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Giving Compass' Take:
• Ellen Dorsey explains why the Wallace Global Fund is going to pay out 20 percent of its endowment this year in support of COVID-19 relief and ongoing systemic change efforts.
• Why should other grantmakers follow suit? What can individual donors learn from this increase in foundation giving during this time?
• Read more about increased giving during COVID-19.
Ellen Dorsey has served since 2008 as the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, where she helped launch Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of more than two hundred foundations that have pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel companies and deploy their investments to accelerate the clean energy transition. Dorsey and Divest-Invest Philanthropy signatories were awarded the 2016 inaugural Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Brave Philanthropy Award.
Earlier this month, the fund announced that it would pay out 20 percent of its endowment this year in support of COVID-19 relief and ongoing systemic change efforts and called on other funders to increase their grantmaking.
PND spoke with Dorsey about the fund's decision-making process, the moral obligations of foundations in a time of crisis, and the longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Philanthropy News Digest: What was the impetus behind the fund's decision to commit 20 percent of the endowment to grantmaking in 2020, and how did you and the board arrive at that amount?
Ellen Dorsey: We have said for a while now that philanthropy cannot engage in business as usual, either by failing to align our investments with our missions or not giving at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the many challenges we face. Before COVID-19, we were already calling for philanthropy to declare a climate emergency and increase giving levels over the next ten years. COVID-19 was yet another overlapping shockwave added to the list of threats that compounded our sense of urgency.
For too long, philanthropy has been content to give the bare minimum — the 5 percent required by law — while growing its endowments. Even before COVID-19, the Wallace Global Fund felt it was unethical for any foundation to grow its endowment during a five-alarm fire, particularly given the many financial and logistical challenges faced by our grantees.
Read the full interview with Ellen Dorsey by Kyoko Uchida at PhilanTopic.