Moving beyond the Poor Cousin

In launching ‘More than the Poor Cousin? The Emergence of Community Foundations as a New Development Paradigm’ yesterday, the moderator of the session, Caroline Hartnell, asked the 40 people in the audience to help us to craft the next stages of the study.

The conclusions of the study suggest that community foundations may be the missing piece in the jigsaw of international development, but the work by the Global Fund for Community Foundations is at an early stage. Caroline Hartnell asked the audience to consider questions such as:

  • Does this study make the case?
  • Does the central finding about the importance of ‘trust’ square with your experience?
  • What else do we need to know?

In a lively session, people both offered ideas that supported the findings of the study and asked sceptical questions. For the authors of the study, the session was immensely helpful in guiding us about how to take the work to the next stage.

The evidence base

People liked the methodology of the study. It is based on using the administrative process of the Global Fund for Community Foundations to generate evaluation data about the performance of the grantees. This does away with the need for an external evaluator and yields a combination of statistical and qualitative information relevant to the goals of the Global Fund.

People wanted to see this method extended, both by adding new cohorts of grantees into it and by using other data sets from related fields.  One person suggested that the Mexican experience of community foundations had yielded a cornucopia of data that could be used in a similar way.

The centrality of trust

There was much support for the idea that trust is a successful element in development. In the Carpathians, one person told a story of how a youth group gains much financial support because they are trusted. Several participants, from Latvia to Brazil, suggested how important it was to have an institution that was countering corruption in communities and showing a clean way to operate. In assessing the integrity of an organisation, a key component was who was on the board. In Africa, there was a different dimension to trust. When NGOs said to a funder ‘trust us’, this could mean ‘leave us alone’, but when this was probed deeper, it commonly meant an exhortation to funders to ensure that their requests for reporting on the grant add value to the work, rather than tie the organisation up in bureaucratic activity.

Despite this level of support for the idea of trust, some people thought that our analysis of trust was superficial and needed to go deeper into the relationships between individuals and families.  Staying at the institutional level told only part of the story.

Community foundations as a way forward

It was pointed out that community foundation professionals and development professionals tended to operate in different worlds. Community foundations could offer a sustainable exit strategy for development programmes, but the idea was rarely taken up.

Others were sceptical about the roles that community foundations could play.  Most people felt that community approaches were important but not sufficient on their own.  The role of the state was missing from the analysis in the report and this needed to be put right.  There was little reference to private corporations either. There was also the issue of scale, and the size of the organizations described in the report meant that they were too small to tackle the huge problems facing the world.  Small may be beautiful but size matters.

Next steps for the research

In devising the follow up to this initial study, we will address all of the points raised at the meeting.  Further information may be obtained from Jenny Hodgson, Director of the Global Fund, at jenny@globalfundcf.org.

Barry Knight is an adviser to the Global Fund for Community Foundations

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Chet Tchozewski
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Chet Tchozewski

At a session on Tuesday, the Global Fund for Community Foundations presented data on trends in the emerging community foundation sector in the Global South. One main topic of discussion was the importance of ‘trust’ to make community-based philanthropy work to its highest potential. Nevertheless, Barry Gaberman observed that ‘the high demand for metric evaluation within philanthropy creates a distrustful situation. A lively discussion of the nature of trust within philanthropy – and one participant from Latvia noted that in some parts of the former Soviet Union only young people under 30 years old are free from what he called… Read more »

Terry Odendahl
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Terry Odendahl

The Global Fund for Community Foundations has just completed a baseline study of 50 applications for grants. Sound boring? Not at all. Lively discussion followed the presentation of preliminary results, focusing on the importance of the community foundation as a model of locally-drivenphilanthropy. I urge you to pick up the recently published paper. An engaged audience emphasized the role of community andtrust building, as well as the significance of local knowledge. I notice Bhekinkosi Moyo has already posted a blog on this session. I was particularly stuck by the diversity in the room. Participants came from Africa, Eastern Europe and… Read more »

Bhekinkosi Moyo
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Bhekinkosi Moyo

This relationship building leads me to venture into another session that I attended today on community foundations. With a beautifully crafted title, the session was called ‘Not just a poor cousin: Understanding the unique role of community philanthropy in driving development’. Those that know me and my writings would attest to the fact that this is my favourite subject area. I have written extensively on this, yet I remain amazed by the amount of new research and data on this sector. This session was organised and presented by the Global Fund for Community Foundations. A presentation of research findings into… Read more »

Vadim Georgienko
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1. I totally agree with a list of proposed important questions to discuss and has no idea how we may develop discussion… possibly some of this questions became topics of GFCF’s webinars. 2. In the era of globalization, I am very skeptical about the term “system”. It is possible to accept the existence of the single system – the universe. We may call whatever else as “system”, just only by the exclusion of certain factors, minor with someone’s subjective point of view. Systemic approach in some sense means the recognition of failure to be effective in conditions of social synergetic,… Read more »

Vadim Georgienko
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Who is the Poor Cousin?Philanthropy Annual, 2008 review by Foundation Centre published next figures for the USA. Parts in giving: 10.5% corporate foundation, 9.9% operating, 9.2% community, with total giving in 2007 – $42.9 billion. Parts in assets: 8.1% community foundations, 5.8% operating, 3.2% corporate. So it looks like community foundations have a similar level as well-known corporate brands. In GFCF’s report the most CFs are young and small, it is interesting how long it takes in the USA to transform their poor cousins to such good position? In general I enjoy a report as a GFCF’s step in a… Read more »

Chris Mkhize
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Internaqtional community foundation have so far not been able to address head-on local socio-economic development challenges some global communities face on a daily basis. Reasons for this failure are many and varied. For example, international and national development agencies hardly have an idea of how community foundations could be used as vehicles to complement their work on required and sustainable socio-economic development approaches. Lasting solutions to most of identified socio-economic development challenges of our time seem to lie mainly on closer cooperation and common understanding between and among development agencies: community foundations and other development agencies. I fully agreee with… Read more »

Chris Mkhize
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The research Jenny Hodgson & Barry Knight have carried out is an excellent analysis of the issues that currently face international community foundations. In building on this research, communiuty foundation practitioners and others now need to ponder on how global community foundations and international development agencies could persuade and encourage UN member states to strengthen community foundations for greater public accountability, sustainable local socio-economic development, to promote and develop socio-economic values based on respect for diversity of opinions, citizen participation and democracy.

Vadim Georgienko
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Reply for Mkhize’s comment. I also fully agree with Caroline Hartwell in her view that community foundations may at be the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of international development. It has a reason to point it out, to recognize the role of CF’s by UN member states etc as a strategy’s targets. BUT strengthening of community foundations by state? It is very sensitive issue on the brink of a foul, and it needs in very careful discussion before any steps in this direction despite mentioned good intentions. Let’s think about other possibilities. For example, “every community’s member become a… Read more »

Dana Doan
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This is a valuable and inspiring report, particularly for emerging community organizations. Thank you for sharing this! In the next phase of this research, it would be great to learn how these organizations are measuring and reporting on their impact and ability to achieve goals they have set – such as building active communities. As mentioned in the report, building trust is a key requirement for success in terms of both community engagement programs and local fundraising. Here in Vietnam, gaining such trust depends on transparency, effective use of funds and, most importantly, the demonstration of impact. Perhaps Bhekinkosi Moyo… Read more »

Un nuevo concepto de comunidad
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abito da sposo
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what a nice blog .. discusses how well.! compliments here the issues are addressed in a serious and professional.