Omidyar Network to Expand Grantmaking, Add Focus Areas

The Redwood City, California-based Omidyar Network will increase its total investments and charitable donations and has added add two new focus areas, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Within its Access to Capital initiative, Omidyar will add a focus on emerging market ventures to support entrepreneurs who provide low-cost products and services to underserved populations, while the Media, Markets, and Transparency initiative will add a focus on trust, reputation, and identity to help build confidence in digital environments. As part of a strategy to give fewer but larger gifts, the network will award between $5 million and $7 million each to its grantee organization — up from an average of $1 million in 2006.

The network's expansion comes as some of the world's largest funders, including the Bill & Melinda Gates and Skoll foundations, are steadily boosting their grantmaking despite broad concerns about a global recession. According to a recent Foundation Center report, giving by U.S. foundations as a whole tends to be largely unaffected by economic downturns, although that trend could break down if the current financial crisis deepens. Still, foundation giving is expected to remain healthy in the short term thanks in part to super-wealthy philanthropists like Omidyar Network founder Pierre Omidyar who appear to be largely unaffected by economic fluctuations and who are interested in their philanthropy showing results as quickly as possible.

"The current situation encourages us to be more aggressive and more active as, unfortunately, a lot of philanthropic organizations will pull in," said Matt Bannick, managing partner at the Omidyar Network. "Not that we're going to fill the gap, but I feel like we need to step forward."

"EBay Founder's Philanthropic Firm to Donate More." Wall Street Journal 10/22/2008. "Omidyar Network Recruits Top Talent to Increase Impact." Omidyar Network Press Release 10/22/2008.