Call for concept notes: community foundations and the environment grants pilot

The GFCF is inviting concept notes for a grants and peer learning programme at strengthening the links between community philanthropy, people-led development and the environment in ways that are holistic and process-driven.

The purpose of these short-term grants will be to support the work of individual community foundations and community philanthropy organizations, both programmatically and institutionally, and to begin to draw a map of the range of different activities around the environment in which community philanthropy organizations are engaged.

Grants will be in the range of US $7,000 – $12,000 and the grant period will run from April 15th – December 31st 2014.

Read the full set of grant guidelines here

What does meaningful change look like for your community foundation? Join the global atlas project and add your voice to the picture!

The Community Foundation Atlas is an online project aimed at mapping community philanthropy the world over. A joint collaboration of the Cleveland Foundation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, WINGS and the Foundation Centre, the Atlas seeks to detail the locations, resources, roles and measurable achievements of the world’s community foundations and community philanthropy organizations.

Preliminary data from the survey reveals a rich and diverse global landscape of community change that is being driven by community foundations and community philanthropy organizations. So far we have responses from 458 community foundations or community philanthropies from 42 different countries around the world.  They come in all sizes and shapes. For example, 28 of them have no paid staff while 8 have more than 50.  They are involved in a wide variety of different activities but more than 95 per cent of them see their main accountability being to local people. The range of their work on the ground is enormous: from addressing domestic abuse, to community mobilization in contexts of extreme violence, to leading local educational reform and to reviving lost traditions of apple farming.

When asked about the “most meaningful change” that their organizations had brought about, here’s how some of the respondents answered:

“We have established a local community group to develop and open a “green” nonprofit coop/laundry mat in an underserved neighborhood that will be supplied in part through a network of community gardens we helped to establish as a community-wide initiative and is intended to serve as a center of community engagement through selected programming and other activities.”

“The concept of community foundation is new to Haiti. In our pilot region, hundreds of local leaders from all sectors of society took part in our regional planning process. Thanks to our work, the vision of a Haiti community foundation has been inspiring community leaders, gaining traction and is steadily moving forward on the path of becoming a reality.”

“Since people start to be aware of their own potential significant changes have occurred. People start to mobilize themselves to change their spaces into a more dignified environment, improving their housing, community c enter and so on. When they can start to imagine all the possible solutions for their own community development, social change is happening.”

“We help to fund a new initiative that does two things: 1) brings organizations together to explore more collaborative ways to bring about positive change and to strengthen the community’s competitive advantage; and 2) helps local organizations (non-profits and government entities) apply for competitive funding available at the federal level. This initiative is helping to transform our community culture from one that used to cherish “the lines that divide” to one that understands the value of working together across sec tors and disciplines.”


“Although our community foundation is new and small, we have been tackling three major challenges: the first one is that Hungarian soc iety, both at the loc al and national levels, is increasingly fragmented and divided along lines of politic al orientation, ec onomic position, and social status. T aken together, it makes joint action, suc h as starting a new organisation for the good of all, fairly difficult. T he sec ond issue is the ec onomic crisis in the country, the worst in the last 25 years, meaning that everybody bec ame more c autious with their money, and reluctant to take risks and try out new things. And the third challenge was the lac k of an in-country example to follow, as there were no operating c ommunity foundations in Hungary. We reflect regularly on our work and understand that more change-making lies ahead than behind us.”

“Promotion of the concept of philanthropy in the community through initiation of Random Act of Kindness Day.”

“Our community development foundation is a unique organization. In a landscape where many not-for profits look to external donors for their sustenance, we look within Kenya and ensure it has its own investments to finance its activities. In a context where most donors and grant makers impose their agendas on communities, we support communities to be drivers of their own development agenda.”

What is the most meaningful change that has your organization has been involved in in your community? Join the survey and add your voice to this rich global picture! If you haven’t already filled in the survey, please do so at


YouthBank International introduces its new identity and new digital magazine

Says Vernon Ringland, Executive Group member and YouthBank International Coordinator, “At YouthBank International we are looking forward to a promising, dynamic and invigorating 2014. With a renewed spring in our step, we are putting into action the projects that we have developed and refined in 2013. This year, after building solid foundations, we are ready to set up our stall and showcase the fruit of our collaborations and internal work within and outside our network.”

YouthBank ‘supports projects designed and run by young people that address issues and concerns relevant to them and their community.’ They do this via over 200 YouthBanks in 26 countries across Europe, parts of Africa, and Central Asia… from South Africa to Romania; from Bulgaria to Kyrgyzstan; from Ireland to Turkey.

Learn more about YouthBank International’s new identity and its new e-magazine.

YouthBank International – Think Big from Daniel Kendall on Vimeo.



Guest blog: Converging concepts for more effective philanthropy in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Read the blog in Spanish

What do tourism, sustainable development and community philanthropy have in common? In Monteverde, Costa Rica, a secluded region with the largest complex of private reserves in Central America and host to over one-hundred thousand visitors annually, they all form an integral part of our past and our future. In the following blog, I share some personal experiences with the changing face of philanthropy in my adoptive mountain home.

Where conservation and community coexist. Since the late 1960s, local residents and organizations here have successfully harnessed the capacity of international philanthropy and eco-tourism to purchase and protect more than 25,000 hectares of unique tropical forests. Small-scale dairy and coffee production, mixed with agro- and adventure-tourism, have also helped preserve a predominately rural landscape in most areas adjacent to the protected forests.

Thanks to many of these development trends, residents enjoy a number of employment opportunities and public services, as well as benefit from infrastructure typically unseen in such remote locales. A historically pioneering spirit and sense of community collaboration have also led to the opening of over forty grassroots organizations, educational institutions, cooperatives and public offices. Of course, many of these entities have been beneficiaries of direct business donations and other generous forms of local philanthropy over the past decades.

Testing community resilience. Despite numerous benefits, the progressing drift toward tourism in recent years has continued to produce complex environmental, social and economic challenges that still go unmet. Examples include unplanned urbanization around the town center, increased pollution and stresses on natural resources, the globalization of cultural norms, the homogenization of economic activity, as well as decreased food security, just to mention a few. In order to confront these issues, local organizations, leaders and residents have facilitated participatory planning processes in order to clearly define common goals and strategies between the public, private and non-profit sectors. Often, the central question is “how can we more effectively engage the influential tourism industry to promote desired change?”, whether that be through better growth planning, a more equitable distribution of resources or the implementation of best practices at the individual business and destination level. This question becomes increasingly difficult over time as needs within the community evolve and new solutions are required.

Travelers’ Philanthropy, a potentially key ingredient. In response to this central question, a group of local residents and I have established the Monteverde Community Fund. We specialize in grant making, technical assistance, training and network development in order to support the innovative efforts of existing community organizations and work groups to meet emerging challenges. Our aim is to be inclusive, creative, flexible and supportive, and at the heart of our work are three core beliefs:  


  1. The local community is able to create the change it needs
  2. The absence of organized resource mobilization can inhibit good ideas from becoming tangible realities
  3. The lack of long-term thinking and short-term capacity-building can turn good projects into quick memories



Our principal focus at the moment is strengthening a fundraising platform at the destination level, known as the Monteverde Travelers’ Philanthropy Program, supporting the development of larger proposals with partners such as the local Municipality and Biological Corridor Council, and promoting a culture of grant making.

Photo: Selena Avendaño Leadem

“Travelers’ Philanthropy”, specifically, is a term coined by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) that simply refers to the tangible contribution of ‘time, talent and treasure’ by tourism companies and visitors to local projects beyond what is generated through normal business transactions. CREST co-founder and co-director, Dr. Martha Honey, notes that a well-organized program can generate significant resources for a host community to promote social empowerment, sustainable long-term development and environmental conservation.[1] This program grew out of a pilot project originally led by the Monteverde Institute and supported by the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF) and CREST. Its main objective is to mobilize resources from a broad network of tourism businesses and equitably channel them to local initiatives by means of a Small Grants Program, with an eye toward community-identified priorities, generating tangible impacts and building capacity for grantees.

Growth of Travelers’ Philanthropy and Community Funds in Costa Rica. Travelers’ philanthropy is not a new practice in Monteverde or in Costa Rica. For years, programs across the country have captured tourism donations for community projects (e.g., sea turtle conservation in Tortuguero, environmental education in the Osa Peninsula, reforestation in Monteverde, etc.). Thus, the innovations of our program are: 1) we are seeking to involve a diversity of local and national businesses as strategic partners in the fundraising process, not just see them as ‘one-off’ donors; 2) we are implementing commercial products such as a “city tour” to create greater financial sustainability; and, 3) we are seeking to equitably support a variety of thematic areas important to the community, not just one single initiative.

Photo: Justin Welch

One of the more interesting trends observed over the past year is the coupling of resource mobilization strategies of travelers’ philanthropy with the concept of a community, or common, fund.  For example, one of the leading national organizations for promoting rural tourism, ACTUAR, is exploring ways in which it can effectively utilize travelers’ philanthropy to further benefit its network of rural tourism associations across the country. Also, the CRUSA Foundation recently announced its new Guanacaste Community Fund in an effort to address some of the environmental and social disparities of this region so heavily impacted by international tourism development. One of their foreseen strategies is using endowed funds to leverage additional private donations from tourism companies and international visitors.

Building a case for the Monteverde Community Fund. As complimentary concepts like sustainable tourism, social corporate responsibility and ecological economics continue to gain traction in Costa Rica, our hope is that potential business partners will see the comparative advantage of a collaborative travelers’ philanthropy program (i.e., one where their contributions can be multiplied by others) combined with a community fund structure (i.e., a model that facilitates participatory decision-making and supports a diversity of projects). Not only does this make sense from a strategic collaboration standpoint, but the act of reinvesting in the destination where they send customers also makes long-term economic sense.

Nevertheless, I can attest that it has been no easy task to develop the idea of Travelers’ Philanthropy and the model of a community fund simultaneously. Not only is raising new funds a challenging endeavor, but so too is the more protracted process of soliciting proposals, selecting projects and providing follow-up. Based on our experiences to date, I am consistently reminded of the concerns shared by other community foundation practitioners in the 2012 meeting of GFCF partners in Dinokeng, South Africa who spoke of the challenges in articulating the case for community foundations and demonstrating their added-value. I often reflect on the ideas and insights shared by these veteran peers and have more than once referenced the indicators of intangible impacts compiled in the report “A New Generation of Community Philanthropy.”[2] Both resources have been essential to staying motivated and focused in our worthy endeavor.

As I look forward to the future of the Monteverde Community Fund, I am encouraged by the small but steady successes and am heartened by the fact that we are following a similar path of many well established foundations. Thanks to additional support from the Inter-American Foundation and local donors we were able to fund four environmental and social projects in the first year alone. Projects ranged from water resource protection and alternative energy to a community radio station led by youth and a campaign to control the stray animal population. And, our network of business supporters seems to grow almost by the day. Certainly, we too will leave a lasting footprint on the history of this place we call home.

Justin Welch is Executive Director of the Monteverde Community Fund. He has had extensive experience with multi-stakeholder processes and resource mobilization strategies since his arrival to Monteverde in 2006. Welch is an environmental science and policy specialist by training, and has worked for the University of Georgia, the local Biological Corridor Council and the University of Costa Rica on various consulting projects regarding water resource management and land conservation. Between 2008 and 2013 he led the Water Resources Program, and later the Community Programs Department, at local non-profit, the Monteverde Institute. Contact:; 506-8313-0799.


[1] Welch, J. and R. Bailes [2013]. The Quick Guide for Establishing a Destination-wide Travelers’ Philanthropy Program: A Synthesis of Best Practices from Around the World & Experiences from Monteverde, Costa Rica. Monteverde Institute.

[2] Hodgson, J., B. Knight and A. Mathie (March, 2012). A New Generation of Community Philanthropy. Global Fund for Community Foundations and Coady International Institute.

Meet some of the finalists for the 2014 Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize

So far, the list includes Brazil, Russia, Latvia, Turkey…

Over the last few weeks, Alliance magazine has been gradually revealing the names of the finalists for the 2014 Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize which will be awarded to an individual who has demonstrated remarkable leadership, creativity and results in developing philanthropy for progressive social change in an emerging market country or countries.

Finalists so far include:


  • Lucia Dellagnelo, Founder of ICom (Instituto Comunitario Grande Florianopolis), the first community foundation in Southern Brazil. Read more
  • Larisa Avrorina, Community Foundations programme manager at CAF Russia. Read more
  • Rūta Dimanta, Founder of Foundation ‘Ziedot’ (donate), Latvia’s first internet giving portal. Read more
  • Natalya Kaminarskaya, executive director of the Russian Donors Forum. Read more
  • Itir Erhart and I Renay Onur, founders of Adim Adim (Step by Step), Turkey. Read more

The last finalist will be announced in the coming days and the winner will be announced at the WINGSForum in Istanbul in March 2014.


Guest blog: Development finance: Can it advance local ownership?

John Kerry’s VIP convoy speeds through Ramallah, rushing past local Palestinians: and so goes the development finance discourse – rushing past grassroots development activists. If the development finance folks would just slow down for a moment, here are a few things they might hear from those who are aid dependent about financing the post-2015 development goals:

1. Development finance isn’t just about what you put in. It needs to account for failure, as well as success

Development failure is no accident. It is, in general, caused by the same forces and interests that enrich donor countries and make others needy. Yet, with few exceptions, the post-2015 development finance discourse seems to ignore the macro-causes of development failure. So how can development finance experts hope to estimate the true costs of achieving the MDGs or post-2015 development goals?

For example, how much will it cost to eliminate food insecurity in Gaza? That depends on whether Israel lifts the siege on Gaza, allows Palestinian farmers to export crops, and allows fisherfolk access to the ocean.

And if development finance is to be relevant, it must acknowledge the causes of development failure, and it must recalculate to show the real costs, not only of development interventions, but of doing nothing. If Europe continues to grant preferential trade status to Israel, which Israel then uses to export crops produced illegally on Palestinian-occupied land, thereby entrenching Palestinians’ inability to produce their own food, should Europe’s food aid to Palestinians be reported as aid? The problem itself might not exist if Europe and others didn’t empower Israel and fail to hold it accountable for international law.

2. As ‘development’ expands to include rights, development finance must acknowledge people’s right to control their own resources

Reading the mainstream development-finance discourse, one might think that all that is needed is to raise money. With money, it would be possible to vaccinate all the children in refugee camps, and this would indicate development. Of course all children should be vaccinated, but shouldn’t they also be able to claim their right to live at home, in peace, with rights, and not in a camp? Global civil society is working hard to integrate the concept of rights into post-2015 development discourse. But are the finance folks open to the idea that recipients have the right to decide how resources are used on their behalf? Even when international actors make decisions identical to ones that locals would make for themselves, the process of external control over local development decisions is inherently anti-developmental. There can be no real, sustainable development without self-determination.

3. Development finance should supplement local resources

The idea that development finance should be ‘..complemented by private capital, development  cooperation  among countries of the South, remittances from migrants and private  donations…. is backward. Development finance should complement local resources – and not just taxation, but local resources defined more broadly.

In reality, communities survive on local resources whose value is totally ignored by the development industry, with disastrous consequences. For example, if my mother in California sends $100 to an international NGO to buy a boat with a logo that picks up stranded flood victims and takes them to safety, this is counted as ‘aid’. But if a local person uses his or her own boat and carts family and neighbours, perhaps for 20 hours a day for weeks – before the boat with the logo arrives and long after it has gone, this is not only not counted as ‘aid’, it’s not counted at all! The system ‘counts’ the problem (X number of people stranded by floods), but then only ‘counts’ the part of the response that comes from outside. The result is distorted picture of the world: local people are always needy, without resources and entirely dependent on external help while outsiders are always abundant, generous and needed.

New models of international support for local development financing

The Overseas Development Institute’s project, ‘Localizing Aid’ took a major step forward by expanding the discussion about financing development through local systems to include a focus on local civil society and by prioritising the strengthening of local systems as an explicit objective of aid. Yet ODI’s findings are inconclusive, perhaps because they asked the wrong question. The question should have been whether development (not aid) should be localised, and the obvious answer would have been yes. If ODI had explored how international development finance could support localised development (including respect for local rights, local resource mobilisation, local accountability, and sustainability), then they might have come across one of the most exciting, high-potential local systems for accountable and sustainable development we have: The community foundation.

Dalia AssociationCommunity foundations build on long traditions of giving, sharing and self-reliance, and shape them into new community forms and processes. They mobilise resources – including local, diaspora and private sector monetary and non-monetary resources – and they make grants that strengthen communities and social capital.  Studies indicate they are proliferating, especially in the global south, in response to local priorities and local opportunities, and reflecting a critique of dominant donor-controlled development models.

For international donors with a sincere commitment to local ownership (i.e. ‘respecting basic norms of sovereignty and horizontality’ (p. 16)), community foundations offer some very attractive benefits. By investing in (not ‘channeling through’) community foundations, international donors can take part in long-term, locally-owned, locally accountable social change while simultaneously strengthening the civil society sector for the long-term. This will not happen, however, if community foundations are ‘used’ as or by apex partners, to adopt the ‘Localising Aid’ jargon. Community foundations should not be contracted to engage in short-term, donor-led projects. Instead, international donors need to invest in ways that respect local rights to self-determination in development.

One way to do this is to invest in endowments for community foundations. Endowments can either fund grant-making or operational support, but – above all – the decisions are made locally, by those with the greatest stake in success.

Nora Lester Murad lives in East Jerusalem, where she writes literary fiction. She blogs at The View from My Window in Palestine, addressing issues of aid, development and daily life under military occupation. She founded the Dalia Association, Palestine’s first community foundation, and served as director until 2010.

This was first published on the Development Progress website, a hub for ideas, debate and resources on how the world is doing on international development goals 

Cluj Donor Circle – a new way of engaging the community to support youth initiatives in Romania

Simona Serban, Executive Director of the Cluj Community Foundation, reports on the first Donor Circle event on Youth in Romania

We had a full house of exceptional people and a level of generosity that surpassed all expectations. Together we numbered more than 60. Together we donated 25.500 lei (around US $7,500) for three projects supporting educational values-based projects for youth, promoting entrepreneurship and capacity-building.

On 20th November 2013, the Cluj Community Foundation organized its first Donor Circle on Youth Civic Engagement in Cluj, the first of its kind in Romania. The idea of a Donor Circle is to bring people together at live crowd-funding events to raise vital funds, transform lives and create lasting social change.  

Cluj Donor Circle

Our event was organized in affiliation with the Founding Network UK, in partnership with the Association for Community Relations and with the support of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

It brought together a community of donors and organisations working with young people. Participants included young entrepreneurs and disadvantaged youth; international private funders and local donors, the “Share” local youth Federation and many other partners.

“The atmosphere was electric and everyone was so enthusiastic about being able to give a relatively small amount which together could have a big impact on making our city a better place through investing wisely in our young people. It’s amazing how a well thought out framework can help us achieve so much in such a short time!”  Bita, Cluj Donor Circle member

Three teams of young entrepreneurs will STEP UP and benefit from mentorship to implement their ideas. 14 youth will practice their powers of expression at ACTitude – Impromptu School and 17 youth will Edu Practic(e) the jobs they would like to learn.

STEP UP is a project developed under Cluj HUB concept, in which young entrepreneurs’ teams are helped by mentors to develop their own initiatives from idea to prototype over a three-month period. The project will target skilled young people with initiative and audacious ideas regarding technological entrepreneurship. Three teams will have the opportunity to go through steps which will bring them closer of implementing the idea and bring together resources in order to become sustainable businesses. Ten mentors are prepared to offer the support they need through weekly sessions and trainings. They were granted US $1,600 raised from local donors.

ACTitudine – Impromptu School is a project initiated by another local NGO, Dreams for Life. The project advocates for the development of a alternative learning space for young people that fosterspersonal development and community engagement. Two trainers Dreams for Life and two actors from the Create.Act.Enjoy Theatre will work with ten youngsters between 18 and 26 years old by using non-formal educational techniques and impromptu theatre techniques. They were granted US $2,000 in cash and $1,500 in-kind donations.

PracticalEdu”, a project of Danis for Managerial Development Foundation, aims at supporting disadvantaged youth to learn crafting from the energy and building local business’ employees. The young people will take part in activities of business and entrepreneurial education such as trainings and consultancy for developing sustainable business plans but also growing into financial independents adults, responsible for themselves and their families. They were granted US $2,500.

“I wish to acquire as much knowledge as possible in this field. My main incentive for being part of this program is proving my parents and my friends that I am skilled and responsible to be financial independent.” (Vlad, project participant)

Not only did the donors give, but they also engaged in conversations centered around the projects. Education was raised as a topic. People discussed the importance of giving young people the opportunity to learn practical skills and develop abilities that are shaping their future professional and personal life.

Most importantly, it was fun! The potential to extend the Circle was also clear as more donors expressed their interest in becoming members.

“I was impressed with the generosity in the room and the fact that so many people felt like I do that together we can make a difference in our city.  I didn’t really expect this because so many people are pessimistic about the future. Even though I’m not, you don’t hear many people agreeing that we can make a change. It touched me and I was thinking what a smart group to invest in the future by investing in the youth!” Maryam, young donor

From one on one conversations to social media, we have found the whole process of organising a donor circle event to be very rich: it allows us to open up conversations about philanthropy and collective giving, about engaging young people in social change and as a way of acquiring new contacts and cultivating relationships. Most exciting of all has been the opportunity to witness the diversity of reactions and feedback from those of participated. We learnt a huge amount from this event: the future has a collective author and we love being able to promote it!

Over the last five years the Cluj Community Foundation has awarded 1 million lei (US $300,000) to 150 projects and 130 scholars. And now we have introduced a new approach to fundraising through the Cluj Donor Circle (CDC). Twice a year, groups of donors who will be a part of the future CDC Network will promote projects from different areas and will gather to support them during the CDC events.

Video highlights of the event can be found here

Many thanks to our Donors and Partners, including the Funding Network, UK, the Association for Community Relations, Share Federation – Cluj Youth European Capital 2015 and the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Simona Șerban – Executive Director, Cluj Community Foundation

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in 10 languages!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters was first published in English in June 2013. Since then, and thanks to the efforts of partners in the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, it has been translated into 10 languages, including Arabic, Haitian Creole, Turkish and Ukranian.

See the other languages

For further information on getting the report translated into other languages, please contact Wendy Richardson at the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy: article in the EFC’s Effect magazine

In a recent article in Effect, the magazine of the European Foundation Centre, Jenny Hodgson, executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, introduces the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy and its goal of making the case for community philanthropy as a key strategy for increasing local ownership and accountability in local development processes.

Read more 

Achieving social change: what role for grantmaking?

Increasingly, grantmaking is being dismissed as a serious strategy for achieving social change, with the real business being done by venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, and most recently catalytic philanthropy.

As a prelude to the March 2014 issue of Alliance magazine this webinar roundtable brought together proponents/practitioners of different approaches to philanthropy to look at grantmaking as a strategy for achieving social change – not as the strategy, the truth, but as one of a number of approaches that funders can use.

The discussion was moderated by Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson, guest editors for the ‘Grantmaking for social change’ Alliance special feature to be published on 1 March.

The following took part:

  • Kathleen Cravero, Oak Foundation, Switzerland
  • Stephen Heintz, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, US
  • Avila Kilmurray, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, UK
  • Rana Kotan, Sabanci Foundation, Turkey
  • Mark Kramer, FSG, US

Listen to the webinar