Silicon Valley Donor Awards $1 Million Gift to Innovative Nonprofit Solving Global Water Crisis

A Silicon Valley philanthropist has announced a record-breaking $1 million grant to a pioneering nonprofit working to bring safe drinking water to the poorest communities in the world.

Peninsula Community Foundation (PCF) of San Mateo, Calif., and WaterPartners International, are pleased to announce that PCF, through the donor advised fund Agora Foundation, has awarded $1 million to WaterPartners–the biggest single grant ever made through Agora and the largest gift in WaterPartners' 14-year history. A Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit with offices in Seattle, WaterPartners is dedicated to supplying clean water to the more than 1 billion people in developing countries who lack access to this basic human need.

WaterPartners will use the $1 million to launch WaterCredit, an innovative new program that blends grants and credit to ensure maximum impact of funds invested by donors, while still meeting the needs of the world's poor. Working through rigorously screened local partner organizations, WaterCredit will for the first time provide communities in developing countries access to credit and thus the capital necessary to construct water projects.

"WaterCredit and our micro-lending model of providing access to credit is new to the water sector. By building projects on full or partial credit, we will help align supply of clean water with demand," said Gary White, co-founder and executive director of WaterPartners. "Our approach embodies the characteristics of the emerging social entrepreneurship trend in nonprofits where the goal is to get more bang for your buck by creating a lasting social solution."

WaterPartners developed the WaterCredit initiative in collaboration with Wynnette LaBrosse of Agora Foundation at PCF, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Combined, the two foundations provided nearly $225,000 in grants earlier in 2004 to help pilot the concepts that form the basis of WaterCredit.

"The work of WaterPartners is of colossal importance to humanity, especially women and children in the developing world," said LaBrosse. "I realize how ready access to clean drinking water transforms the lives of individuals and entire communities. Working with PCF and WaterPartners, I feel confident that we can make a significant impact in global communities, and I know WaterPartners will innovatively leverage my support."

"PCF is excited to be working with Wynnette and WaterPartners International on this important project," said Sterling Speirn, president of PCF. "Wynnette's expansive vision is just one example of how the dreams of our local donors have global impact."

To date, water supply projects have been largely funded in their entirety by grants, even when the individuals to be served by the project have the means to share costs. Through its new WaterCredit initiative, WaterPartners will use market segmentation to identify the poorest communities, who will continue to receive grants to cover 100 percent of the cost of a water project. Other communities who are able to pay for all or part of the expenses themselves over time will receive loans, while communities that fall in between will be offered a combination of grants and loans.

More than 1 billion people in developing countries lack access to a safe and reliable water source. Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death for children under age 5 and kill more than 13,000 people every day. These diseases account for 80 percent of the world's sickness and more than 5 million deaths annually. Some of the world's poorest urban inhabitants spend 25 percent of their income on water that is often contaminated. Each day, people in developing countries spend 200 million hours walking to collect water.

Peninsula Community Foundation

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