“Let’s embrace the idea that people in poor communities know what they need and need to be given the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves”

I have come to appreciate, over years of peripheral but attentive observation of the work of GFCF, that the poorest communities very frequently give the most as a proportion of their wealth. The contribution of the poor is not only the most generous but frequently better at reaching its target. The GFCF attempts to channel collective help, whether from major foundations or individuals, to poorer communities that have a history of local participation and philanthropy. They have direct and profound interaction with community organizations and foundations. Through the GFCF bigger donations are re-deployed through community foundations that have an immediate grasp of local short and long-term goals and their feasibility.

I have made a small donation to the GFCF because I trust the work they do. I also believe that the dilution of ‘big donor’ influence is crucial to the survival and success of community foundations.  Much as I admire and appreciate the work of many of the larger philanthropy organizations or development agencies, they can be easily swayed by the political and economic trends of the societies where they originate. Furthermore the bureaucratic, administrative and geographical distance between them and those in need can alienate donors who, despite clever campaigns, begin to doubt the value of their donations. Donor fatigue and disillusion are less likely if we begin with the idea that people in poor communities know what they need and need to be given the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves.

Though Africa is generally seen as major consumer of international aid, and mostly a drain on it, it is good to discover that it also has strong philanthropic practices that have much to teach the world about giving. The very factors that make Africa a recipient of aid – poverty, political and social exclusion, corruption and bad governance – have also led to creativity in community philanthropy. In dire circumstances, people develop their own banking and saving systems and invent ingenious ways of managing and financing projects that would be beyond the call of an individual’s capacity or savings. These are often based on the idea that small and regular contributions in cash or kind to a collective project or group can allow the financing or implementation of bigger projects that benefit families or communities. In the histories of the wealthier world, there are many relatively recent examples of how we managed poverty through co-operative banks and buying collectives. These still exist of course and are being revitalized because they make great sense when international banking becomes untrustworthy. To a degree most non-governmental giving, and even governmental giving (via taxes) recognizes that plans and projects can be helped through the subscriptions of many. The difference between poor and better-off subscribers to such efforts may be more of size than systems.

Another difference is that the further we are from the necessity or cause, the more diluted and insubstantial our efforts seem.

Guest blog from Georgina Hamilton, a South African-based donor to the GFCF


Anita Vitullo moves on from the GFCF board, WINGS appoints new board members

Anita Vitullo has withdrawn from the board of the GFCF. Anita, who joined the board in 2009, had been participating in the board in her capacity as Deputy Director, Resource Developmentat Welfare Association, a leading Palestinian non-governmental development organization. Anita has since moved on from that position and we thank her for her contributions to GFCF board and wish her all the best for the future.

WINGS (Worldwide Initiative on Grantmaker Support) has announced five new appointments to its board. Among the new board members is GFCF Executive Director, Jenny Hodgson. More details can be found on the WINGS website.

Deputy Director, Resource Development

New grants to two community philanthropy partners in Asia

The GFCF is pleased to announce two new grants in South Asia. Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund and IPartner’s India office have been awarded $12,000 and $10,000 respectively. Tewa will be using its grant to strengthen its grassroots partners competencies in local fundraising and volunteer development and IPartner will partner with local donors and grassroots partners around child trafficking.

Meanwhile, another GFCF grantee partner in India, Nirnaya, has awarded its first set of soft loans to adivasi women’s groups in Jharkand state, eastern India.

A full list of our recent grants can be found here.

Lessons from the field: the experience of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

As part of our current Youth Civic Engagement programme, the GFCF spoke to Mampe Ntsedi, Programme Specialist at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF)about some of the lessons and experiences from her organization’s work which community foundations – perhaps smaller in size, new to youth issues or normally more focused on broader community issues – might also find useful.

The NMCF is a South African grantmaking fund based in Johannesburg. Like many community foundations, the Fund acts as a bridge between philanthropic resources and the many needs of South Africa’s children and youth. It has a diverse funding base, which includes local individual and corporate donors as well as international funders. It is also a grantmaker which has, over the years, adopted an increasingly activist approach in its work, born out of a sense that “charity” will only achieve so much and that real and lasting change will only be achieved by addressing root causes of South Africa’s social problems.

Read the full report from our resource centre

Our new-look home page: plus, TCFN archive shifts to our new user-friendly resource section

It’s been a year since we launched our new website and these latest changes to our home page and resource section reflect our desire to be more nimble and responsive to the latest developments in the community foundation / community philanthropy field as well as to build up the knowledge base on this under-documented field in a more organized and accessible way.

You can now comment on or share news items, reports etc. and we’ve also included our Twitter and Facebook feeds in an attempt to link up the various platforms where the GFCF is active. We are also pleased to annouce the transfer of resources produced by the Transatlantic Community Foundation Network.

From 1999 to 2011 TCFN provided a platform for the exchange of experience and expertise among community foundations on both sides of the Atlantic. It sought to identify good practice and share it with emerging and existing community foundations, as well as to foster the development of this form of philanthropy in counties where the concept is still new. During its existence, a number of working groups were responsible for developing resources that it is believed will continue to be of use to community foundations at different stages of development and in different parts of the world.

The Resources section of the GFCF’s website offers selected TCFN resources and related papers on community foundations. A full archive of TCFN resources can be found here and the GFCF resource centre here