Late last week the Skoll Foundation announced that Jeff Skoll, a billionaire and early eBay executive, made a $100 million gift to his foundation with the specific aim of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The new gift will enable the nonprofit to quadruple its grantmaking in 2020 to $200 million, the foundation said.
“Jeff is giving us the fuel, vision, and inspiration to run both a marathon and a sprint as we do our best to make a difference where we can,” Skoll Foundation CEO Don Gips said in a statement.
The Skoll Foundation says it will use the new gift in two main areas: tools, such as testing and contact tracing to slow the spread of COVID-19, and respiratory equipment and other medical devices for low- and middle-income countries.
Jeff Skoll, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $5.1 billion, has been concerned about pandemics for a long time. He founded and owns film production company Participant Media, which co-produced the 2011 film Contagion – an eerily prescient look at how a pandemic could spread globally. He also spent $100 million, starting in 2008, to back the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which explored solutions to some of the toughest problems our civilization faces, including nuclear warfare and pandemics. The fund wound down at the end of 2017.
Together, the Skoll Foundation and the Skoll Fund, a supporting organization associated with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, currently have assets of $1.2 billion, according to a spokesperson for the foundation.
The Skoll Foundation has been funding COVID-19 responses since January, making grants to groups including nonprofits Partners in Health and African Field Epidemiology Network, as well as Mirimus, a biotech firm active in genome editing that is working on antibody tests in New York City. The foundation says it is also providing an undisclosed amount of emergency funding to its grantees that are most in need of support to pivot their business models.
“I’m in a fortunate position, I believe, to help — given the scope of my various organizations across the pandemic field, the nonprofit space, the media world and the investment side,” Skoll said in a recent podcast with fellow billionaire Mike Milken.
His Skoll Foundation has been a longtime funder of social entrepreneurs — individuals who come up with innovative solutions to pressing problems. Each year (except this year, because of the pandemic) the foundation hosts the Skoll World Forum at the University of Oxford in England, gathering social entrepreneurs, funders and others active in the nonprofit world for a gathering that’s like the Davos for the nonprofit sector, complete with provocative panel discussions.