Climate Group 'Awestruck' by Mystery $10M Donation

The money went to Giving Green, a philanthropic organization that gives money to nonprofits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 22, 2024 12:12 PM CDT
Climate Group 'Awestruck' by Mystery $10M Donation
A coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun on July 27, 2018, in Glenrock, Wyoming. A climate philanthropy organization, Giving Green, received a $10 million anonymous donation in April and thinks that the same donor may have given even more.   (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

On a Friday morning in April, Dan Stein, the founder of Giving Green, a climate philanthropy organization, found some big news in a surprising email. An anonymous donor had given his fund $10 million. "I didn't quite process the number of zeros," Stein said, adding he was "tickled, awestruck, surprised" by the gift, per the AP. Giving Green collects donations and disperses them to a handful of nonprofits that it believes have the potential to make a significant difference in preventing climate change and reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. The $10 million donation is by far the largest single gift the nonprofit has ever received, and it essentially fell out of the sky without warning.

The mystery gift went to Giving Green's fund, which is housed at Giving What We Can, an organization inspired by effective altruism that asks people from all over the world to pledge to give away a percentage of their income or wealth each year. The donor is anonymous, with the gift coming from a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable. "At first, they also were nervous that it was a mistake, and they went back to Fidelity to verify it before they told us," Stein said of Giving What We Can. Looking back at their records and speaking with organizations they recommend, Stein and his team think the same donor may actually have given as much as $17 million more directly to those organizations over the last two years.

Because the gifts are anonymous, it's impossible to confirm, but Stein says the timing of the gifts, which came in two clusters, suggests they could've come from the same person or organization. Anonymous donations—even large ones—aren't unusual, but such gifts are generally the work of behind-the-scenes relationship-building, said Tory Martin of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy. "Most of the time, if you're getting millions of dollars, stewardship has happened. Cultivation has happened," she said. Stein said Giving Green will disperse the vast majority of the $10 million gift ASAP, with much of it going to their recommended groups. They'll also direct smaller amounts to new groups or programs within organizations that they support. More here.

(More donation stories.)

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