ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania — Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, and his wife Cari Tuna announced that they have donated $25 million through their philanthropic foundation Good Ventures to fight poverty in Africa.
Moskovitz and Tuna have invested these funds into a newly formed nonprofit organization known as GiveDirectly, which supports extremely impoverished populations in Kenya and Uganda with direct cash as opposed to traditional forms of foreign aid.
Tuna, who serves as president at Good Ventures, explained in a recent interview about the donation, “Governments and donors spend tens of billions of dollars a year on reducing poverty, but the people who are meant to benefit rarely get a say in how it’s spent. GiveDirectly is changing that by transferring money directly to extremely poor individuals and families, no strings attached.”
Moskovitz was roommates with Mark Zuckerberg, now CEO of the social-networking giant Facebook, during their undergraduate studies at Harvard University. Moskovitz left the organization in 2008 to pursue other endeavors, but maintained a large portion of his shares in Facebook. Forbes estimated that Moskovitz, who is only 31, has a net worth of some $9.6 billion.
The organization provides cash transfers through data networks to impoverished persons’ cell phones. GiveDirectly has partnered with network carriers Vodafone in Kenya and MTN in Uganda to provide about $1,000 per cellular transfer, an estimated year’s income for such impoverished areas.
A study conducted between 2011 and 2013 noted the significant improvements in the standard of living for impoverished persons receiving these grants, as GiveDirectly operates on the fundamental principle that individuals suffering from extreme poverty understand their needs better than anyone else. The recipients of the GiveDirectly grants are provided with the opportunity to use the funds as they see fit, from replacing thatched roofs with metal to constructing a chicken coop to purchasing a generator and water pump for agricultural irrigation purposes.
In a recent interview regarding the ground-breaking nature of the grants, which were implemented several years ago, co-founder of GiveDirectly Paul Niehaus recently stated, “It’s raised questions about the roles institutions should be playing. There is something powerful in the unconditional grant.”
GiveDirectly has announced the intention to use at least $16 million of the new Moskovitz donation to continue funding cash transfers to impoverished communities. The organization has also released plans to spend an additional $6 million over the next five years to design a fundraising and marketing campaign. GiveDirectly currently has about 70 personnel members on the ground in both Uganda and Kenya, in addition to a small support network based in New York.
In regards to the future goals of GiveDirectly, Tuna also stated the organization envisions, “A world in which billions of dollars are transferred directly to the poorest people every year. GiveDirectly wants to help governments and other NGOs use cash transfers as the ‘standard of comparison’ for aid programs — and ultimately shift resources from less cost-effective programs to cash transfers.”