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Harry and Meghan relied on Silicon Valley nonprofit’s mystery donor to fund good works

Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, converse with two Afghan women at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Nov. 11, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jake Carter)

When Prince Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation released its annual report earlier this year, it made some amazing claims about the couple’s “impact,” linking their philanthropy to the delivery of more than 12 million COVID-19 vaccines globally and the resettlement of more than 174,000 Afghan and Ukrainian refugees in the United States.

While some of these claims may be difficult to verify and could be the product of a carefully worded PR spin, newly obtained IRS documents confirm that Harry and Meghan’s nonprofit still donated generously to a number of causes in 2021 — to the tune of more than $3 million.

The documents also show that Harry and Meghan’s largesse is largely connected to the Bay Area. The more than $13 million they reported in total revenue for 2021 comes from two mystery donors. The substantively larger donation of $10 million came to Archewell via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), according to SVCF’s 2021 IRS documents, otherwise known as its Form 990.

The SVCF is a powerful, Mountain View-based nonprofit that gave out “a record-breaking” $2.7 billion in grants to nearly 6,000 nonprofit organizations in 2021, according to its annual report. The SVCF is the largest supporter of nonprofits in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and invested more than $548 million in nonprofits throughout the Bay Area in 2022, its website says.

With regard to the $10 million that went to the Montecito-based couple’s Archewell Foundation, the SVCF provides a way for wealthy people to give out tax-free grants anonymously through what is known as a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). With a DAF, a person can deposit assets with a nonprofit and direct where they want the money to go, while receiving an immediate tax deduction as well as guaranteed privacy.

A spokesperson for Archewell didn’t respond to an inquiry on the identify of the mystery donor, since the person clearly wanted to stay anonymous. Archewell spokesperson Miranda Barbot also didn’t respond to a question about the identity of the second big donor, designated only as a “person” who gave $3 million, according to Archewell’s Form 990.

With these two donations, Archewell went from raising less than $50,000 in donations in 2020, its first year of operation, to acquiring $13,004,470 in 2021. Harry and Meghan accomplished this, even though their foundation, which they created as a 501(c)(3) public charity in 2020, didn’t do any of the fundraising often associated with nonprofits.

Individually, the Sussexes only put in an average of one hour per week and drew no salary, the Form 990 shows. On the other hand, Archewell’s executive director, James Holt, was relatively well compensated in 2021 for also only working an average of one hour per week. He earned $63,000 in salary and compensation, meaning he earned about $1,200 per hour on behalf of Archewell.

In all, Archewell spent a total of $369,925 on administrative expenses, including on Holt’s compensation, as well as $213,555 on legal fees and $34,521 on conferences, conventions and meetings. That left about $9 million in reserve, Barbot said. This “90/10 ratio” of program services to administrative costs is standard practice for an organization of its size, Barbot said. In response to online criticism about why Archewell didn’t direct more of its $13 million in revenue towards grants, she said “it’s normal for a nonprofit — especially in its first year — to only spend a small percentage of the money it has raised.”

“It should be expected millions more will be spent in years to come,” Barbot said.

In all, Archewell in 2021 issued more than $3,096,319 in grants to more than 40 organizations across “key focus areas, including vaccine equity, relief centers, refugee resettlement, and building a better online world,” its impact report said.

Archewell gave out $850,000 in grants to organizations that helped Afghans and Ukrainians resettle in the United States, the Form 990 shows. Like hundreds of other corporate, foundation and individual donors, Archewell made grants to organizations that worked under two umbrella initiatives: Operations Allies Welcome, which was originally created by the Department of Homeland Security under the direction of President Biden, and Welcome.US, whose honorary co-chairs include former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Archewell’s impact report also clarifies that it wasn’t directly responsible for the resettlement of 174,497 refugees; rather this is the number of people resettled in the United States under these initiatives.

“We wanted to ensure those fleeing were met with a warm welcome,” Archewell’s report said.

One of Archewell’s grantees in refugee resettlement was Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief organization based in El Segundo, in the Los Angeles area. Archewell gave a $250,000 grant to Team Rubicon after Harry and Meghan visited a U.S. military base temporarily housing Afghan families in need. The impact report said their grant helped Rubicon serve nearly 4,000 individuals and help more than 800 families move into new homes.

“We are extremely grateful for The Archewell Foundation’s generous contribution toward Team Rubicon’s Afghan Resettlement Program,” Jeff Byard, Team Rubicon’s vice president of operations, said in a statement in the final report. “AWF’s support fueled our commitment to supporting vulnerable people, and our ability to support Afghan families, nimbly and effectively, at various stages of their transition.”

Another major focus of Archewell grants — a total of $900,000 — was to organizations that help build “a better online world.” That included a $250,000 grant to Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society to address “urgent concerns” regarding online hate speech, harassment, misinformation and privacy, the impact report said.

Archewell also gave $125,000 to the NAACP to create a Digital Civil Rights Award, honoring people who are merging social justice with technology to advance civil and human rights. The creation of the award was announced in February 2022, when Harry and Meghan received the NAACP’s President’s Award at the 53rd NAACP Image Awards, Vanity Fair reported.

The inaugural Digital Civil Rights Award in 2022 went to Safiya Noble, co-founder of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. Noble’s center also received a $250,000 grant from Archewell in 2021, which Noble said will help launch UCLA’s Center on Race and Digital Justice, the Form 990 shows.

Noble was an important talking head in the Sussexes’ Netflix docuseries “Harry and Meghan.” She backed up Harry and Meghan’s argument that the biracial American duchess was the target of particularly vicious online hate when she was living in the U.K. Noble talked about how a small but “highly coordinated and deeply networked” group of accounts were responsible for much of the racist tweets targeting Meghan.

When it comes to “vaccine equity,” the Form 990 shows that Archewell issued a $150,000 wire transfer to an unidentified entity for the purpose of “furthering efforts to improve access to COVID vaccines globally.” In its impact report, Archewell said it “invested” in the People’s Vaccine alliance, a coalition of more than 100 organizations, heads of state, health experts and activists. This investment is one of the ways Archewell said it “took a lead role” in supporting equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments around the world. Harry and Meghan’s best known work on vaccine access was co-chairing Global Citizen’s Vax Live concert in May 2021 to raise money for a vaccine sharing program co-led by the World Health Organization.

Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, said the Vax Live campaign, with the Sussexes as co-chairs, mobilized more than 26 million COVID vaccine doses and raised more than $302 million for vaccine equity. “The Archewell Foundation’s unwavering commitment to social change and work to protect and advance equity, justice and human rights is truly inspiring,” Evans said in the Archewell report.

Other notable Archewell grantees include $300,000 to World Central Kitchen “to develop four community relief centers to help provide food in crises,” and the Shelter Ministries of Dallas, which received $90,000 to repair a women’s shelter following storm damage.

Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education also received a $25,000 grant. At the start of 2021, the Sussexes announced they were partnering with Dr. James Doty, a Stanford neurosurgeon and director of the center, to advance the idea that practicing compassion can lead to “systemic cultural change.” In an email to this news organization, Doty said the partnership has thus far led to some discussions but no other developments. Doty added that Harry participated in a conference in November 2021 with the University of Edinburgh on “realizing a compassionate planet” during the United Nation’s COP26 meeting on climate change.


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