(CNN) - Google Inc. announced Wednesday that it's providing $11.5 million in grants to 10 organizations working to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Gary Haugen, president and CEO of International Justice Mission, one of the grant recipients, called the move a "game-changing investment." IJM is a Washington-based human rights agency that works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about a dozen countries.
"This is the largest corporate step up to the challenge that is beginning to apply direct resources to the fight against slavery," Haugen said.
According to estimates by grant recipients, Google's support will free an estimated 12,000 people from slavery and prevent millions more from being victimized. Numbers vary widely, but policymakers, activists and scholars estimate the number of modern-day slaves at somewhere between 10 million and 30 million people worldwide.
Google's director of charitable giving, Jacquelline Fuller, said the company chose to spotlight the issue of slavery because the topic of freedom - "the most basic of human rights," as she puts it - resonated with company employees around the world.
"Many people are surprised to learn there are more people trapped in slavery today than any time in history," Fuller said. "The good news is that there are solutions. Google is supporting organizations that have a proven track record and a plan to make a difference at scale."
Google made the announcement through a link posted on its web page. The gift is part of a total of $40 million the Internet giant is giving in charitable donations during the holiday season.
The grant will be shared by newly formed coalitions of international anti-trafficking organizations. The bulk of the donation, $8 million, will go to two coalitions led by IJM in India, with about half going toward direct intervention and government-led rescue operations, and half toward advocacy and awareness projects. In addition, $1.8 million will go to the U.S. Anti-Trafficking Initiative - a partnership between Polaris Project, which operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, Slavery Footprint, an interactive Web site and mobile app that estimates how much of a user's lifestyle relies on forced labor, and IJM.
IJM says most of its funding comes from private donations. In 2010, it notes, less than 1% of its funding came from big business or corporate foundations.
"It gives us a sense of what's possible," said IJM's Haugen. "We can actually change the whole balance of resources between those who are the criminals, hurting human beings and those who are on the side of those who need freedom today."
CNN has also joined the fight against modern-day slavery and collaborates regularly with many advocacy groups, including the recipients of these Google grants. Since launching the CNN Freedom Project in March, CNN has broadcast more than 200 stories and a half-dozen documentaries on the issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Nearly 2,000 people have come out of slavery, either directly or indirectly, as a result of those stories.