We Don't See This Every Day (But Would Like to): A Huge Individual Gift for WASH

Dana and David Dornsife have been paying attention to the worldwide water crisis since the early 1980s, when they began supporting World Vision’s global WASH program. While World Vision has been working on water, sanitation, and hygiene issues since the 1960s, it has significantly scaled up its work in recent decades.

The faith-based NGO is embarking on yet another large-scale global water challenge with the goal of “providing one new person with clean water every 10 seconds by 2020.” And the Dornsifes have generously provided World Vision with a $40 million donation to help it reach its 2020 WASH goals.

Before getting to the details of this gift, let us just say that it isn't every day that we see individual donors stepping up to give big for WASH. Of course, this area is fundamental in terms of a society's development, and is particularly important for raising up girls and women, who often spend hours every day fetching water.

The Dornsifes $40 million give is spread out over five years and supports World Vision’s water efforts in Africa. Having previously given World Vision a $35 million water and sanitation donation (2010), this latest gift has solidified the Dornsife’s place among the top individual donors in WASH philanthropy.

Dana and David Dornsife do not tend to make a big show of their philanthropic donations. But they give big—especially to their respective alma maters of Drexel University and the University of Southern California.

In 2011, the couple bestowed USC’s College of Letters and Sciences with a $200 million gift, and more recently, Dana Dornsife gave her alma mater, Drexel, a $45 million donation for its School of Public Health.

Related: A Couple Steps Up: $45 Million Goes to Public Health at Drexel University

This isn’t a couple that simply cuts checks to their favorite schools or causes. Both Dana and David Dornsife are heavily involved in the philanthropic world. Dana is the founder and president of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, which provides financial help to patients participating in USDA clinical trials. She also serves as a board member at the USCs Brain and Creativity Institute and the USC-Huntington Institutes.

David is the chairman of the board at the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC and serves as the vice president of the Hedco Foundation, which focuses its giving on health, education, and social services.

The Dornsifes have also endowed a number of chairs at USC in the disciplines of biological and neuroscience.

Dana and David Dornsife’s personal philanthropy does have a heavy educational footprint. However, they do step out of academia in their giving as well, predominately through their longtime support of World Vision. In the past, the Dornsifes have supported a number of World Vision projects, including those related to microeconomic enterprises, literacy, agriculture, and well drilling. Other philanthropic interests of the Dornsifes include Alzheimer’s research and environmental conservation and sustainability.