How to Donate $1 Billion to Fight Covid19? Twitter CEO, Dorsey, Does It Right

Why was Dorsey’s announcement so powerful, and what does it mean for the relief efforts to fight Covid19?

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The Covid19 crisis is a critical test case for mega-philanthropists, that can afford to give more in response to the pandemic. One of the billionaires that donated substantial amounts to relief, medical supplies, food, etc., is Jack Dorsey, Twitter, and Square’s co-founder and CEO. Dorsey announced (April 7, 2020) that he was committing $1 billion, or almost 30% of his net worth, to fund relief efforts for Covid19.

Until now, Dorsey was not known as a prominent philanthropist, and his charitable giving in recent years remained a kind of mystery. Recently, he donated to candidates running for the Democratic presidential primaries, such as Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard. In recent years he founded a few charitable organizations, such as the Small Foundation, but none of them had disclosed publicly any substantial donations.

In a surprising series of tweets, Dorsey announced his and extraordinary commitment, steering huge media coverage and public discussion. As Dorsey’s donation has paramount importance in size, duration, and transparency, his announcement was innovative and compelling as well.

What was so unique in Dorsey’s donation and public statement?

The channel: Dorsey announced his donation directly, creating minimal distance between him and his audience. Instead of an official and distant announcement in mass media, he used his platform, Twitter, to explain and connect. That was a powerful move that connected with the public directly and passed over the press as a gatekeeper. This move allowed the announcement to have its own 15 minutes of fame without competing with the rest of the media’s news cycle.

The size of donation: $1 billion is a considerable amount of money. This kind of donation is very rare; it is especially impressive for a single donation and in the context of Dorsey’s net worth. His pledge is almost a third of his wealth.

Transparency: Dorsey offered to maintain public transparency on the allocation of the donation. He pledged to track all his giving in a Google doc, open to the public, in which he will document all spending. This is an unusual and inspiring move that provides accessibility and encourages open discussion about elite philanthropy and its effectivity. Dorsey’s transparency also has implications for elite culture, status, and identity because making his donation visible might encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

The long term: Dorsey’s donation is important because he pledged the money for philanthropic causes indefinitely. This ensures the funds will be committed for social aid and relief, and the donation is not a kind deed in time of crisis that will be forgotten later. The money that is left after the pandemic will be donated to promote Universal Basic Income and girls’ health and education. This is crucial, as one of elite philanthropy’s biggest challenges is finding organizations that are big enough to use the donations most effectively.

Timing: Dorsey answered one of the first questions any professional strategic consultant will ask nonprofits when planning a fundraising campaign: why now? Why is this money necessary right now? The answer to this question is crucial because it offers context, relevance, and meaning, and it allows the audience (and donors when relevant) to connect and understand. Dorsey addressed the time issue by emphasizing the urgency of this pandemic and in his decision to donate during his lifetime.

So far, almost two weeks after his announcement, Dorsey registered donations of more than $7 million to causes such as safety gear and testing kits for healthcare workers, fund food donations for people impacted by Covid19, supporting domestic violence victims, etc. in the U.S. and around the world. It will be interesting to follow Dorsey’s charitable donations in the future, as he positioned himself as one of the top donors during this crisis.

Philanthropy plays a vital role during emergencies. Donors and nonprofits employ vast infrastructure to rapidly recruit volunteers and mobilize resources needed to meet pressing public needs. Especially now, Dorsey’s donation and its innovative spirit are essential to fighting this pandemic and offering relief to the suffering it causes.

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