater generosity among Americans and help nonprofit associations distribute pandemic response funds wisely with the help of $10 million in new grants.

Some of that money will also go to advocacy efforts run by groups like Independent Sector and the National Council of Nonprofits, while a small chunk will also support groups that channel money to nonprofits focused on women, people of color, immigrants, the homeless, and others especially hurt by the pandemic.

One effort is already underway: PowerOf, a new website that aims to become the go-to spot for nonprofits looking for donations and volunteers as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The new site aggregates opportunities to donate time, money, or goods to nonprofits responding to the crisis. It made its debut this month to coincide with GivingTuesdayNow.

Also coming soon from Gates and a coalition of organizations working on PowerOf: a separate website to drive more giving from high-net-worth individuals and big grant makers.

Victoria Vrana, deputy director of Gates’s philanthropic partnership team, said the combined efforts seek to jump-start giving to charities struggling to meet growing demands for their services.

Gates spent about $844,000 so far to develop PowerOf, and enlisted Candid, DonorsChoose, GivingTuesday, and VolunteerMatch as partners to provide content, promotion, and other help.

Microsoft Tech for Social Impact – a division of Microsoft Philanthropies focused on technology for nonprofits served as an adviser.

Candid, DonorsChoose, GivingTuesday, and VolunteerMatch are each filling the site with information about new giving and volunteering opportunities. Candid is providing information on local emergency funds, VolunteerMatch on volunteer opportunities, and GivingTuesday on tips for “everyday kindness,” such as how to check in on neighbors in need and how to run community-organizing efforts.

Asha Curran, CEO of GivingTuesday, says PowerOf serves a need for donors trying to sort through and find legitimate appeals for coronavirus-related funding.

“The truth is, even in the best of times, that’s a problem,” said Curran. “There’s a ton of information. It’s in a million different spots.”

$10 Million to Nonprofit Coalitions

In addition to its work to accelerate giving and volunteering by everyday donors and wealthy Americans, the Gates Foundation last week announced more than $10 million in grants to bolster the administration of more than 700 coronavirus emergency funds that have sprung up over the past two months, as well as to fund nonprofit advocacy work related to the pandemic.

The biggest is a $9.1 million grant to United Philanthropy Forum, which will distribute $8.5 million of that to nonprofits managing emergency funds across the country.

United Philanthropy Forum today released an open request for proposals for groups that want to apply for grants to smooth the operation of emergency funds. “You need to be able to run those funds well, you need to be able to power the funds, and organizations need increased capacity to be able to do this kind of rapid grant making and outreach to donors,” said Vrana.

The Gates grants also include $725,000 to support nonprofit groups that are working to advance nonprofit goals in Congress, statehouses, and elsewhere.

Recipients of the grants are:Independent Sector ($250,000), the National Council of Nonprofits ($250,000), the Council on Foundations ($75,000), Philanthropy Roundtable ($75,000) and United Philanthropy Forum ($75.000.) Additionally, $450,000 will go to the Women’s Funding Network’s Response, Recovery, and Resilience Collaborative Fund, which will support “women-centered causes” in need of funds due to the disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.

What’s more, $50,000 will go to each organization represented on the United Philanthropy Forum Momentum Fund Advisory Board, including Funders Together to End Homelessness, Grantmakers in Aging, Change Philanthropy, Donors of Color Network, and Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees.

Bill and Melinda Gates have long worked to encourage others to give, including through their Giving by All effort, which focuses on ways to encourage everyday Americans to give more. Their Giving Pledge focuses on the wealthy.