Emergency response

Kenya COVID-19 Fund

Give cash relief to low-income Kenyan families that have been hit hard by COVID-19

Created by:

Help Kenyans impacted by COVID-19

GiveDirectly is delivering cash to low-income Kenyans to help them get through COVID-19, as part of the Shikilia initiative. We’re coordinating with community organizations and using geographic targeting data to identify and prioritize vulnerable communities and groups. We’ve already started by enrolling recipients in Kibera and Mathare — mostly youth — in partnership with SHOFCO. Each recipient will receive ~$30 per month for 3 months.

Measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted informal labour markets and led to significant income loss for many low-income households. Few will have the financial resources to weather this storm, let alone provide additional care for loved ones in need. This is the moment for digital cash.

About GiveDirectly and the Fund

The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund was created by GiveDirectly in partnership with the Shikilia initiative.

Shikilia is a collaboration between Kenyan private sector and non-profit organizations to raise funds and provide emergency cash transfers to low-income Kenyan communities to replace lost income due to COVID-19 and prevent a widespread humanitarian crisis. Partner organizations include Black Butterfly, Busara, Dalberg, Endeavor Kenya, FSD Kenya, GiveDirectly, JoyJet, Mercy Corps, NCBA, Oxfam, Pesalink, Safaricom, Sokowatch, and SunCulture.

GiveDirectly is the leading global non-profit specialized in digital cash transfers. Over the past decade it has raised $300M for the extreme poor and for those affected by disasters. It is top-rated by GiveWell, Charity Navigator, and has consistently ranked among Fast Company’s most innovative companies. It is among the leaders in the global movement towards digital cash transfers, featuring regularly in the New York Times, This American Life, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and the Economist among others.


Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, donations are tax-deductible in the United States. GiveDirectly is a registered 501(c)(3), and our U.S. federal EIN is 27-1661997.

I live in Kenya, can I donate?

Yes! If you are in Kenya, you can donate via MPesa using Paybill number 8014887 (Account Number: [Your name]).

I’m an existing GiveDirectly donor – will my donations go to COVID-19?

Given that COVID-19 is widespread and we don’t have a clear line of sight into when we’ll shift back to in-person operations, all donations will be considered “COVID-19 relief” and will be delivered remotely. The only difference is that new recipients will be enrolled remotely (as detailed above). As a donor, at point of donation you can select whether you’d like your donation to be allocated to “COVID-19 – Africa response” or “COVID-19 – U.S. response.”

How much of my donation does a recipient receive?

In 2019, on average across all of our programs, 85 cents of every dollar donated was delivered to recipients. The remainder was spent on key aspects of our operations: identifying the recipients most in need, preventing fraud, and ensuring a high bar of customer service.

How do I know recipients will spend cash appropriately?

The research is clear: households living in poverty are some of the most effective spenders around. Despite the stereotypes, recipients of cash do not systematically waste or misuse it. Common concerns that people will spend money on vices have been consistently disproven (Evans and Popova, 2016).

Can I sign up to be a recipient?

Unfortunately, GiveDirectly is not able to respond to individual requests for cash transfers. In order to ensure fairness and equity in our processes, we only select recipients using our eligibility process detailed above


How do you decide who receives money?

Our top priority right now is moving quickly to get cash to vulnerable families. To start, we plan to target families in urban areas, where we expect the economic effects of COVID-19 to hit hardest and fastest. We are partnering with SHOFCO in Kenya to enroll recipients in Nairobi slums first.

Can I choose to whom to give?

No; you cannot choose an individual recipient. Practically speaking, if we allowed this we would risk being regulated as a money transfer service and losing our charitable status. Philosophically, we aim to target the poorest possible recipients in high impact areas of COVID-19, and not those with compelling profiles or narratives.

How do you prevent fraud?

We use a mix of prevention, detection, and auditing techniques to manage fraud. These include, for example, defined staff roles, spot checks of data captured in the field, remote GPS coordinate checks, and independent follow-up calls with recipients, among others. We use government-issued IDs and other documents to confirm the recipients’ place of residence.

Are you directly implementing the program?

Yes — as we work to target particularly vulnerable recipients impacted by COVID-19, we will occasionally work with partners (like SHOFCO) to reach recipients more rapidly. We will continue to own the end-to-end implementation process.

As we scale, we will use a combination of (a) our own existing databases of low-income households, (b) rosters provided by local NGO partners whom we have vetted, and (c) rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through our partner mobile network operators. Specific approaches will vary across countries.

Who is SHOFCO?

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing critical services for all, community advocacy platforms, and education and leadership development for women and girls.