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Google Asks Users To Help Fight Ebola — And They Answer With Cash

When you think philanthropy, Facebook and Google don't usually come to mind.

But maybe in your travels across the Internet this week, you notice that both companies placed banners ads on their pages asking you to help end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Google pledged to match every dollar donated by its users with $2. The company has already reached its limit of $7.5 million — $5 million from Google and $2.5 million from donors.

It's the first time Google has asked its users for money to support a cause. Separately, Google CEO Larry Page also donated $15 million of his own money through his family foundation.

The campaign is a product of Google.org, its philanthropic non-profit arm. The money will be divided between Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Partners in Health and Save the Children, by way of the online fundraising platform Network for Good.

The company also donated $10 million to a broader list of nonprofits battling Ebola, according to the company blog.

Google.org Director Jacquelline Fuller spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin to explain the thinking behind the matching campaign.

Interview Highlights

On Google choosing Ebola treatment as the first cause to ask for donations

The thing with Ebola is that we're seeing that, globally speaking, it's underfunded, and the public has not yet responded in ways that we saw in the past with things like the Haiti earthquake. So we thought, you know what, let's make it easy for the general public to learn a little bit more about Ebola and to give, if they want to.

On the non-profits Google chose to help

Whenever we fund, we always look and see if there are specific technologies, or new, innovative approaches that can be tried. In this crisis, for the first time, we are also sending a team of our engineers to go work directly with Doctors Without Borders to help develop mobile tools that help with ... contact tracing and that sort of thing.

On potential future causes for Google to support

We ask ourselves a series of questions ... Could Google make a differential impact? Do we have a unique role to play? Is there something that we can add that otherwise just wouldn't be done? Because if others are going to step to the front and do it, we can certainly just step back and let them do it. ... It doesn't necessarily follow a logic train. Sometimes you'll see governments and the major international NGOs stepping up in a big way, and sometimes you'll see something like Ebola, where you think, wow, the global response has not really been commensurate with the need.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.