MasterCard Foundation: Grants for Global Development

OVERVIEW: The MasterCard Foundation focuses its global development grantmaking on financial inclusion, education and learning, and youth livelihoods.

IP TAKE: The MasterCard Foundation funds a wide range of issues, but is not an easily accessible foundation as it tends to partner with large NGOs and academic institutions over local and grassroots organizations.

PROFILE: Gifted with shares from the financial services company MasterCard, The MasterCard Foundation was established in 2006 and functions separately from its corporate sister. The foundation ultimately seeks to “[a]dvance education and financial inclusion to catalyze prosperity in developing countries.” It prioritizes giving in Africa to create an "[i]nclusive, more equitable Africa by supporting the implementation of proven development models and scalable approaches." The foundation believes that the key to prosperity is through "[e]ducation, skills training and financial inclusion," and as such, its investments reflect this dedication. The foundation prioritizes initiatives related to education, inclusion, the livelihood of young people, and improving access to financial services, among others. 

In order to foster and facilitate more opportunities for disadvantaged populations in low-income countries, the foundation awards grants through three main programs: Financial InclusionEducation & Learning, and Youth Livelihoods. While The MasterCard Foundation has awarded grants to projects in low-income countries around the world, Africa is now the priority region.

Preferring a more broad approach, the foundation's programs tackle larger issues on multiple fronts. For example, its Financial Inclusion program not only awards grants for financial product and services access, but also for rural and agricultural financing, expanding informal savings groups, microcredit, and mobile banking. 

The MasterCard Foundation's grants range from $100,000 to $250,000 for multi-year programs. The foundation also awards several grants between $1 million to $5 million. It does not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry about funding or what it refers to as “concept notes.” The foundation occasionally issues requests for proposals. As well, its Fund for Rural Prosperity—a $50 million "challenge program" to expand rural financial services in Africa—has a two-stage application process.

Information is a bit sparse on The MasterCard Foundation’s application process for the remainder of its programs. According to the foundation’s most recent tax filings, once it reviews a concept note, if the work aligns with the foundation’s objectives, it will invite the applicant to submit a full proposal. The best bet, here, would be to reach out to program staff for clarity on the foundation’s application process.


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