When writing about foundations and nonprofits, I try to keep something in mind: Surprisingly few social programs do what they set out to do. When subjected to rigorous evaluation, most fail to produce “meaningful progress in education, poverty reduction, crime prevention and other areas,” as Arnold Ventures puts it. This is one reason why my favorite charity remains GiveDirectly, which sends money to those living in extreme poverty, mostly in Africa.
Cash, at the very least, makes people a little less poor.
Few foundations, though, have funded direct cash transfers–until now. So I was heartened to learn last week that some big, influential funders are supporting programs to give away money, with no strings attached, to Americans suffering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wrote about this for Medium. Here’s how my story begins:
The well-educated folk who lead America’s big foundations have over the years devised no end of theories about how to do what they do. Strategic philanthropy. Collective impact. Venture philanthropy. Big bets. Participatory grantmaking. Trust-based philanthropy.
Now, in response to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, they are trying something completely different: Giving money, with no strings attached, to those who need it.
Foundations that are supporting direct cash transfers include Blue Meridian Partners (a funding collaborative) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as well as the foundations of Charles Koch, Pierre Omidyar, Steve Ballmer and Sergey Brin.
You can read the rest of my story here. If you find it worthwhile, I’d be grateful if you give it a “clap” or share.