The GFCF is expanding its team!

We are delighted to announce the appointment of two new senior members of staff, Avila Kilmurray and Wendy Richardson, who will be joining the GFCF in early 2014.

Avila has been the Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland since 1994 and has received international recognition for her work around philanthropy for social justice and peace, both in Northern Ireland and internationally.

The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland was a founder member of the Foundations for Peace Network, a peer network of independent indigenous funders working in contested societies. Avila has written extensively on Community Development, Women’s Issues and Conflict Transformation. She will be joining the GFCF as Director, Policy and Strategy, with particular responsibility for the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy and will be based in Belfast.

Avila Kilmurray and Wendy Richardson

Wendy Richardson has been with the European Foundation Centre since 2005, most recently as Project Officer in charge of the EFC’s professional development programme, which seeks to enhance the skills and professional capacities of European foundation staff.

Wendy will be joining the GFCF as Coordinator, Grants and Learning and will be based in Brussels.

What’s next for community philanthropy?

The Monitor Institute’s What’s Next for Community Philanthropy initiative aims to engage the U.S. community foundation field in thinking about the future of its model in a way that builds on past successes and explores new approaches – drawn from both domestic and global examples – for serving communities moving forward. One of the tools that has been developed through the project is an exercise called “Finding and Flipping Orthodoxies”, in which “Orthodoxies” are deeply held beliefs about “how things are done,” that may or may not still be true, but that often go unstated and unchallenged and can become blind spots over time. Every organization and every industry has orthodoxies, observe the “What’s next?” project leaders including – and maybe especially – community foundations.

To learn more about the initiative you can watch Gabriel Kasper’s recent speech at the Council on Foundations 2013 Fall Conference for Community Foundations, where he walked conference attendees through an exercise aimed at challenging traditional assumptions and orthodoxies in how they go about their work. 

Calling all community foundations and community philanthropy organizations! Share your work and its effectiveness with a global audience through the Community Foundation Atlas!

As part of its contribution to the 100th anniversary of the community foundation movement in the United States, and with the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation is collaborating with the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) and the Foundation Center to create a free, online Atlas — the first of its kind — that will detail the locations, resources, roles and measurable achievements of the world’s community foundations and community philanthropy organizations. will launch in the second half of 2014.

The information gathered from the survey will be analyzed by the UK-based Center for Research and Innovation in Social Policy and Practice (CENTRIS), compellingly presented on the Atlas and made available to journalists, government officials, policy makers, potential philanthropic partners and citizen leaders, among others.

If you would like to complete the survey (and have not already received an email link that would allow you to do so) you can do so here. Questions can be directed to


GFCF awards three new grants!

In October and November 2013, the GFCF awarded three new grants to partners in Kenya, South Africa and Romania. A grant of $12,350 to the Kilimani Project Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya, will support its institutional development and start-up costs. The Community Development Foundation Western Cape (South Africa) and Covasna Community Foundation (Romania) were awarded grants of $9,140 and $8,000 respectively under a pilot programme aimed at strengthening the links between community philanthropy and the environment.

Kilimani Project Foundation, Nairobi

Community philanthropy celebrates 10 years in Latvia

Ansis Bērziņš, Community Foundation Movement in Latvia and Valmiera Community Foundation, describes a recent celebration of community philanthropy in Valmiera.

“Community Foundation Movement in Baltics – 10 years”. This was the title of international conference that brought 120 people from Latvia and ten different countries to Valmiera on 10th October, 2013, to celebrate the anniversary of community philanthropy in Latvia and the Baltic States. It was a moment to evaluate achievements, to discuss future challenges and to enjoy doing good for our local communities.

During the conference social researcher Linda Zīverte presented her case study from Talsi Region Community Foundation. She pointed that higher level of trust and collaboration in the community also brings faster economy growth, which is good evaluation for what community foundations have mostly done in Latvia. Jenny Hodgson, director of Global Fund for Community Foundations, gave insight on global trends in the field and emphasized that philanthropy becomes more and more local because donors want to give within their communities. Other speakers from Latvia, Romania and Belgium shared their experiences and challenges in local giving, fundraising and grant-making.

Rūta Dimanta, Ziedot Foundation

Ten years ago, in February and December of 2003, the first community foundations were established in Talsi and Lielvārde. Thanks to support of Baltic – American Partnership Fund, set up by Open Society Institute and the US Government, concept of locally rooted giving was strongly promoted in the Baltic States, including Latvia. A lot was invested for learning and institutional development as well as for sharing among ourselves. The Association, called the Community Foundation Movement, with 4 members was set up early on, in 2006. Now the Movement has grown to four active community foundations, two associate members and two emerging organizations willing to join the club. So far, 12% of Latvian population has access to community foundations.

Since February 2012, the Movement has acquired a new strategic partner to support its growth. The Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation, private organization, has given a 5‑year collaboration contract with financial support for operations and capacity building of existing and potential community foundations. Three foundations have attracted additional funding from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein via EEA Financial Mechanism. This support is fundamental for professional operations and development of community foundations in Latvia.

Despite the fact that philanthropy and giving culture is still only developing, the work of Latvian community foundations has been appreciated by local communities, governments and donors. Foundations are still struggling for survival; sustainability is an issue for all non-profit organizations in Latvia. But having everybody still in the field is success in itself. Here are just some numbers to describe community foundations’ work in Latvia: 2 million dollars raised, 676 grants given to local people, 100’000 and 80’000 dollars endowments reached for two largest foundations each, and countless amount of dollars and hours spent on promoting local giving and meaningful philanthropy.

Additional information: Ansis Bērziņš, Community Foundation Movement in Latvia

Guest blog: New directions in Southern Human Rights Funding

The next generation of foundations in the Global South will likely be the vanguard of experimentation and learning. A look across the current funding landscape for human rights and justice in the Global South suggests reason for both disappointment and for optimism. For the sake of this review, I put aside official government aid—there is plenty there to discuss—and only look at the smaller world of private philanthropic giving.

Most past criticisms of foundation support for human rights and justice are still relevant. These critiques—apart from the very real problem of simply not enough money—include concern over weak funder strategies, timidity, short attention span, evaluation fetish, poor or no accountability and the absence of centres of research and learning committed to funding rights and justice.

Most funders who express concern about poverty, injustice and the abuse of human rights still employ strategies that that can be described as ‘charity’—funding the provision of services to reduce suffering or an immediate injustice. Although these are important if you are the victim, these strategies are silent on the causes of injustice, and leave them untouched. As a result, charitable approaches rarely deal with the frequently invisible structural sources of injustice, be they legal, economic, political or cultural.

Foundations also often have unrealistically short time frames with internal pressure to fund something new, rather than sticking with the same old problem. However, the exact opposite is necessary if one is interested not only in documenting an abuse, but working to eradicate it. Social change takes time and effort, and often requires strategic evaluation assessment and adjustment. Few foundations, however, think in terms of decades of support, rather than in yearly cycles.

Another problem is foundations’ often misguided efforts to measure success, and their seemingly blind attraction to metrics. To be sure, measuring and understanding success can be a powerful tool for learning and correction. Still, most contemporary evaluative work looks at managerial and financial issues, does not measure social impact, and is deeply burdensome. Few foundations, moreover, have effective learning mechanisms.

Funder accountability is another gaping hole. An oft-cited example is the Gates Foundation, whose assets are greater than the Gross Domestic Product of 40 of Africa’s 52 nations, but is accountable to only three trustees – Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet – none of whom are African. Most funding for human rights in the Global South is still coming from the North. As a result, this is where donors take most decisions about issue framing and the choice and deployment of methods, frequently without voice from the regions where the work will be done. While care must be taken not to over-regulate foundations and unduly restrict their creative abilities, there remains room for more thoughtful rules about governance and accountability. This is especially true where such enormous power and (what is now public) wealth are unhealthily concentrated in the hands of a few.

What, then, is the good news about global funding for human rights? There are some exciting trends worthy of note, including new funders, different kinds of funders, and new networks to strengthen them.

Over the past two decades, the global foundation landscape has changed profoundly, with many new foundations based in, and indigenous to, the Global South. New institutions like TrustAfrica (Senegal) and the African Women’s Development Foundation (Ghana) now speak to Africa, from Africa. Though still heavily reliant on overseas funding, these groups are increasingly raising money from African donors, including individuals, civil society groups and corporations. For example, several African national air carriers have “donate spare change” envelopes in the seat pockets. More importantly, these African donor organizations offer a different voice in the intra-funder conversation.

Other independent foundations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are increasingly visible—though not all are committed to human rights and justice. Several large funds in the Persian Gulf, for example, seem more interested in marketing the donor’s name. But in another exciting example, the Welfare Association in Palestine has shifted over the years from providing services to funding programmes focused on rights and justice. In Israel, the New Israel Fund is under attack by conservatives for its firm support of human rights and social justice. In India the Dalit Foundation is run by, organizes, trains and champions the rights of dalits (so-called untouchables) against remarkable odds.

There has also been a rapid growth of funds explicitly devoted to human rights and justice. Some, like the Brazil Human Rights Fund and the Arab Human Rights Fund, are specifically designed to serve a particular region or, in the case of the Fund for Global Human Rights, to offer grants more broadly. Others like the Astraea Lesbian Fund for Justice , which provides grants in 39 countries, and the Santamaria Fundacion GLBT in Colombia, are among a rapidly growing number of foundations that support LGBT rights, and can be found in almost every corner of the globe.

Another important trend is the growth of community-based funds across the Global South. Unlike their counterparts in the U.S. and U.K., where community foundations are often politically timid, many of these community donor groups help build constituencies among marginalized groups and negotiate for their rights with the state. The Kenya Community Development Foundation (Nairobi), the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation (Cairo) and the Amazon Partnerships Foundation (Ecuador), among many others, pose a new vision for developing stronger communities. They also challenge many assumptions of outside development aid, such as imposed problem identification and strategies, and lack of community agency. Most mainstream foundations in the U.S. and Europe, as well as most bi-lateral aid agencies, are unaware of this growing phenomenon.

Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation, Egypt

Perhaps the most impressive collection of funds are those focusing on the rights of women and girls. While the Global Fund for Women (US) and MamaCash (the Netherlands) operate worldwide, a rapidly growing number of women’s funds are anchored in national and local communities. From Serbia to Mongolia, and from Bulgaria to Bangladesh, there are almost 50 members of the International Network of Women’s Funds (INWF). This number does not include the women’s funds in the U.S. While many of these funds have very limited budgets, they represent a new movement of philanthropic giving. One particularly impressive example is Tewa, the women’s fund of Nepal, which has raised funds from over 3,000 Nepali donors, most of very modest means. Although large foundations often belittle small donations of this kind, they misunderstand the critical importance of building local power and community ownership. Tewa and the other women’s funds are closely linked to one another by the INWF, and demonstrate a high degree of collective work and joint learning, unlike most mainstream foundations. In some instances, women’s funds form regional coalitions, as in the case of Latin America, to deal with common issues.

INWF is just one of several active funder networks supporting human rights and justice in the Global South. These new networks have a vitality and seriousness of purpose largely missing in the North. Exceptions include groups such as Ariadne in Europe, which has partnered with the International Human Rights Funders Group to work on funding for human rights worldwide. Several issue-based groups (e.g., Foundations for Peace) and location-specific ones (e.g., the African Grantmakers Network) are actively engaging their members in work that deals with human rights, social justice and peacebuilding issues—changing the traditional role of foundation associations.

So, while old problems remain, new funders are emerging with an explicit commitment to justice and rights. They are challenging the dominant philanthropic discourses, and in some instances, are experimenting with radically different practices. In one example of new thinking, a few groups are talking about moving away from sole reliance on foundation support and looking not at discrete grants—but the possibility of tapping small percentages of massive international financial resource flows. Ideas like these point to the role of this next generation of foundations in the South as the likely vanguard of experimentation and learning.

Christopher Harris was Senior Program Officer for Philanthropy in the Peace and Social Justice Program of the Ford Foundation for a decade. He now works as a consultant to foundations, and works with the international Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, which he founded. 

This article was originally published on openGlobalRights a new and accessible platform for debate about advocacy strategies, funding, successes, and failures. It is also available in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic.

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Turkish, Spanish

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters is now available in Turkish and Spanish. The report 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.

Translations of the report will also soon be available in Russian, Arabic, French, Chinese, Albanian, Serbian and Creole!

Read the report in TurkishSpanish or Portuguese