Member Week 2021: Foundation Leader Q&A with Nick Aldridge

Thursday, December 2, 2021 - 4:30 pm
CoF Author Council on Foundations

Nick Aldridge, CEO of the PayPal Giving Fund

Question: What drew you to the field of philanthropy?

Answer: The people involved - I was lucky enough to start my career in a UK organization supporting nonprofits and enjoyed meeting leaders working to tackle important and often intractable social problems, with tenacity, commitment, and imagination.

Q: Collaboration is often the most effective way to tackle key issues and drive sustainable change in philanthropy. Share an example of a successful philanthropic collaboration or partnership that you have been a part of. What issue brought the organizations together? Why was a collaborative approach the right way to approach the issue? What were the results?

A: At PayPal Giving Fund all our work has been in partnership with charities and leading internet businesses, including PayPal through initiatives such Give at Checkout. We’ve been particularly proud of our partnership with GoFundMe, through which we’ve enabled fundraisers to create campaigns to benefit charities they care about. Supporters can donate to PayPal Giving Fund and receive a tax receipt immediately, and every month GoFundMe campaigns enable grants to thousands of charities.

Q: Reflecting on how COVID-19 and the movement for racial justice have impacted philanthropy, in what ways has the sector changed its approach to work since spring 2020? Share any examples of how your organization changed its operations or strategy.

A: In 2020, Covid-19 and the racial justice movement spurred a wave of social action as people came together in support of causes they care about. In particular, the racial justice movement, along with the expansion of opportunities to give and fundraise with PayPal, mobilized younger segments of the population to give, in many cases engaging with the philanthropic sector for the first time. We also saw growing interest from businesses in partnering with PayPal Giving Fund. Besides shifting to home working, and learning how to manage customer relationships without meeting in person, our main adaptation was to handle a dramatic increase in the scope and range of online philanthropy we support. Thankfully, we had invested the previous year in one of the world’s largest cloud-based accounting systems, enabling us to handle the dramatically increased volume of donations. In 2020 as a whole, we were able to help raise and distribute $500m to 128,000 charities as a result of gifts from 13 million donors, benefitting the sector at a time it was urgently needed.

Q: How do you think philanthropy can become a more trusted partner in advancing the greater good?

A: Charities and foundations have worried about public trust for decades. People often argue that transparency and data are the cure, but an excess of unsorted information can confuse or even mislead the public, and lead to simplistic assessments and comparisons. More important for philanthropy is defining and living up to our values, and being honest with our stakeholders about the challenges we face. In particular, during a time of global upheaval and stress, including personal tragedy for many, we need to look after our staff so they can look after the people that depend on us. The fact that we’re working for the collective good doesn’t allow us to take for granted our people’s motivation and commitment.

Q: Share one or more ways that your Council on Foundations membership has benefitted your organization.

A: The Council on Foundations has been a fantastic source of specialist advice on philanthropy, including Donor Advised Funds and cross-border giving. Through the Council’s networks, such as the Corporate Grantmakers' Exchange, we’re also able to keep in touch with the latest thinking of foundations that are responding to some of society’s most pressing challenges.

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