Skoll Foundation: Grants for Global Development

OVERVIEW: The Skoll Foundation supports organizations engaged in social entrepreneurship in countries around the world. The foundation's seeks organizations that have the ability to “spark large-scale change for seemingly intractable social problems.”

IP TAKE: Skoll funds organizations with established finances and the resources to make substantial impacts. In order to better position themselves, grantseekers must make certain that their work closely aligns with Skoll’s mission. Then, grantseekers must also network with Skoll partners in order to attract funding attention. 

PROFILE: Founded in 1999, the Skoll Foundation was created by Jeff Skoll, a tech innovator and social agitator/movie maker. He was the first employee and president of online auction powerhouse eBay and has produced such films as An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. The foundation emphasizes social entrepreneurship—the art of disrupting established, but inefficient social structures in order to improve humanity's well-being. Skoll supports organizations engaged in social entrepreneurship around the world, and also makes program-related investments in the form of loans, direct investments, and private equity investments. It prioritizes sustainability, peace, and prosperity.

Skoll's programmatic foci serve as its global development grantmaking engines:

  • Environmental Sustainability. Supports organizations that work in developing countries in water management, improving living conditions in developing countries, and access to modern energy services.
  • Education. Emphasizes access to education (at all levels), and women’s and girls’ education.
  • Economic Opportunity. Identifies improving livelihoods, access to financial services for small and medium enterprises, and improving youth job skills as crucial to creating economic opportunity.
  • Sustainable Markets. This program includes advocacy for and promotion of responsible supply chains; improved standards of business practices; access to modern energy services, particularly those related to clean energy; and access to financial services for small and medium enterprises.

Skoll's grantmaking ranges between $50,000 and $350,000, and it awards only a handful of grants over $500,000. Skoll's strategic agenda is opaque, and it does not accept unsolicited proposals. Taking this proactive grantmaking approach, Skoll identifies its interests and partners, and funds them accordingly. The foundation generally awards multi-year grants. 

In addition to its grantmaking, Skoll holds an annual Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship competition. The foundation awards fewer than 10 grants per year through this program. Grants are awarded to innovative social entrepreneurs that might not previously have been on Skoll's radar.

Even with its traditional grantmaking and social entrepreneurship awards, the foundation awards surprisingly few grants per year. This is likely because Skoll, as their tax filings reflect, dedicates a large portion of its grant funding to Skoll Global Threats Fund (SGTF). The SGTF supports projects that confront “global threats imperiling humanity by seeking solutions, strengthening alliances, and spurring actions needed to safeguard the future.” SGTF grants range from about $50,000 to nearly $4 million. SGTF also does not accept unsolicited proposals.  

There are no geographic restrictions on Skoll funding. 


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