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Editor’s note: This post was authored by Seema Shah, director of research for special projects at the Foundation Center. She leads the multi-disciplinary, multi-talented team responsible for developing and maintaining WASHfunders.org.

WASHfunders.org turns one today! And what a year it has been. Over the past year, we’ve seen our reach grow steadily, attracting more than a thousand site visitors a month from foundations, NGOs, and think tanks across all corners of the globe. Our funding map of data on foundation grantmaking for WASH is constantly expanding, with more than 400 new grants added to the site since its inception. We have posted over 50 blog entries, with contributions from a range of emerging and established funders, thought leaders, and rockstar NGOs, lifting up lessons learned from WASH projects on the ground.

We’re confident this is only the start. With support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, we are forging ahead with ambitious and exciting plans to make WASHfunders.org a critical resource for data and information in the sector.  It’s not about data for the sake of data, though. Our hope is that easy access to good quality data and information can guide strategic decision-making, foster new collaborations, and help make the most of limited grant dollars.

In that spirit, we have recently added several new features to the site:

  • Funder Toolkit – For funders new to this line of work, it can be hard to know where to start. Designed especially for new and prospective funders in the sector and developed in partnership with WASH Advocates, the toolkit directs funders to essential data, reading material, videos, and web sites to help them learn, collaborate, and act. 
  • Funders’ Forum – The forum is a password-protected space for funders to communicate exclusively with one another and share strategies, ideas, and lessons learned with fellow funders. 
  • Site Registration – Many users have told us they would like to react to blog content. Our quick and easy site registration process allows users to comment on blog posts to keep the conversation going and stay up-to-date on new site developments.

As excited as we are about how far we have come in a year, we are even more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. A major focus for us will be integrating additional data streams into the funding map to help paint a more complete picture of funding flows and projects on the ground. Among the data streams we hope to incorporate are government funding data, grantmaking from foundations outside of the U.S., and more detailed project-level information, including progress reports.  

On behalf of the Foundation Center team working on this project, we thank all of you for your support, feedback, and engagement over the past year. As always, keep your comments coming so we can continue to improve the site.

In the meantime, to commemorate our first birthday, we’ve put together an infographic about where we’ve been and where we are headed. Click the image below to view the full infographic. Enjoy!

Click to view the full infographic.

Foundation Funding for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

It's World Water Day. And for those of us lucky enough to be able to take clean drinking water for granted, the numbers can be difficult to wrap our heads around. Nearly one billion people globally do not have access to safe water and more than two billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. The implications for the physical, economic, and educational well-being of communities, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, are far-reaching. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted during last year's World Water Day events, "The water crisis is a health crisis, it's a farming crisis, it's an economic crisis, it's a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis."

Given the scope and scale of the crisis, what are foundations doing to address the situation?

In conjunction with its work on WASHfunders.org and this week's World Water Day events, the Foundation Center has released a new research brief that summarizes foundation investments in water, sanitation, and hygiene. Among other things, our findings show that support for WASH issues has been on the rise since 2003. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of funders making WASH-related grants jumped from 24 to 78, and that growth was accompanied by a nearly five-fold increase in the number of organizations receiving grants. In 2009-2010, U.S. foundation funding for WASH issues totaled $144 million, up from $11 million in 2003-2004. At the same time, WASH funding, having grown from 0.2 percent in 2003 to 1.7 percent in 2010, remains a very modest portion of international giving by U.S. foundations overall.

Chart of U.S. Foundation Support for WASH

The research brief also highlights the top funders of WASH initiatives. Among private foundations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to be the largest funder of WASH programs, with the foundation's grantmaking comprising half of all WASH funding in 2009-2010. Among corporate foundations, the PepsiCo Foundation leads the way, awarding grants of more than $12 million in 2009-2010.

Philanthropic investments to address safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene education are poised to increase in the coming years, with several foundations, including the Margaret Cargill Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, beginning to develop strategic initiatives focused on WASH issues.

For more data on foundation support for WASH, see the full research brief here.

Unilever, a multinational conglomerate based in the United Kingdom and Netherlands, has announced the launch of a global foundation that will work to improve the quality of life for people around the globe through the provision of improved hygiene, sanitation, access to clean drinking water, and basic nutrition.

Announced last month at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, the Unilever Foundation has formed partnerships with Oxfam, Population Services International, Save the Children, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme to accomplish its mission. The foundation also will provide direct funding, in-kind donations, expertise, and employee support to other organizations around the globe that are working to address country-specific challenges aligned with its goals.

For example, the foundation's partnership with Oxfam will focus on programs that empower individuals and deliver good nutrition and clean drinking water, while its support for PSI will target efforts designed to improve the health of children and families through behavioral change interventions focused on hand washing, clean drinking water, and sanitation. Save the Children will use funds from the foundation to increase access to health workers, life-saving vaccines, and high-impact health and nutrition programs, while UNICEF will focus on expanding its Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) initiative, a program that promotes good hygiene practices and raises awareness of the sanitation crisis in the developing world. Last but not least, WFP will partner with the foundation to boost Project Laser Beam, a public-private partnership that aims to create a scalable, sustainable model to improve nutrition, health, and livelihoods in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

"We live in a rapidly changing world. One where populations are growing, water is becoming increasingly scarce, and where food security is a growing issue," said Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed. "Unilever is committed to addressing the unmet social needs that our business can play a unique role in helping to solve....Together with our partners, we will deliver life-saving solutions as we work toward achieving these ambitious goals."

Source: “Unilever Launches Global Foundation.” Unilever Press Release 1/27/12.

For additional WASH-related philanthropy news, see the news feed on WASHfunders.org.

129 New Grants Added to WASHfunders

In the first data refresh since WASHfunders’ launch on October 19, 2011, 129 new grants have been added to the site’s funding map. These grant monies were awarded between 2009 and 2011 by 40 foundations to nearly 100 unique organizations and represent more than $48 million in funding for WASH projects globally. Newly added grants can be easily viewed by clicking on the “new additions” option on the funding map.

The Foundation Center’s grants database is updated on an ongoing basis, as new grants information becomes available and is coded by the Center’s indexing staff. Grants information is collected through a variety of means, including from foundations themselves via quarterly electronic grant reporting (the Center’s mechanism for obtaining the most current and complete information about foundation grantmaking) and from IRS forms. In addition, as the Foundation Center expands its global reach, new grants from foundations outside the U.S. are regularly being added to the database.

In fact, five of the 40 foundations represented among the new grants are foundations outside of the U.S. For example, the Pro Victimis Foundation, based in Switzerland, awarded six grants totaling more than $630,000 in support of clean water projects, including projects in Guatemala and El Salvador. The King Baudouin Foundation, based in Belgium, awarded 14 grants for WASH efforts, amounting to more than $540,000.

Moving forward, grants data will be updated on a monthly basis, so keep making those return visits to WASHfunders to see where foundations are directing their grant dollars.

As always, if you don’t see your grants represented or if you have any feedback for us, send us a note at washfunders@foundationcenter.org.

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