Spotlight on the Western Union Foundation: A Global Funder in for the Long Haul

If you work on global development and humanitarian issues and don't know much about the Western Union Foundation, that needs to change.

With average annual grantmaking hovering around $7 million, this foundation is hardly the biggest player on the global philanthropy scene, but it's demonstrated impressive staying power, and its grantmaking has really started to add up. Recently, in fact, the foundation celebrated $100 million in grantmaking since 2001.

That money was spread around pretty widely, with 3,095 grants and donations going to over 2,700 NGOs across 135 countries. In other words, this is not one of those global funders that only writes big checks to a few top NGOs, which is another reason to keep it on your radar.

Related: Western Union Foundation: Grants for Global Development

As well, this is a funder that goes where the action is and is more nimble that many foundations. If you’re an avid IP reader, you are well aware that Western Union jumps in to fund disaster relief efforts wherever they occur around the globe. To date, the foundation has supported 142 disaster relief efforts in 65 countries.

On reaching the $100 million milestone, foundation President Patrick Gaston (with whom we spoke recently), stated, "This remarkable achievement says a great deal about not only the power of partnership with NGOs, small local nonprofits and charities around the world, but the tireless support from the more than 500 Western Union Agents and thousands of Western Union employees who gave their time and money to support our mission."

Speaking of Western Union's employees, they pitch in—a lot. According to the foundation, 72 percent of all of the company’s employees made donations to their employer’s foundation. Those contributions have amounted to around $4.5 million since 2003.

For the most part, the Western Union Foundation focuses much of its funding on education and disaster relief. In the education field, the foundation has committed $1.8 million over three years to the PASS Initiative. PASS was launched in 2013 in partnership with the UEFA Europa League, with the goal of enabling increased access to education for children in poor countries. 

The foundation has also committed over $750,000 to the Teach for All Global Partnership, and recently pledged an additional $200,000 to the Teach for All Network.


But the foundation also funds in some other interesting areas, here and there. For example, it has backed Mercy Corps' work to empower poor rural woman in China with financial education and skills.

Related: How the Western Union Foundation is Helping to Empower Women in China

In the disaster relief field, Western Union most recently jumped in to help the response and recovery efforts in Nepal, committing $200,000 to those efforts. Not long before that, it chipped in to help the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu after it was flattened by a hurricane.

Related: Western Union Pitches In to Help a Flattened Pacific Island

And last year, the foundation also provided over $500,000 in matching funds to Save the Children and the International Medical Corps to support its efforts in fighting the Ebola outbreak in Africa. As well, it's been among a small handful of funders that has come to the aid of millions of Syrian refugees. 

Related: With "Help Dwindling" for Syrian Refugees, Western Union and UPS Step Up

Helping out in disasters can be difficult, with funders facing logistical obstalces and bureaucratic red tape. But that hasn't deterred the Western Union Foundation, which has distinguished itself as a flexible and responsive funder. 

Bottom line: While you won't find the truly big bucks here, the Western Union Foundations compensates for its modest resources by going where the action is and spreading its money widely. This is definitely a global funder to keep an eye on.