Latest from the EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference: updates from our on-the-spot bloggers here!

Nora Lester Murad, writer and volunteer with Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, Dana Doan, Adviser to the LIN Center for Community Development in Vietnam and Fulufhelo Netswera, Tswera Community Foundation are at the EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference in Berkeley, CA, where they will be speaking in a session on community philanthropy. They will contributing a series of blogs over the course of the conference. The most recent blog is at the top.

Nora Lester Murad, Dana Doan and Fulu Netswera, our intrepid bloggers at the EdgeFunders Conference

Wednesday 30th April 2014: Fulu on philanthropy in the context of complex global issues

 Today was another day filled with moving philanthropic experiences shared by foundations here at the EDGE Funders Alliance conference in Berkeley, CA.

The day started with at least three interesting performances. The three poems are inspired by the importance of benevolence and the work of philanthropic organisations all over the world. I realise very much how much it helps to visualise and dramatize important matters than just talk through some often “cold” PowerPoint slides and these plays reinforces an important learning angle:

The first poem presents intricacies and interconnectedness of life all over the plant to which the “well-off” is often oblivious. How important it is to realise that the your refrigerator is stocked with food that is produced of cheap labour exploited by big multinational corporates and that it is polluted by pesticides to which your body would soon falls sick;

  • The second poem was a dialogue between a human and earth. Earth reminds man that they are slowly sliding away from natural existence retreating into their concrete jungles, destroying forests and the little left fresh water sources continually dissing this relationship and fulfilling this void with new found gadgets and toys. Earth reminds man that she will survive with or without this relationship but will mankind survive?; and
  • The third poem paints a scene of two protests taking place at Washington DC. The first protest is Free Palestine movement and the second is Gay Rights parade. The march paints interesting contrast in life priorities and interests. The voices are competing as the two marches move parallel each other towards the capitol shouting free Palestine!….Gay rights now! Towards the end a singular voice emerges in this shouting match; “…Palestine Gay Rights!” These noises all over the world distract us of what in order of priority many may agree needs attention first and by all.

The plenary was equally moving titled, “Strategies for the historic shifts we need”. The panellists comprised Walden Bello who is Philippine author, academic and member of congress; Million Belay director of MELCA Mahiber who is a food sovereign activist from Ethiopia; Sarita Gupta who is executive director of Jobs with Justice and Holly Bartling of the Human Rights and Economic Justice Programme. Important takeaways from this plenary can be summarised as:

  • People do not perpetually tolerate huge and obvious disparities in wealth. The French revolution repeats itself all the time all over the world and we seem not to learn. Will it not repeat itself this time on a global scale? The big question is whose solutions will the general public chose? Will corporate, the rich and middle class retain the privileges that they have when the next class revolution happens? In a highly globalised world that is fast moving towards unprecedented disparities we need to continuously consider that production should firstly benefit local than export markets and capital. Economic policy should thus be subjected to democratic processes and swing away from further corporatisation;
  • Africa and the world are faced with increasing mouths to feed annually amidst disparity in consumption patterns and contrasting increase in climatic change, soil degradation and erosion and poor yield. It seems that everyone has solutions for Africa but no one has genuine interest for its development than just exploitation of Africa and the developing world. The green revolution should therefore recognise the rights of African farmers (mostly women) and their farming methods. Through interventions by international governments and corporations African agriculture has slowly been changed into agribusiness thereby eroding the important cultural elements of farming, water and soil treatment which are long indigenous African traditions. Million gave practical examples of how his programmes are making a difference in the restoration of fish stocks and turning unproductive land into fertile land using traditional methodologies in Ethiopia; and
  • One of the biggest challenge that faces humanity is attaining a livelihood through one’s labour. Trends internationally are that jobs are becoming contingent, part time, contracted thereby minimising the historic value associated with valuable and useful work. In the new forms of labour relations employees no longer negotiate conditions and lack stability and benefits of normal jobs. A variety of Jobs for Justice specifically in the retail sector has led to numerous litigations with giant retailors and their supply chain and logistical feeding industries that are continuously eroding and violating labour rights. Jobs for Justice won a big battle against Wall Mart forcing the industry to ensure that no abuses and exploitation from all its suppliers all over the world is tolerated and workers interests are protected.

 

There were also interesting lessons from one of the day’s parallel session titled “From Transaction to Transformation: why structural racialization analysis is essential for challenging global corporate power”. The discussions led by John Powell, Taj James and Saru Jayaraman flagged the following points:

 

  • The role of government overtime has shifted to protect corporates who are wrongfully perceived to be economic producers than protecting the interests of the general public and workers;
  • Explored how big corporates always get their favourite policies approved by legislature despite public protests because they are able to “buy” and sponsor power acquisition; and
  • Provided evidence proved that continuous expansion of corporate rights shrinks civil and human rights;

 

The political other represent those with no political voice and therefore no legislative representation. As the public gains more rights corporate slowly erode these rights. Example: when the public won the right to vote; the corporate South in America ensured the introduction of new legislative measure like voter ID and no vote rights for convicted felons.

The goal post keeps shifting to ensure the public is on the back foot and corporate interests are secured. There is recognition of the growth in anxiety among the racial other (blacks, Latinos and Muslim). We should realise that we can only deal with the environment and racial prejudices from public policy front and not from the economic (income inequality) front first. We can’t address inequality through tinkering with the economy like the minimum wages. The struggle should be for equitable in ownership across race. Although philanthropy realises the challenges of inequality and marginalisation its response unfortunately is often that we have bigger global challenges to confront like ecology thereby ignoring the root causes of the same major challenges.

Lookout for my next and final report from the EDGE Funders Alliance conference at the Bay in San Francisco FNetswera@gmail.com 

Wednesday 30th April 2014: Fulu asks whose side we choose to be on

Yesterday was an important day for philanthropy worldwide as the second EDGE (Engaged Donors for Global Equity) Funders Alliance conference got underway here in Berkeley, CA.

The facilitator opened the conference with a chorus, “Whose side are you on?”, that forced me reflect on the possibilities of the duality or multiplicity of side that mankind has to consider for and as their personal, social and economic choices for association. Or are there obvious choices really I wonder? How obvious is it to an everyday man the clarity of these choices or are these choices at all? Are the choices as clear either for corporates or is it survival of the fittest in this economic Wild West?

1. To be one with nature or to destroy our habitat as we know it?

2. To continue the capitalist/corporate greed at an all profit or nothing orientation and majority profit for a few?

To complement the chorus; a short video clip (ecology project) by Gopal Dayaneni that educates all about the meaning and importance of the principles of Eco (home) ology (nature/biodiversity) was screened suggesting that man “is/should be” one with nature. However man has taken a greedy path of extractive role by amassing finite earthly resources at a pace unsustainable. 

It seemed by the introduction of the inaugural plenary that philanthropy has chosen its side in this “struggle” by the introduction of the conference plenary titled “components of just transition”. The discussants (Sarah Hobson, Susan George, Kumi Naidoo and Maria Poblet) provided a compelling argument for the urgency of the required “transition” which should be “just” to all humans and ecology. 

Without repeating the entire plenary; among others, were important talk points and deductions:

 

  • There is a flaw in thinking the economy can sustain an infinite growth and mankind has to change that attitude;   
  • Man should consider possibilities of an economy with minimal externalities (pollution, labour exploitation, huge gaps between rich and poor, etc.);
  • Unfettered capitalism leads to inequality. Mankind (neoliberal economists [banks, gas companies, etc.]) have eroded the gains of post-world war (decolonization, women’s rights, universal health care, etc.) and the struggle should be to consolidate some of these gains.

The challenge we all face is global and systematic and small man is largely not able to influence major policies that matter. Kumi Naidoo closed by reminding everyone on the save earth campaign that mankind has already run out of time and that the planet needs no saving because it has the power to replenish with or without mankind.

The big question looms still; whose side are the philanthropic “intermediaries”? Do we realize the existence of the philanthropic movement is an outcome of the same extractionist capitalist system and we are complacent in perpetuation of the capitalist trickle down ideology? Naidoo reminded all that in all of history where mankind won; the struggles were characterized by ultimate sacrifice. It seems that mankind has already started an uprising against corporate and political greed worldwide if one chooses to look at it closely.

Gandhi: “…first they will ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

The subsequent exchanges in parallel sessions were as cross sectional as they were informative. Lookout for my subsequent reports from San Francisco FNetswera@gmail.com 

Tuesday 29th April 2014: Dana on the vexed question of whom it is that intermediaries serve? Donors or communities?  

The conference started with an adapted version of the union organizing song “What Side Are You On?”  Little did I realize at the time how much that little ditty would affect me throughout the first day of dialogues.

My first breakout session of the day focused on “The importance of intermediaries in advancing social justice”. I choose that workshop because I assumed they would talk about organizations like the one I represent.  Then, somewhere in the middle of the presentations and questions from panelists, I became confused by the way we were talking about intermediaries.

The panelists shared that, to them, intermediaries are:

  • Issue experts and thought leaders;
  • Networkers and collaborators;
  • Making grassroots organizing possible;
  • Helping big donors disburse grants to small organizations;
  • Offering political cover to Foundation staff looking that want to overcome Trustee tendencies towards traditional philanthropy;
  • Important mechanisms for getting resources to the base;
  • Providing technical assistance to grassroots organizations;
  • Giving funders the stories they need;
  • Making it possible for their organizations to seek systemic change;
  • More effective messengers for change; and/or
  • The most loyal and strategic funder partners.

While some of these ideas fit my organization, others did not sit well.

Then Nora Murad, from the Dalia Association in Palestine, which I consider to be a peer organization, asked a question, making it clear that she does not see her organization as an intermediary either. Nora and I had an opportunity to talk for a bit about this after the workshop and, through that conversation, I realized my confusion lay in the fact that the discussion focused on being intermediaries for the funders.

For me and my colleagues at the LIN Center for Community Development, in Vietnam, our intermediary role was constructed to benefit our community. The work that we do and the organizations we support are and always have been determined based on our mission – to improve social outcomes by organizing different stakeholders that desire change.  As such, I really like and better relate to the term and description for Backbone Organizations, as coined by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and FSG, in a 2012 report.  While we track the outcomes of our small grants, more important to us is how we can build common ground, how we can help to form new partnerships and how we can ensure good communication’s and a transparent process that people can understand and trust.

That’s all just to say that I do know what side we are on.

We are on the side of humanity.

Tuesday 29th April 2014: Nora again, on moving the conversation up a gear and a welcome break from log frames

By mid-morning on Day One, I was already basking in gratitude. Hearing these folks talk about transformation of the global economy, dismantling of power structures that perpetuate inequality, renewing relationships between human beings and the planet—wow! Coming from Palestine where donors talk about inputs and outputs and indicators and where “good practice” is often defined by submission of timely reports, my hope is refreshed. I had no idea that people were still talking about social justice. That people’s movements were still a living aspiration. Then, when the lights dimmed for the showing of the eight-minute film, “The Meaning of Home” I found myself holding my breath. I didn’t want to miss a word or risk spoiling the moment by the banal act of breathing. With powerful visuals, impassioned explanations, the film explained the components of ecological justice in a way that made me want to cheer. And the day got even better when at every opportunity these funders asked themselves, “What is our role in global transformation?” I am inspired!

 Tuesday 29th April 2014: Nora, on being neither a “funder” nor a “non-funder”

A pre-conference meeting preceded the opening welcome panel, and already the contradictions and challenges of defining “community philanthropy” have come to the fore. The organizers of EdgeFunders’ Just Giving Social Philanthropy Conference in Berkeley, CA called for a caucus of “non-funder” conference attendees. Slowly, as the word spread, the small room filled up with an exciting mix of climate justice activists, food sovereignty advocates, indigenous leaders, and others.

It made sense to me that folks who aren’t donors might have unique needs to fully benefit from a meeting primarily composed of grantmakers, but I am not sure whether or not Dalia Association, Palestine’s community foundation, is a “funder” or not. One could say that Dalia is a funder. Dalia is a community foundation. Dalia gives grants. On the other hand, Dalia is not a donor. We aren’t “giving” “our” “money” to others. We are “mobilizing” “collective” “resources” for “communities” to use because it is their “right.”

As the conversation goes on, I’m realizing that the concept of “philanthropy” that is being used is perhaps unclear, or perhaps I don’t agree with it, or perhaps it is in transition. Are the ones who give money “philanthropists” and the ones who give time, expertise, sweat, ideas, passion merely “receivers?” I take the risk to raise this question and it is warmly received, embraced actually. One guy says that all the resources that funders have were actually stolen from others, and that even funders who recognize that the need for massive social transformation may not acknowledge that philanthropy too must change. We’re all in process. What a very exciting conversation…

It’s not too late to complete the Community Foundation Atlas survey! Join 400 organizations around the world and be part of this unique global project!

With over 400 responses from more than 40 countries, the Community Foundation Atlas – an online project aimed at mapping community philanthropy the world over – is growing rapidly. But we need more responses to add to this already rich of data on community philanthropy around the world!

Initial findings show the enormous diversity of the global field. There are community foundations with annual budgets in the tens of thousands of US dollars and others which have tens of millions! Over three quarters have an endowment fund – and again these range from the hundreds of dollars to the billions. Although the deep analysis of the data is just getting started,

The information collected through the Atlas survey also includes how community philanthropy organizations see themselves – their roles and their successes in the communities they serve – as well as some of the societal trends to which they are responding. Participants at a recent session on the Atlas at WINGSForum in Istanbul at the end of March had a “sneak-peak” of some of this data, which looks at the essence of community foundations’ work and made further recommendations around regional disaggregation of data sets as well as looking at cohorts of institutions based on age or asset size as a way of digging deeper into understanding the dynamics, drive and origins of community philanthropy organizations in different parts of the world.

The Community Foundation Atlas is a joint collaboration of the Cleveland Foundation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, WINGS and the Foundation Centre. It is supported by the Mott Foundation.

The survey is currently available in English and Spanish. Go to the survey

He Daofeng wins second Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize!

The finalists came from India, Russia (2), Latvia, Brazil and Turkey (2) but it was He Daofeng who was announced the winner of the second Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize on 27th March 2014 at the WINGSForum in Istanbul. The £5,000 prize is awarded annually 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.” Last year’s prize winners were Jane Weru and Kingsley Mucheke for their work to build assets among landless slum dwellers in in Kenya.

He Daofeng, this year’s prize-winnerHe Daofeng is Executive President of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) the first GONGO to become a fully independent foundation and Chair of the China Foundation Center. In his work there and at the China Foundation Center, Mr He has pioneered the use of open and businesslike management methods in China’s philanthropic sector. His work with high net worth individuals as well as more modest givers has helped both to encourage the practice of philanthropy, and to stress the importance of accountability.

In a recent interview with Alliance magazine, Mr He discussed his personal motivation to join the field: “I was a farmer for many years, so I understood the plight of poor farmers. I was also a researcher looking at China’s rural reform in the 1980s and I saw that social reform was needed to underpin economic reform. After Tiananmen Square I thought it would be useless to push for political reform. Rather, we should promote philanthropy and cultivate social self-governance, the civil society spirit and citizen obligation. So social change was the industry sector I chose at the time.”

The “Olga” prize commemorates the memory of Olga Alexeeva, a Russian-born but global citizen who had been a pioneer in the world of emerging markets philanthropy and whose sudden death in July 2011 marked an enormous loss to the global philanthropy field. 

What Does Community Philanthropy Look Like? New report available

What makes the global spread of community philanthropy organizations so exciting is the variety of forms they take, adaptations to different local contexts, challenges, resources, and leaders. The core similarities matter—all in some way help geographic communities mobilize financial and other kinds of capital for improvement of the lives of residents. But so do the differences. Some have endowments, some don’t. Some are large, more are small. Some call themselves community foundations, others do not. This diversity is one sign of community philanthropy’s flexibility, potential, and rising popularity.

But it also presents a challenge to those who want to better understand and support community philanthropy, especially on a global level. A practice so varied, so organic and tied to local conditions, complicates classification, resists general conclusions, and calls for lots of learning through example. A movement relatively young and quickly evolving, with a limited body of applied research, requires ongoing documentation and study.

So it was that the C.S. Mott Foundation—which has supported a number of initiatives to strengthen and expand community philanthropy—commissioned Barry Knight of CENTRIS to explore the work and develop case studies of eight community philanthropy organizations (seven of which have been GFCF grantees) around the world:

• Amazon Partnerships Foundation (Ecuador)

• Black Belt Community Foundation (United States)

• Bolu Donors Foundation (Turkey)

• Community Foundation for South Sinai (Egypt)

• Fundacion Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte (Mexico)

• Healthy City Community Foundation (Slovakia)

• Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis (Brazil)

• Tuzla Community Foundation (Bosnia)

Read the report

Aga Khan highlights need for strengthened global civil society in Ottawa speech

“Increasingly, I believe, the voices of civil society are voices for change – where change has been overdue. They have been voices of hope for people living in fear,” These are the words of His Highness the Aga Khan in a speech to the Canadian Parliament on February 27th 2014, in which he expressed clearly, and in personal terms, many of the values that underpin the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

He spoke about the pace of change in the world alongside the opportunities and challenges that this brings.  Addressing the Joint Session of Canadian Parliament the Aga Khan made reference to the constitutional reforms adopted by 37 countries over the past decade, with a further 12 countries still engaged in this work in progress.  This has thrown down a gauntlet to good governance and has highlighted the primacy of the task of transforming countries of conflict into countries of opportunity.

The Aga Khan also addressed the divisions and tensions within and between faith beliefs in the world today. Speaking about the contribution of Muslim culture and historical achievement, he emphasised the diversity that exists within the ummah – the entirety of Muslim communities around the world.  Arguing that faith should deepen concern for the world’s environment and for the well-being of humanity, the Aga Khan described the work of the Aga Khan Development Network which is informed by the age old Islamic ethic of the elimination of poverty; access to education and social peace in a pluralist environment.   A focus of hope in translating this ethic into action was identified as the voices of civil society, particularly through the work of non-profit organizations that are working both within, and between, countries around the world.

The Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. is a member of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

Why plumbing matters: introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

We very excited to be unveiling some new changes to our website this month, along with a new-look e-bulletin. These include a new section on the recently-established Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP) and in the future, stories and blogs that link directly to the GACP will be easily identifiable through its own distinct logo.

Refreshing one’s communications tools is always good to do from time to time. However, the GACP represents much more than an opportunity for a re-branding exercise, providing as it does an exciting opportunity to put community philanthropy on the map of international development. The GACP has big ambitions: it “aims to advance the practice of community philanthropy and influence international development actors to better understand, support, and promote the role of community philanthropy in the sustainability and vibrancy of civil society and in achieving more lasting development outcomes.” And what is particularly significant about it is that its initial funder members are drawn from across the development and philanthropy spectrum, including private foundations (Mott Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund), a bilateral donor (USAID) and a private foundation / INGO hybrid (Aga Khan Foundation), each of which has agreed to commit time and resources to thinking and learning about community philanthropy, to sharing experiences of what works and what doesn’t, to testing concepts across institutional frameworks and to informing and engaging others in the donor space. As a fifth partner and the Secretariat, the GFCF has been charged with coordinating the efforts of the GACP. We will be drawing on our experiences of using our grantmaking to develop an evidence base for the global community philanthropy field, drawn from a diversity of circumstances, institutions and contexts. Over the last seven years, the GFCF has been working to promote and support institutions of community philanthropy around the world. Our work has been driven by a conviction that local development efforts are more effective when communities are able to articulate and address their needs and also when they have a stake – as co-investors bringing assets to the table – in their own development.

The GACP has been established at a time when the global context for development aid is changing rapidly as a recent article on the Guardian Development Professionals website describes. The search for new models and structures has meant many INGOs restructuring to cut costs because of a dramatic reduction in development aid which has traditionally been a key source of funding for many of them. Some internationally active NGOs are relocating their offices to the Global South, for a variety of philosophical and tactical reasons. As the shifting landscape for development aid changes, pointing to a future with less international funding for development, as civil society organizations in the Global South grow stronger and more established and as new assets emerge in traditionally aid-dependent contexts (whether in terms of new classes of mega-rich and middle classes, or of mineral wealth), there is certainly a need for some radical new thinking about what the future architecture for civil society funding might look like.

At the heart of the notion of community philanthropy is the idea that assets exist in every community and that if these can be harnessed and organized, they can be applied to local development processes in ways that are both more cost-effective and more sustainable in terms of social capital (assuming that people invest their own assets when high levels of trust exist).

And yet, community philanthropy barely features in the mainstream development discourse. In a recent article, An Alternative to Development Aid on the Open Democracy website, Nora Lester Murad, a leading advocate for community philanthropy as a development strategy and a founder of the Dalia Association, Palestine, writes. “While critiques of international aid are becoming mainstream, there is still little awareness about community foundations as a viable alternative, even in the discourse about funding for human rights. In responding to local challenges and opportunities, community foundations and other community philanthropic organizations offer communities a dignified and creative way to organize their resources towards collective self-reliance for generations to come.” She goes on to describe her own experience of working with a group of local leaders to establish Dalia, Palestine’s first community foundation.

“If only Palestinians had their own money,” I thought, “…the wasteful, irrelevant and unsustainable activities posited as ‘post conflict development’ would stop.” But my group of co-founders quickly disabused me of my naïve and simplistic approach. Self-determination is not about having a big endowment. It’s about responsibly and intentionally utilizing the resources we have, mobilizing other resources by modelling credible, inspiring practice, and working transparently, democratically and accountably to pursue our own priorities over the long haul.”

Over the past seven years, Dalia has introduced an innovative local grants process, “community-controlled grantmaking”, which involves local community members in decision-making around the allocation of small grants. They have also developed another strand of work around building local philanthropy among local companies. And throughout they have sought to use their experiences of grassroots grantmaking and philanthropy development processes as an alternative to many of the assumptions of international development aid and a model from which to learn.

In thinking about what sustainable development might look like, who wouldn’t find the idea of a local institution that facilitates local people making decisions about their own development, backed by local philanthropic resources, compelling? And yet so far few funding institutions have – for a variety of reasons – had the interest, the resources or the flexibility to invest in creating the conditions which might allow such organizations to thrive.

At the recent WINGSForum, The Power of Networks: Building Connected Global Philanthropyin Istanbul, the Mott Foundation received an award for its constant and unwavering support for and investment in the development of civil society (and specifically philanthropic) infrastructure around the world. Mott has also invested heavily in the development of community foundations and community philanthropy around the world. In accepting the award on behalf of the foundation, Shannon Lawder, Director of Civil Society described how philanthropic infrastructure might be compared to the plumbing in a house: it’s not the most attractive or creative part of construction and design, you can’t actually see the pipes but you know they are there, they play an essential and yet invisible role and you would be in trouble without them.

Jenny Hodgson

Alliance magazine editorial: Bringing grantmaking in from the cold

Increasingly, the practice of grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change has fallen out of favour, replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy. In laying out their wares, venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, philanthrocapitalism and, most recently, ‘catalytic philanthropy’ have all made claims for greater effectiveness. 

Barry Knight & Jenny Hodgson

This change has been largely driven by outsiders, for example by business people entering the sector or by consultants. However, there has also been introspection within established grantmaking platforms and networks about the significance and purpose of grantmaking. For example, a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference of the African Grantmakers Network worried that grantmaking – or giving away money – understated what African philanthropies were really about. Globally, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for GrantmakerSupport) has been reflecting on whether its emphasis on grantmaking as a development tool is still relevant.

Is ‘traditional’ philanthropy, with its emphasis on grantmaking, being left out in the cold?

Complex solutions for complex problems
The complexities of bringing about social change require complex solutions and multiple strategies – of that there is no doubt. This special feature does not make claims that grantmaking is the strategy, the truth. Rather, it seeks to reinstate grantmaking as a highly strategic development tool – an art, even – which can play a central role in the pursuit of social change, not least because in the end good grantmaking means letting go, devolving power and putting resources in the hands of people and institutions to make their own decisions and shape their own futures.

It is clear, however, that in recent years the tide has been turning against grantmaking as more and more foundations adopt the top-down strategies of strategic and catalytic philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism. As an illustration of this, a 2013 report on catalytic philanthropy by Danish foundation Realdania draws heavily on a three-part hierarchy devised by FSG. In the table, the common metaphor of fishing is used, with traditional philanthropy and grantmaking equivalent to giving a hungry man a fish, strategic philanthropy equivalent to teaching a man to fish, and catalytic philanthropy equivalent to reforming the whole fishing industry and improving the lives of poor people as a result.

The unsurprising conclusion from the FSG table is that traditional philanthropy and grantmaking won’t achieve social change. In effect, ‘grantmaking’ has been equated with scattergun charity with no interest in long-term results.

Tables of this kind oversimplify the real world. Sharp divisions tend to produce false dichotomies. We do not wish to simply defend traditional grantmaking or to trash other models of philanthropy. Instead, what we want to do is to examine what grantmaking has to offer in the context of a range of other strategies.

Grantmaking as a strategic tool
We see grantmaking as a philosophy, a creative and strategic tool, a mechanism for building voice, agency and trust that in turn deliver social change. The articles in this special feature describe grantmaking for social change in all its diversity – big grants, small grants, long-term and short-term. Despite their differences and nuances, what they all have in common is the basic fact that at some point money moves from one organization to another – a grant is made.

At its most literal, grantmaking means ‘the practice of giving money’, ‘non-repayable funds disbursed by one party to a recipient’, or ‘the discretionary awarding of funds’.

However, the simple catch-all category of ‘grantmaking’ is perhaps reductionist and unhelpful. There are many different types of grants. For example, we need to distinguish between reactive grants where applicants bid into open programmes;responsive grants where funder and funded develop a programme together based on the ideas of the grant recipient; proactive grants where the funder takes the lead and finds the grantee to implement its ideas; and contracts – beyond the scope of this special feature – where the funder tenders for organizations to fulfil specified work.

Moreover, we have to take account of context. One type of intervention is not going to work across the entire world. In developing and emerging markets, where the field of organized philanthropy is often new, levels of public trust are low (particularly towards non-profits), and civil society is weak, grantmaking can play an essential role in building trust and demonstrating transparency and good governance. There is a similar need for a highly local and culturally sensitive type of grantmaking in marginalized and excluded communities in the Global North.

A changing context for philanthropy
Why are models like philanthrocapitalism and strategic or catalytic philanthropy gaining the upper hand? The answer lies partly in the rapidly changing context of the past quarter of a century. We live in a world where constant technological innovation has become the norm, so that what is new is always better than what has gone before. The world of spin and instant media means that people put enormous effort into communications to get their message across to global audiences. At the same time, there have been dramatic changes in the balance of economic power. We have seen the rise of multinational corporations, a reduced role for the state in many places, and increased use of private/public partnerships, along with raised expectations of philanthropy. The philanthropic context is changing too, with the emergence of a new class of mega-rich individuals who establish enormous foundations shaped by the type of business model that made them wealthy in the first place.

However, intractable problems remain. We face a world where inequality is rising nearly everywhere, environmental degradation and climate change threaten our planet, and whole areas of the globe are locked in seemingly endless violent conflict. Despite our best efforts and considerable investments of money, both through official development assistance and philanthropy, deep-seated problems seem entrenched.

Does philanthropy need to raise its game?
This calls for new models and a sense that philanthropy needs to raise its game. Such a perspective has resulted in a variety of initiatives from the philanthropic sector designed to deepen the effectiveness of philanthropy. In 2000, the four-year International Network on Strategic Philanthropy was set up through the Bertelsmann Foundation. Since then, we have seen the rise of ‘philanthrocapitalism’, designed to use business methods to achieve social ends. This has been followed by other approaches, each with slightly different names, but with similar ‘strategic’ approaches, including ‘venture philanthropy’, philanthrocapitalism, ‘collective impact’ and ‘catalytic philanthropy’.

What all of these approaches share – and their similarities outweigh their differences – is the top-down, planned use of resources from a variety of actors being brought to bear on a serious problem with the goal of bringing about large-scale social change that can be measured. Paul Brest, recently retired from the Hewlett Foundation, defines strategic philanthropy as:

‘… the setting of clear goals, developing sound evidence-based strategies for achieving them, measuring progress along the way to achieving them, and determining whether you were actually successful in reaching the goals.’ [1]

The leitmotif here is to use business methods to control the change and to measure the outcome. The role of non-profit organizations or wider civil society is downplayed and treated at best as one of the means of delivering change, but not as a source of the ideas behind the change. At the root of this is the belief that philanthropy knows best.

Pablo Eisenberg has called this ‘a dangerous shift of the balance of power in the non-profit world’,[2] noting that 60 per cent of US foundations will not receive unsolicited proposals. This will enable donors to ‘call all the shots and exclude non-profits with great new ideas’.

It is not just outsiders to philanthropy like Pablo Eisenberg that are making this point. Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, has noted that ‘philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field’, but the main effect of this is ‘to enable the rich to sleep better at night’. He suggests that the answer lies in listening to those who have the answers and might create the conditions for the changes we need. The role of philanthropy should be to produce the risk capital for those ideas.[3]

Voices from the field
Other voices – from the grassroots – echo these concerns. The articles in this special feature display opinions from a range of grantees and foundation and community foundation leaders who stress the importance of grantmaking and disavow the well-resourced messages of ‘strategic’ and ‘catalytic’ philanthropy.

The lesson of history would appear to support them. Much of the really important social change in the past century has been driven not by philanthropy but by grassroots organizing at the local level. Think of civil rights or feminism. In the webinar discussion, Kathleen Cravero, president of the Oak Foundation, believes that social change comes from ‘strong, community-based civil society organizations’. In the same discussion, Rana Kotan, from the Sabanci Foundation, points out that advocacy to change public policy to address child marriage in Turkey resulted from a grant application from a local women’s group.

Moreover, failure to engage with the grassroots may cause failure. A 2013 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy argues that elite-driven, top-down approaches adopted by funders in the battle against climate change in the US, for example, have not achieved their goals because of a failure to involve grassroots communities directly affected by environmental harms which had the energy and resolve to take up the issues.[4]

Contributors to this special feature also emphasize the importance of grants as a flexible and powerful tool that can play a pivotal role in bringing about social change by allowing funders to engage with and spread risks across a range of ‘untested’ groups to take the lead on those issues that affect them the most, such as the case of grassroots activism around mining land rights supported by the Fund for Global Human Rights in Guatemala.

Clearly, the current shift by more and more large foundations away from the ‘front lines’ of more traditional, open-ended styles of grantmaking, often in favour of ‘big bet’ grants to a smaller number of larger, more established organizations, has implications for grassroots organizations. It cuts them out of the loop.

Grantmaking in emerging contexts
In developing and emerging contexts, dismissing grantmaking has even more significant implications. Here, philanthropic sectors are still young or emerging, and grantmaking is new or not well established. It is in these contexts that grantmaking has the greatest potential to play a role in bringing about real change that goes far beyond the transactional nature of cheque-writing. In Russia, for example, grantmaking, although now well established thanks to the efforts of philanthropy infrastructure organizations like the Russian Donors Forum and CAF Russia, dates back only 20 years. In Sub-Saharan Africa, too, the cohort of social justice grantmakers, such as the African Women’s Development Fund and TrustAfrica, are at an early stage in their existence. While the East Africa Association of Grantmakers can claim a decade of existence, its continent-wide sister, the African Grantmakers Network, was established only in 2009. Further north, the Arab Foundations Forum is a mere seven years old.

Why does grantmaking matter so much in these contexts? In the Global North, where functioning legal systems and a level of public awareness of the role of non-profits can be assumed, the role of grants might be less significant. But in contexts where trust is low, where people simply don’t believe in institutions, grants play an enormously significant role in building trust and modelling transparency and democratic good governance. As Filiz Bikmen observes, in Turkey grantmaking is so much more than the transfer of funds; it is all about increasing the capacities of civil society, fostering connections between different groups – an investment in democratization. Similarly in Africa, for so long dependent on donor aid and only just now beginning to experience the reality of a developed and indigenous African philanthropy sector, grantmaking becomes an essential tool in fostering new and more horizontal and transparent forms of mutual accountability between donors and recipients; it constitutes part of a paradigm shift towards a form of development that is driven and resourced by Africans.

The ‘retreat’ from traditional grantmaking in parts of the world where it never got established in the first place is a particular concern in terms of its effects on strengthening democratic culture and fostering social innovation, as argued by Andre Degenszajn, discussing the situation in Brazil. It also represents a harsh blow to those who have sought to introduce grantmaking – in doing so, choosing the road less followed – a task which can be fraught with challenges.
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For emerging public philanthropic institutions such as community foundations, which are both fund seekers and grantmakers, it can be an uphill task to convince potential donors to support their grantmaking programmes when their instincts are to want the community foundations to deliver programmes themselves rather than to grant funds on. Donor education becomes essential to demonstrate how giving to and through local grantmakers can offer a way for donors to spread their philanthropic resources across a broader cross-section of grassroots groups and civil society organizations and, by doing so, to spread their risks too. Giving to local grantmakers can also play an important role in creating strong, well-managed local groups and serve as a way to build important bridges between donors and beneficiaries.

Where grantmaking is so new, its easy rejection is of great concern if it encourages corporate or business-oriented donors, impressed by management school wisdom, to believe that operating their own programmes is a preferable option to partnering with civil society organizations. It serves to justify their resistance to working with non-profits, and allows them to look no further than themselves, rather than seeking to build partnerships with, and harness the expertise and experience of, others engaged in social development.

Beware all models

So far in this article, we have argued that thoughtful grantmaking can create positive social change. This view is reinforced by stories of successful grants made by grantmakers in different countries covering diverse issues ranging from same-sex partnerships in Ireland through to drones in the war zones of the Middle East, education in Brazil, micro-micro lending in America and many more.

These examples seem to counter the idea that strategic or catalytic philanthropy or philanthrocapitalism is superior to traditional philanthropy.

Does this imply that we should abandon trying to build models in philanthropy? Not necessarily, but it does mean that we need a better understanding of what different models offer. Given that the process of social change is so complex, it is unlikely that the simple three-fold FSG hierarchy will be sufficient.

A more nuanced approach can be obtained by looking at how foundations themselves actually perceive change. We have reanalysed material from a survey of 80 European foundations conducted by Selim Iltus and Barry Knight in preparation for a session at the 2013 European Foundation Centre conference called ‘From Good to Great Philanthropy’.

Questions were based on an extensive literature review on ‘what makes organizations great’ conducted by Bettina Windau from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Based on her literature review, we identified 28 items that could transform ‘good’ work in a foundation into ‘great’ work. Examples included: ‘a first-class theory of change’, ‘a highly focused programme’, ‘the right grantees’, ‘remaining positive in the face of setbacks’ and ‘good knowledge management’.

Using a statistical technique called factor analysis, we found seven archetypes perceived by foundations as the route to greatness that foundations aspire to.

Seven routes to greatness

Passionate rationalists These foundations use a first-class theory of change. They are dedicated in what they do and always measure their impact. They are also good organizers, valuing collective impact with collaborating agencies. They are good at leveraging resources and, when necessary, find new ways of tackling old problems.

Flexible risk-takers These foundations are always optimistic and hopeful about their results. They like to take risks and have a flexible approach. Valuing learning, if things do not go well, they change course and explore new options.

3. People-centred For these organizations, it is all about people. This means the right leadership, good people in the right positions and the right allies. They also have a strong understanding of the political context.

Short-term pragmatists They value short-term gains. They also aspire to spectacular outcomes. They do not always plan in detail but they always have clear short-term plans for how to proceed and achieve results.

Focused professionals These foundations have highly focused programmes. They concentrate on a few areas and have clear objectives. They clearly define their role from the beginning and stick to it. They also stick with their grantees and make long-term commitments.

Gamblers These foundations believe in luck and not necessarily in careful planning. They also go after simple ideas. They believe any project can turn out to be a success or failure.

Big investors These believe that for foundations to be successful, they need to make big investments. They select their grantees very carefully, because they also think that the right grantee is the key. They tend to avoid social justice investments.

The first type of foundation – the passionate rationalists – looks very like ‘catalytic philanthropy’. However, the model allows for six other types. What is striking is that all of the types use grants as part of the strategy, though the role of grants is different in each case.

These results suggest that there is a variety of ways that foundations aspire to achieve greatness. Moreover, since there is a variety of ways to achieve greatness, there needs to be a variety of forms of evaluation, risk assessment, and other management techniques. These findings relate only to European foundations and it is likely that we would add to the picture if we incorporated foundations from other parts of the world.

This special feature suggests that we should be wary of coming in with a simple slogan or matrix to guide our actions. The world is more complicated than this allows for and multidimensional approaches are called for. Above all, we should run a mile from management books or consultancy advice that promote a single, simple answer – otherwise we will fall prey to unevaluated fashion. Indeed, as Andrew Kingman observes in his excellent article, which seeks to delink the idea of catalytic philanthropy as a breakthrough model from the sound development principles that lie behind it, the interventions of development and philanthropy have often been unambitious in both their framing and their delivery. When it comes to social change, we have to embrace complexity, and that means many different tools, approaches and processes which, as Kingman illustrates in his case study from Mozambique, can be driven by a ‘thoughtful NGO or a good grantmaker’ as much as by an ‘inspired philanthropist’.

Conclusion
The impressive consistency in the views of the range of grantmakers writing in this special feature suggests that grantmaking should advance, not retreat. It is clear from the contributions that follow that practitioners see grantmaking playing a central role in fostering creativity, promoting democratic participation, changing power dynamics and reducing poverty and inequality. Philanthropy has many other important tools besides grantmaking, to be sure, but the evidence suggests that grantmaking is central.

We hope this special feature will bring the debate to a higher level so that we do not all rush to the next simple solution that tells us that there is a ‘right way’, when in fact there are ‘right ways’.

This article was first published in the March 2014 edition of Alliance magazine which had a special feature on Grantmaking for Social Change

1 Paul Brest: www.nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/22745-bill-schambra-s-problem-with-evidence-based-philanthropy.html 

2
 Pablo Eisenberg: http://philanthropy.com/article/Strategic-Philanthropy-/141263  

3
 Peter Buffett: www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html?_r=0 

Real Results: Why strategic philanthropy is social justice philanthropy, Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski, NCRP, 2013

Jenny Hodgson is executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations

Barry Knight is secretary of CENTRIS

Their joint publications include More than the Poor Cousin: The emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm and A Different Kind of Wealth: Mapping a baseline of African community foundations.

Of Narratives, Networks and New Spaces: new report on Africa’s growing philanthropy support sector!

A new report, Of Narratives, Networks and New Spaces by Halima Mahomed, commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, on the state of Africa’s philanthropy support sector notes the significant progress that has been made over the course of the last fifteen years. This progress reflects both the growth of Africa’s own homegrown philanthropic sector as well as the investments of a number international funders such as the Ford Foundation. Both of these have also resulted in the emergence of philanthropic membership networks and associations across the continent.

The report also notes that there is still a long way to go and that there also many obstacles that need to be overcome. Firstly, until now there have been neither any research nor any sector-wide conversations about existing infrastructure: this has meant the absence of a common agenda and of an African “voice” on philanthropy. Although new opportunities exist with the rise of African philanthropies, legal and fiscal frameworks, low visibility of the sector and a need to support existing leaders and grown new leaders all also prevail.

As a global organization, based in South Africa and focused on strengthening philanthropic institutions and their networks, the GFCF welcomes this report and looks foward to seeing how some of the dilemmas, questions and opportunities it raises might be turned into action!

Read the report

Today’s charity, tomorrow’s philanthropy

So says the newly established Bermuda Community Foundation which was launched in January 2014 with the aim of building endowments for local philanthropy alongside working to help people to give effectively and efficiently. This is a community foundation for an island that is just 26 square miles, with a population of just over 64,900. However, the statistics suggest that 19% of the population live below the poverty line notwithstanding the impressive office buildings, and shining name plates, that house many well-known Fortune 500 companies.

It is a tribute to the industrious work of the Board of Trustees that the Bermuda Community Foundation opened its doors with four Donor Advised Funds; two Designated Funds; three Agency Funds to support local organizations; four Field of Interest Funds; five named Community Funds established by the Bermuda Community Foundation with open contributions from the local community; and an Endowed Fund with founding investments from Atlantic Philanthropies and RenaissanceRe. The overall venture has been proactively supported by Atlantic Philanthropies that is currently in spend down mode in recognition of its long-term relationship with Bermuda.

The dynamic Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the Bermuda Community Foundation, Myra Virgil, pointed out that the ambition of the Community Foundation is to achieve the “long-term strengthening and sustainability of Bermuda’s non-profit sector.”  Despite the tidy white-roofed villas and the stunning pink-sand beaches there are multiple issues of deprivation and racial inequities that the local non-profit sector continue to grapple with. Early childhood development is one priority that has been identified. Peter Durhager, Chairperson of the Community Foundation adds that “many charities are engaged in a daily financial struggle to continue to offer their services and some are shutting down completely when Bermuda needs them most.” He recognizes that the emphasis on growing an endowment can work towards mitigating the impact of future uncertainty given that it is essential to have a vibrant, non-profit sector in the interests of community solidarity.

The Bermuda Community Foundation working strapline – “Dedicated to the good of Bermuda forever” – clearly needs to be translated into practice.  However, a carefully crafted initiative has been launched after a considerable investment in local consultation and identification of potential donors.  The fair winds of Atlantic Philanthropies support also made for good conditions of sail. All in all a successful launch of a welcome venture!