Community philanthropy can be a powerful force for strengthening civil society and building on local initiative, according to a new brief released jointly by the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The publication, entitled The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of development aid practitioners.
The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level by looking at local assets – financial and otherwise – and by building capacity and trust for addressing community needs and priorities.
The case statement crystallizes an understanding gathered in recent years. Last year AKF USA and the Mott Foundation released a report, based on a series of collaborative consultations in North America, Africa and Asia, that explored how community philanthropy has worked around the world to help build local capacity. Amid increasing public interest, those foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have supported development of a Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy.
The new publication synthesizes trends (one form of community philanthropy organization – community foundations – grew by a remarkable 86 percent from 2000 to 2010), the rationale, and views from experts. It addresses the role that donors can play in a community-driven practice. “It’s a challenge for outside funders investing a lot of money to expect programs to be sustained,” notes Shannon Lawder of the C.S. Mott Foundation. “From our experience, the work does continue when you’ve supported community philanthropy. It works.”