Giving Compass' Take:
- Rachel Sandler spotlights GiveDirectly, a New York-based nonprofit facilitating direct cash transfer to people in poor countries.
- What systemic change is needed to prevent some people from hoarding billions of dollars while others aren't even able make a living wage?
- Read about the threat billionaire philanthropists pose to democracy.
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Sitting on a wooden bench in a remote village in Rwanda, a 47-year-old woman named Esther, a mother of three, explains how she’ll spend more than 850,000 Rwandan francs. It’s a life-changing sum — roughly $850, equivalent to more than a year’s wages — in the form of a grant paid out over two months from New York-based nonprofit GiveDirectly.
“She is going to buy a farm,” a translator tells a small group of donors and journalists on a video call in early June to showcase GiveDirectly’s operations in the East African country. With it, Esther intends to grow enough food for herself and her family. Like the vast majority of the roughly 100 people in her village, she survives on subsistence farming. A GiveDirectly worker hands Esther a packet with instructions on how to receive her payments by mobile phone.
GiveDirectly, which was founded in 2009, aims to enroll every household in Esther’s village into its direct cash-transfer program, showering people who typically live on less than $2 per day with more money than they’ve likely ever seen before. The cash grants are most often doled out in two monthly installments.
This once-foreign concept of giving very poor people money with no strings attached instead of providing them with services that they might not want or need, has found favor in the past two years with a cadre of new-money billionaire philanthropists in the tech and crypto community. Among GiveDirectly’s wealthy patrons: philanthropist MacKenzie Scott (the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos), who has donated $125 million to GiveDirectly since 2020; 30-year-old crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried; Tesla CEO Elon Musk (the world's richest person) and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, also a billionaire. Largely as a result of this generosity, donations to GiveDirectly jumped from $42 million in 2019 to $303 million in 2020, a more than 600% increase. That made GiveDirectly, by its reckoning, the fastest-growing nonprofit in the world in 2020, with an operating budget that grew nearly fivefold in a year.
Read the full article about GiveDirectly by Rachel Sandler at Forbes.