Tender for external evaluation of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

The GFCF is currently seeking an external evaluator to undertake an assessment of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy. The Alliance is a multi-donor and multi-stakeholder collaborative which aims to advance the understanding and practice of community philanthropy.  It is anticipated that this evaluation will be carried out during the period June 2015 – March 2019.

Please consult the Tender Information Pack below for the external evaluation of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP) which sets out:

Document A:  An explanation of the Terms of Reference

Document B:  A summary of the programme and its components

Document C:  The proposed evaluation methodology

Document D:  Internal monitoring processes in place for GACP

Completed tenders should be returned to Jenny Hodgson, GFCF Executive Director (jenny@globalfundcf.org) by no later than Wednesday 29thApril 2015.


Download the Tender Information Pack

Signs of seeds sprouting, despite snow in Sarajevo

A late winter delivered snow in Sarajevo, drifting lazily to settle on the timbered roofs of the bazaar district and to camouflage many of the still bullet-pocked walls of the flat complexes around the city.  The weather did not prevent a lively grouping of women activists from gathering to discuss and debate what their contribution might be in progressing social change. There were aspiring political representatives and young academics, as well as women who are working desperately to address both the still evident legacies of division alongside hopes for a feminist future. Twenty years may seem a long time to some to overcome the hurt of conflict, but on the timeline of peacebuilding it is just a memory away.

It is clear that community philanthropy has an important role to play in both the continuing empowerment of women, but also in supporting community-based initiatives to promote conflict transformation and reconciliation. Dynamic activist, Dubrabka Kovačević, explained her motivation for initiating the Foundation for Women’s Empowerment(Fondacija za osnaživanje žena), which was established in 2014: “It is constantly the same story” she pointed out. “Large NGO’s may be funded, but smaller organizations lose out.” Dubrabka herself, who lived through the war in the 1990’s, has been active in the donor sector for over 20 years. She recalls how international donors flooded into Sarajevo towards the end of the war, but effectively designed programmes that were “cut and paste from other conflict zones.” There was little, or no, consultation with local people and it was necessary to speak English in order to be considered a possible participant in the reconstruction effort.

Another observation that chimes with the experience of so many communities emerging from conflict and natural disasters is that the aid programmes focused on relatively short-term “projects”, defined by the external funding mechanisms in place. There was little sensitivity to either local conditions or long-term needs, let alone any attention paid to community empowerment. Dubrabka sighs – while employed by an international NGO herself, she describes many hours of voluntary effort in using her financial skills to try to raise funding for crucial community-based activities. As an economist herself, she is very aware of the gap in capacity between professionally staffed NGOs and smaller community and women’s groups.


Foundation for Women’s Empowerment

With an office in Sarajevo, the fledgling Foundation for Women’s Empowerment is now registered and has mobilized a support group of volunteer activists. The Oak Foundation has provided seed money for both grantmaking and the running costs of the foundation itself, which has allowed it to employ a staff member. A number of specific funds are now operating under the auspices of the foundation – with the empowerment of women and women’s rights being a primary focus. An Urgent Response Fund provides small grants ($500 USD) to meet the needs of women in crisis. Over the past few months these grants have been used to help women who are victims of domestic violence, as well as a woman that has been trafficked for sex. A Solidarity Fund works through local organizations to offer grants of up to $5000 to support work on areas of women’s empowerment; whilst an Organizational Support Fund is working intensively to build the capacity of a selected number of women’s organizations that have an annual income of under $20,000 per annum. The foundation has also identified a niche contribution that allows community-based women’s initiatives to avail of municipal funding. This funding source requires a group investment of 20% in order to lever the 80% of the funding available. Many women’s groups have found themselves excluded on this basis, but the Foundation for Women’s Empowerment can now make the required matching monies available.

Alongside the support received from the Oak Foundation, Dubravka recognises the importance of local donations to the foundation from within Bosnia itself. However, she reminds us that Bosnia is not a wealthy country. Nevertheless, she values the $5 individual donations, and speaks in glowing terms of the $50,000 donated by a Roma NGO. She, and her fellow board members, are looking to extend this fund development as well as seek financial support from external philanthropic foundations. Dubravka emphasizes the importance of local decision-making through the new foundation, and welcomes the fact that there is now a group of women activists (and a couple of men) who form the Grant Committee of the foundation.


Funding for women and reconciliation

Across the city, the well-established and respected Mozaik Foundationcites Socrates – “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – in its new 2015 – 2025 Strategy Paper. It pulls few punches in its analysis of the challenges facing Bosnian politics and society. With a track record in working with young people and promoting social entrepreneurship, Mozaik is now planning to partner withUSAID in offering a new funding programme. This programme, which will make available $200,000 USD to local initiatives that focus on women and reconciliation, is to be rolled out in 2015. It is hoped that this will not only make available very necessary resources, but also bring organizations together to share ideas and approaches.

Reconciliation is not an easy option in Bosnia where group and ethnic division seem to be the driving force for political settlement. Many of the women activists who came together to discuss challenges referred to the current situation where school buildings are fitted out with separate doors to cater for children of different ethnic/religious identities. Even teachers from different backgrounds enter their school through different doors. Vesna Bajšanski-Agić, Executive Director of Mozaik Foundation, argues that there is a need to put reconciliation centre stage, rather than relegating it to the sidelines. While not ignoring the difficulties, she hopes that the new grantmaking programme will harness the energy and insight of local women and women’s groups. Meanwhile, local USAID officials argue that it is time to address the causes of division, rather than the symptoms, and that citizen participation is essential to effectively undermine an inclusive democracy.

Avila Kilmurray

GFCF Director, Policy & Strategy

Can YouthBank help tackle youth unemployment in Mozambique?

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest youth population in the world and, unlike other parts of the developing world, these figures are only set to increase. This demographic bulge has also resulted in high levels of youth unemployment across the continent – the data puts it at over 20 per cent – which has been fuelled by poor education and not enough jobs. In Mozambique, according to one NGO working on youth unemployment, there is an estimated 22 million people of working age but there are only half a million formal sector jobs.

Mozambique’s economy has grown at an impressive pace over the last twenty years (with one of the highest rates of GDP growth in the world, in fact), as it has transitioned from a post-conflict / humanitarian situation to a more developmental phase. However, this economic growth has yet to trickle down to the majority of the population and Mozambique continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world: UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Index ranks it at 178 out of 187 countries (below both Afghanistan and Haiti).  

Over the last two years, the MICAIA Foundation, based in Chimoio, Mozambique, has been working on adapting and implementing an ambitious programme aimed at increasing economic development opportunities for young people. The GFCF spoke to MICAIA’s Director, Milagre Nuvunga, about YouthBank Chimoio.


GFCF: Tell us about your YouthBank programme and what you are trying to achieve through it in Chimoio.

This project takes the YouthBank methodology – first developed in Northern Ireland – and adapts it to Mozambique. In various countries of the world YouthBank organizations have succeeded in mobilizing young people from different backgrounds and forging collaboration and joint action, usually involving local grantmaking.  

YouthBank Chimoio (YBC) is the first attempt to launch a youth-led grantmaking programme in Mozambique. Led by young people, for young people, YouthBank will provide small grants to stimulate social and economic entrepreneurship and local resource mobilization (volunteering and financial) that can serve as the basis for establishing a form of community foundation in the longer term. The project aims to enable more than 2500 young men and women to plot their own paths out of poverty, and through the project we want to establish a model that in principle can be widely replicated in Mozambique.

Milagre (Left) and YBC participants

GFCF: How did you go about introducing the programme and what were some of the challenges you faced?

Although we had conducted a survey that confirmed the need for flexible funding to enable young people to start exploring different avenues for self-employment, as well as social and environmental activism, we were struck by how shy the young people within the target group were.

However, 2013 and 2014 were election years. Given the political instability and related armed violence that characterized this period, young people in Chimoio were not willing to come forward because they feared that the programme might just be a way to trick them, so that the government could enlist them on the spot to the national army. Their low capacity to develop eligible projects, as well as the fact that the few grant programmes they knew of already always seemed to give the money to people “with connections”, were additional challenges. As for MICAIA, we needed to get not only approval but the full support of the Municipality. The months of campaigning in both years made it almost impossible for MICAIA to meet with relevant government officers or secure the relevant authorizations for project activities.


GFCF: How did you overcome these problems? In particular, how did you go about finding potential grantees, given that this kind of grassroots grantmaking was so unfamiliar?

We had to be proactive, using both direct and indirect approaches. Working directly with local leaders, we met and talked to young people in different neighbourhoods, explaining what YBC was, how it worked, how they could benefit from it, making ourselves available to respond to questions and allay any fears. We also met with several NGOs, the relevant sectoral government directorates (youth and sports; and women and social security) and the Rotary Club, to see if they could facilitate access to young men and women within their networks.

Forming the YBC Committee (that reviews and awards the grants) was another challenge. The committee was made up of 20 young people who responded to a call for volunteers. It was a mixed group, with varying degrees of capacity and willingness to participate as volunteers (in fact, it became clear that some had joined in the hope of working as staff members of the YBC project). This sometimes made it quite hard to really engage them in our ongoing efforts to engage other youth in the neighbourhoods.


GFCF: How did you overcome the challenge of getting people to apply to what was an unusual type of grantmaking programme in Chimoio?

The development of the grants was an intensive affair, with some young people spending many days at MICAIA offices, some even using our facilities to write their grants so they could have our staff at hand whenever explanations were required on specific questions in the grant form. Some of these groups identified older individuals in their neighbourhoods or churches that could work as trainers or mentors and MICAIA worked with them as well so they understood the responsibilities and limits of their role in the context of YBC, where young people had to be responsible for grant management and project implementation.

After the first eight grants were awarded (with projects ranging from buying chickens, beef, goats, vegetables from big producers and selling them in town; urban agriculture; mobile catering; ICT/internet café; garbage disposal and decorating; as well as a campaign for the rights of the girl child) some level of confidence seemed to have been restored. In particular, many of the barriers young people had faced getting particular documents (such as declarations of residence) from their local leaders disappeared. In fact, in a number of cases local leaders encouraged others to come forward and helped with their application processes, for example, by identifying land on which they could develop their business (from agricultural projects to building sites for the construction of small shops, etc.). MICAIA negotiated simplified mechanisms for the registration of the different youth groups and their businesses with the notary and identified a Bank that was ready to help these groups to open bank accounts. The Committee was also encouraged by this change and about 14 of them became very engaged, working hand in hand with the staff.

The decision to work with young male and female prisoners to help them learn a trade and build a level of self-esteem, thus reducing the likelihood of them returning to prison, brought some more complications. We spent many days discussing with staff and committee members as to how we could do this, who would be the grantee, who would facilitate these actions. We found organizations with what seems like the right profile to handle this responsibility.


GFCF: So you have completed the first part of the grantmaking process. What next?

The grantmaking process has, and continues to be, quite a “journey of discovery.” But the biggest challenge still lies ahead – turning this pilot grant fund into a permanent facility for young people in Chimoio.

Consultations with government representatives, civil society and members of the private sector began just before the first grants were awarded, but a more concerted effort was done when Jenny Hodgson, GFCF Executive Director, visited us and spent four days meeting a number of decision-makers, including some young people. These meetings were aimed at getting an understanding of peoples’ and institutions’ views about such a fund, as well as their willingness to have one created in Chimoio and actively participate in its establishment. Jenny shared a number of examples of similar funds in different parts of the world and this facilitated discussions on how such a fund could be created in Chimoio, where the fund should be held, how it could be managed, etc. These were important initial discussions as they provided these key people and institutions with a general understanding that will be critical for the work ahead. The willingness of the Directorate of Youth and Sports to have the idea presented in one of the Provincial Government’s working sessions could facilitate the engagement of other potential supporters that could help turn this idea into reality.

From bad to just right: Why is it so hard for bilaterals to support community philanthropy?

In a few weeks’ time, the GFCF will be inviting UK-based NGOs and development agencies to join a discussion in London about community philanthropy. We will be exploring two questions in particular: “How can community philanthropy contribute to development?” and “What can development do to support community philanthropy?”

The fact is that the notion of “community philanthropy” is not well established – or even well-known – within the mainstream development discourse. For the most part, it has been private foundations such as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation, among others, that have supported the development of local foundations, often in the context of larger programmes focused on strengthening the infrastructure for local philanthropy and civil society. Beyond this small cluster of private foundations, the idea of strengthening community philanthropy as a strategy for building local assets, capacities and trust, or for enhancing transparency, accountability and good governance has limited currency.

But is change on the cards? In recent years, the mutterings of dissent against the international aid system – particularly the role of bilateral and multilateral aid agencies – have grown to become an increasingly audible rumble. And what is particularly interesting is that these critiques of current aid conventions, while they come from very different places, are often saying the same thing. Take these two comments:

“Projects composed of short-term injections of money for too specific a cause have proven to rarely lead to maintainable opportunities for the supposed beneficiaries….Instead of targeting isolated problems for specific time periods, a more holistic approach must become an ambition.”

“[The] projectized approach to capacity building, and to aid in general, rarely leads to sustainable outcomes in part because it treats partners as “implementers” and skews local resources toward donor-identified priorities…As a result….[an] organization itself may be actually weakened in its ability to respond to local needs and distracted or diverted from its core activities.”

The first is from a speech given by Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in South Africa, a strong advocate for the importance of a robust African philanthropy sector. The second is from an excellent set of articles published recently on Devex by Diana Ohlbaum which offer a critique of USAID in particular, as well as some thoughts on how it could do business differently. Ohlbaum is an independent consultant, and previously was a senior professional staff member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a deputy director of USAID‘s Office of Transition Initiatives. Two voices from very different parts of the development space but their messages are strikingly similar.

When it comes to how big donor agencies engage with community philanthropy, whose proponents see as offering solutions and strategies for overcoming the short-term nature of development aid and in strengthening civil society so that it more locally owned, the experiences are varied. What is clear is that the term “community philanthropy” barely features in the discourse of large donor institutions. (Perhaps, at some level, it is a matter of language. Also the fact that the term philanthropy – and the “baggage” it sometimes brings of charitable acts by the wealthy that reinforce the status quo – has never really sat comfortably within the language of mainstream development. An important conversation for another day!)

In recent weeks, through different meetings in the course of my day-to-day work as well as conversations with partners on the specific issue of support from bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, I have arrived at the conclusion that the experiences where community philanthropy and development meet fall into three main categories.


1. Missing the picture altogether: Undermining community philanthropy

First, the worst experience. (Names and organizations withheld here to save on awkwardness all round). Here, an international donor institution was delighted to find a local organization that knew its community, had great connections (largely established through an intensive and sensitively crafted grassroots grantmaking programme) and that could even complete their complicated application forms in English.

The short version of this failed adventure goes something like this:

  • The donor (let’s call it B) had strong programme interests and wasn’t interested in the work of the local organization (A). Instead, B wanted A to adapt to its own agenda once the grant was awarded, which pushed A far beyond its own focus and areas of expertise – not to mention comfort zone.
  • Then there was the issue of “capacity building.” Rather than this being an overall interest in the long-term well-being of A, this was really capacity building so that A could complete B’s very complicated reporting forms.
  • The funding itself didn’t arrive when it was expected so A was left with staff hired and ready to work but with no money to pay them, a very stressful situation for an organization with no reserves to tide them over. (Something for which the professed sympathy from B’s staff – who were meanwhile receiving their salaries as usual – fell a bit flat with A).
  • A faced enormous constraints in implementing the programme because every activity and outcome had needed to be determined well in advance. This left very little wiggle room for A to be able to take its usual responsive and flexible approach, essential in the complex and unpredictable environment in which it was operating.

The list goes on. But perhaps the most important point here is that B had no interest in what A brought to the table in terms of its previous work – the level of trust, the efforts to which it was going to start a conversation about local resources and local agency, etc. In short, B was not interested in A’s strengths as a community philanthropy organization. All it saw was a “project implementer” and, in taking such a short-sighted view, it pushed A into an impossible situation which left it highly vulnerable – both in terms of basic cash flow but also in terms of its reputation with the local community.


2. The half-view: Supporting certain aspects of community philanthropy

If you were to ask a donor such as DFID (The Department for International Development of the UK Government) whether they support community philanthropy, the answer would most likely be a “No.” However, if you were to ask DFID if they had ever been involved in establishing a foundation then the answer might be a “Yes.” And if you were to ask them if they had ever been involved in supporting the creation of a YouthBank – something of a signature piece of the global community philanthropy field then, you might also be surprised to hear another resounding “Yes.” That is currently the case in Mozambique, where DFID funding has supported the MICAIA Foundation to establish the first youth-led grassroots grantmaking programme in the Chimoio District. Also, part of MICAIA’s plans from the start has been the idea of establishing a long-term community fund for youth development which can draw on local as well as external resources. The feasibility study for this has also been part of the project that DFID is supporting.

MICAIA’S YouthBank participants

Pulling together these pieces, it sounds as though DFID is in fact supporting community philanthropy: perhaps it is just a matter of different organizations using different language and terminology. Almost, but not quite. It is indeed a positive thing that MICAIA’s complex and ambitious work in Mozambique, targeting young people who have often felt excluded from their own development, is being supported by DFID. But, as anyone who has ever set up a community grantmaking programme of the kind that targets small amounts of money to groups that have never encountered anything of the kind before, this is often labour-intensive, unpredictable work. It takes time to build trust and to create the conditions for local groups to be ready to receive and deploy resources in the most effective way and a “cushion” of flexible funding can be a godsend.

Of course, bilateral donors can’t usually behave like private foundations: they don’t have the same degree of flexibility and can face multiple internal constraints in terms of accountability, programme and funding structures. Looking forward, then perhaps the key is leverage, with more funding partnerships between different kinds of donors where each can play to their relative strengths. But for that to happen there needs to be much more conversation and exchange about how different funding organizations see the world and their role (and its limits) in bringing about change. Let’s hope our meeting in May can be one place to advance this conversation.


3. Seeing the full picture: Proactively supporting community philanthropy

Finally, there are the instances where bilateral donors have been able to embrace what might be seen to be a broader community philanthropy development agenda (even if that is not the particular terminology that is applied). Last week, I joined a roundtable discussion on community philanthropy in Ho Chi Minh City, hosted by the LIN Center for Community Development. The GFCF has partnered with LIN over a number of years, providing small grants aimed at stimulating local giving (matching funding), for research, peer exchange visits and overall institutional development. In turn, LIN has been an important and generous source of learning and sharing for other community philanthropy organizations. At the meeting was a representative of Irish Aid. And guess what? Irish Aid has also been providing small grants (including matching funding), as well as opportunities to learn and share more broadly within the region (in fact, a group from Laos was just coming to the end of a week’s study tour, funded by Irish Aid). Like the GFCF, it has also regarded strengthening LIN as a key priority, above and beyond its ability just to deliver programmes.

March 2015 Roundtable at LIN Center, Vietnam

So it’s not all bad news, but there is definitely something that needs to be done about better communication between different kinds of donors, a more intentional “laying out of wares” when it comes to what each can offer, and a more rigorous deconstruction of language so that where there are synergies, they can be arrived at more easily. Platforms such as the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, which brings together a set of different kinds of donors (including, interestingly enough, USAID), offers an excellent starting point for this kind of thoughtful interaction.

I wanted to share a final thought that came out of one of the conversations that resulted in this blog. We were discussing the aid industry’s preoccupation with the “end user”, to the extent that virtually everything between the cheque leaving their account and the end user is just a link in a production chain, a cost that needs to be accounted for. If community philanthropy organizations can be repositories and stewards of social and financial capital, of trust across and between communities, models of good governance and horizontal accountability, then how about rethinking a category of “end user” which includes such institutions as a good in themselves – not a conduit or a mechanism but something that local people care about, own, give to and turn to in times of need?


Jenny Hodgson

GFCF Executive Director 

“If you want to get far, travel together”: Community philanthropy tackles environmental issues in Mexico

How can philanthropic support for grassroots social and environmental action be intensified and improved across Mexico? This was the big question on the minds of the nearly forty participants, representing twenty-five different community and private foundations, who assembled in Mexico City in December 2014. The primary outcome of the two-day meeting was an agreement to work together on a common agenda moving forward, which will be coordinated by a committee of philanthropic organizations and which will welcome the participation of other interested organizations and networks. Specifically, looking ahead, those present agreed to cooperate around: exchanging information, developing the field, promoting grassroots philanthropy, and targeted research and action. The GFCF spoke with Artemisa Castro Félix of the Fondo Acción Solidaria, A. C. and Luis Ruíz of the Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca to find out more.

GFCF: You have identified grassroots groups as being essential if real, sustainable development is to happen in Mexico, but one challenge identified is that there is a dearth of information on Mexican grassroots philanthropy. How do you therefore begin to make the case for this set of organizations as important social change agents, largely in the absence of quantitative proof of their effectiveness?

We need to understand what grassroots groups do and can do. Quantitative proof of their effectiveness is still so difficult to come by because this is unclear. While groups can do a lot, they also learn, grow, change, educate as they move along and this impact can get buried or may be impossible to see. The first thing we need to do is to carefully collect information about what they are doing and where the successes are, and then to use this information to begin to explore the quantitative aspects of the work.

For us, the key question is: “Do we know what we are measuring – what changes do communities need to experience, in order to be more sustainable?” Most of the information that we can collect is qualitative, but it doesn´t necessarily mean that is not useful. We have made an impact evaluation of our work with an external firm, and the results show that grassroots philanthropy does contribute to triggering social change, and that communities and grassroots are real social change agents within their communities and regions. Grassroots funding is a powerful force for change, especially when victories at the local level “trickle up” to join and to build larger movements. The positive effects of empowered communities cannot be understated. Communities with strong social fabric are resilient, creative, and equipped to help their neighbors make gains toward sustainability. Empowered communities also demand accountability and the better use of resources from their government.


GFCF: What do local philanthropic traditions or systems of self-help look like at the community level in Mexico? Do they provide a basis from which to build?

Our sense is that local philanthropic traditions are very informal, but that neighbours and family do certainly address issues collectively. We come together around crisis but, importantly, we also tend to be there for each other on a daily basis. This does not include much money – people tend to equate giving money with the Catholic Church – but, on the other hand, includes food, moral support, transportation, etc. Addressing problems as communities is very normal: we tend to eat and spend time together, and this is a strong foundation on which to strengthen our philanthropic traditions. On the other hand, economic turbulence, violence and insecurity have been very hard on communities.


GFCF: In general, is the environment a topic which is on the radar of average citizens, or are Mexican civil society organizations (including community foundations and grassroots groups) having to push this agenda?

“The environment” is generally seen as low on the list of priorities we are seeking to solve in Mexico as a society. Our sector has been very successful in raising awareness, however, because we see the environment as central to all issues. Civil society organizations have done a lot of work already related to natural resource conservation. Lately, the environment has become more integrated into the respective agendas of the government, schools, corporations, etc. This does not, however, mean that the intentions and priorities of all these different actors are clear.

After our meeting last December with a group of community and corporate foundations, we can see that a lot of them talk about the need for sustainability, but only a few of them really know how to approach the issue. We must recognize that this is a huge challenge. Our next step is to share among this group all of the information, tools, strategies, etc. that help us to promote environmental conservation among the communities we work with.

GFCF: Could you tell us a bit more about how Mexican community foundations plan to build philanthropy around social/environmental issues, rather than just channelling resources to social/environmental issues?

We emerged from the meeting with a common agenda that can strengthen our individual institutions to address these challenges. Developing such a concrete, shared agenda, was a new experience for us, and it was a wonderful discussion! We may not all think exactly the same but there are some strong agreements moving forward:  building a socio-environmental field that currently doesn’t exist; collecting data and information on current activities; improving the fiscal environment in which most of these organizations work; and, increasing the support available to grassroots organizations. We need to build that agenda together with communities as well as at the grassroots, in order to build long-term partnerships in which the main outcome would be the construction of a solid social capital – allowing for future action and for communities to take care of their own natural resources.



GFCF: The GFCF has often looked at the notion of building trust and of the role of community foundations in trying to build it within and across communities. Does this resonate, particularly in relation to your experience working with grassroots groups?

Yes, absolutely! It is the number one thing that we have to build from. Marginalized people and communities generally don’t receive or benefit from trust in their dealings with other actors – that’s what makes us different.

GFCF: Community foundations in Mexico have a strong tradition of working together, exchanging knowledge, etc. Why was this particular issue identified as one which would benefit from coordinated action?

As organized civil society, we have a history of working together but we are really just beginning to think through how to strengthen the community philanthropy field collectively. We believe that just as we promote our own work, cooperation brings with it a higher possibility of success for everyone. There is a saying: “If you want to get somewhere fast, travel alone, but if you want to get far, travel together.” Building confidence and trust among the sector is therefore very important; we have to learn to work together to achieve long-term success, for the good of everyone and for the conservation of our resources.


Nominate for the Global Prize for Transformative Social Justice Leadership

The Global Prize for Transformative Social Justice Leadership, coordinated by Kalamazoo College, awards $25,000 to an innovative and collaborative social justice leadership project. The competition seeks to honour and uplift grassroots work that challenges structural inequality and centres the voices of those most impacted by an injustice.

Up to ten finalists receive an all-expense paid trip to Kalamazoo College to present their projects on campus, and a panel of community-wide and national jurors determines the semi-finalists and winner, respectively. The Global Prize ceremony is a dynamic weekend where the finalists share best practices with each other and the entire College community, who learn about these cutting-edge projects, interact personally with the finalists, and ultimately find inspiration for their own social justice-related pursuits.

Entries must be in the form of eight to ten-minute videos which must describe the social injustice that will be addressed, show how the project will take a fresh approach in addressing it, and demonstrate transformational thinking and commitments in its leadership structure. For more information, FAQs, and how to submit videos to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, please click here.

International development: A view from (near) the frontline

Written by Ambika Satkunanathan, Chair of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust in Sri Lanka, this piece originally appeared on the European Foundation Centre website as part of its In Dialogue series. 

Reflecting on the role and impact of international development invariably requires grappling with a number of somewhat thorny questions; some old, some new. The question I consider here relates to equality and power disparity. In particular, whether power disparity exists between the funder and grantee, and if so how this inequality can be tackled. Power disparity between the funder and funded, and agency and community does exist, and perhaps may always exist. Is it possible to completely eradicate it, or can something be done to reduce it and build donor-grantee relationships that are partnerships in more than name only?

The intensity of the power disparity between funder and funded, and agency and community, does not necessarily depend on whether the party providing the financial resources is an international or local donor. Even Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT), an indigenous public foundation that supports community-based organisations (CBOs) and works towards furthering social justice, has experienced this power disparity, in relation to both our partners/grantees and our funders. At times, the disparity can be more intense if the party providing the resources is local rather than international. Local foundations are often viewed as part of the community and are hence expected to be more understanding and flexible. This requires them to be constantly conscious of not only the impact of their actions, but also how their actions are perceived. At the same time, local foundations’ abilities to build strong relationships of trust enables them to understand the context better and garner the support of local communities, particularly in restrictive and complex environments. In countries where local giving in general, and giving to social justice and peace-building initiatives in particular, is non-existent or is at a nascent stage, or where ‘giving’ consists mainly of charitable initiatives, such as distributing bicycles and water pumps, or rebuilding places of religious worship, it is international development that has been the main source of funding for work on human rights and social justice.

In the past few years, Sri Lanka, which was designated a middle-income country in 2010, has witnessed the withdrawal of many ‘traditional’ donors, i.e. official government donors such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). This has meant that organisations working on social justice and human rights in particular are facing immense challenges when it comes to continuing their work. Although corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a concept appears to be gaining ground, corporate foundations are reluctant to support initiatives that are viewed as controversial, which in many contexts includes human rights work or anything that is perceived as a challenge to the status quo. Furthermore, CSR initiatives sometimes compete with local organisations for limited resources. For instance, there was an occasion where we found we were competing with a corporate foundation for funding from an international private foundation.

As in other South Asian countries, we find in Sri Lanka that the diaspora is increasingly showing an interest in investing in civil society initiatives. However, they too err on the side of caution and show a reluctance to fund social justice and human rights work with a focus on long-term change.

While traditional state-funded donors have taken a step back, new international private foundations are stepping in and stepping up their involvement. Although this is still at a nascent stage, particularly since many foundations are yet to expand their remit to support organisations outside their geographical area of origin, the interest of these entities and their willingness to engage with organisations in the global South, is a positive development.

International development is being re-shaped by global economic changes, the shifting priorities of governments and new and emerging philanthropic foundations that show an interest in supporting CBOs and NGOs. However, funding for work on social justice, human rights and peace-building continues to be scarce. Although government donor agencies have been criticised for using foreign aid as a means of furthering their foreign policy agendas – that can potentially result in donor-driven programmes – their importance as a source of funding for many groups working on the aforementioned issues cannot be denied.

Amidst the widespread phasing out of traditional government donors, rising anti-west sentiments in the global South, and the imposition of increasingly restrictive policies by states, which curtail the activities of programmes challenging the status quo, we await the potential impact that new private foundations could have on international development with growing interest.

Community philanthropy during a “hybrid war”

Ukraine has been experiencing what has been dubbed by many commentators as a “hybrid war”, but it is no less real for those people that have been bereaved, injured or displaced as a result of the very real violence that has been taking place in its eastern regions. Alongside those who died, over 1.5 million people have fled their homes, and that is considered an under-estimation of the true numbers. Some 60% of registered IDPs (Internally Displaced People) are elderly and almost 13% are children. The pressures on the host communities are considerable, as reflected in the discussion during the seventh international conference of Ukrainian Philanthropists’ Forum, held in Kyiv in February.

Avila addressing the Ukrainian Philanthropists’ ForumRepresentatives of some 20 Ukrainian community foundations also spoke about the needs of IDPs, and how local communities are in danger of seeing the displaced people as a burden, when they met together the day after the conference. They were keen to exchange views about the possible role of community philanthropy in a society under pressure. Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, ISAR Ednannia, has been working with community foundations from across Ukraine to support their growth and development. Oksana Ruda explained that there are now 23 members of the network that has been established, with a great variety of size and programme experience. Oksana accompanied representatives of the Irpin Community Foundation and the Community Fund of Dolyna on a learning visit to Slovakia last year.


Growing Community Foundations

The modern office block where we met with the community foundations was in downtown Kyiv and seemed far removed from the war. Not so, I was told, there was at least one participant that had himself been displaced from Donetsk, and many others that were working in communities affected by the consequences of the conflict. The community foundations echoed the view expressed by Anna Gulevska-Chernysh, CEO of the Ukrainian Philanthropists’ Forum, that the current crisis has unleashed a whole new level of volunteer activism. The challenge is to engage both organized and informal activism in longer-term productive and progressive strategic initiatives. Recent research shows that volunteer activism has grown from 9% to 23% of the population, particularly amongst the 16-35 year old age group.

The Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) agrees that Ukrainian civil society is alive and flourishing. Seeing this increased activism as “a clear opportunity”, it calls for enhanced capacity in community relations and conflict resolution skills. A new USAID programme on Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation seems designed to respond to this need. Oksana pointed out that community philanthropy was increasingly been seen as a sensible sustainability strategy by NGOs and existing charitable foundations. When ISAR Ednannia put out its first call for organizations interested in community philanthropy, it received 87 applications and accepted 12. A second call resulted in 11 successful applicants out of a field of 80. Shifting thinking from single organizational fund raising to community based fund development around local priorities is always challenging, but a number of the community foundations are already experienced in grantmaking. The power of small grants to raise the confidence and service provision by community-based organisations was not only recognized, but experienced in practice.

Seven hours drive away in the Black Sea city of Odessa, the Moloda Gromada Charity Foundation, is operating from a basement premises that is decorated with children’s art work. It is a Saturday morning and a children’s karate class is in full swing in the adjacent hall. Two interns from the local college are getting to grips with the work of the foundation. Board members explain that the emphasis on the welfare and developmental potential of children and young people comes from many years of work in this area. Odessa has a very successful Youth Civic Council which is elected every two years to provide a youth perspective on council policies and programmes. Work is undertaken with children through local schools through the foundation, and plans are well advanced to develop YouthBank in the Odessa region. Although not directly on the front line, the political tension that wracks Ukraine is also apparent in Odessa, and yet life goes on in the bright, brittle sunshine of a late February morning.


“More careful than The Pope and Mother Teresa” combined…

This was the warning flagged up by a panel speaker during the concluding session of the Ukrainian Philanthropists’ Forum conference; he was addressing civil society activists and donors, calling on the latter to support those organizations that were best placed to help others. However, the choice of what issues to prioritize, and who to help, all carry political connotations in a society facing divisive violent conflict. Natalia Karbowska, Chairperson of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund spoke not only of the rapid response grants provided by the Fund, but also noted how issues such as HIV/AIDS, breast cancer screening and domestic violence against women are in danger of being starved of funds given the immediate pressure of conflict related needs. Natalia recognizes the importance of looking to the future in order to ensure that essential reforms are implemented and that women feature in decision-making. She would like to see the formation of a Think Tank to keep a focus on the nature of future society and to encourage broader discussion and awareness.

Equally, however, she is acutely conscious of the need for community philanthropy to make local links in order to ensure an inclusive conversation. As Vaclau Havel once said “Real democracy begins not with elections but with conversations”; these crucial conversations are clearly taking place within Ukrainian community philanthropy organisations. People may well be careful about what they say, but that is understandable, and even welcome, in a still fluid situation where it is more important to pose questions rather than jump in with too many ready-made answers.

Avila Kilmurray

GFCF Director, Policy & Strategy

Going swimmingly: Centennial year resources on community foundations

This article, written by Daria Teutonico of the Council on Foundations and the GFCF’s Wendy Richardson, originally appeared on the Alliance magazine website.

1914 was a big year for big ideas. In Australia, swimming enthusiasts developed a new kind of suit – the Speedo – and sold it on the market for the first time. In the US, Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday. Further south, in August of that year, the Panama Canal was officially opened linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Meanwhile in Ohio there was another big idea brewing, and the world’s first community foundation was born.

Cleveland-based banker and lawyer Frederick Goff had an ambitious vision to create an outfit that would pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a single, permanent endowment for the betterment of the city: the result was the first community foundation. A model that would eventually become known for being supportive like a Speedo, touching like Mother’s Day, and a connector of people and things, just like the Panama Canal.

One century on, one can only guess as to how proud Goff would be, should he be able to realize how far and wide his simple idea has spread, evolved and flourished. Indeed, 2014 was a year dedicated to celebrating a century of community foundation accomplishments – not only of the first, the Cleveland Foundation, but of a diverse family of organizations from around the world. The centennial offered a unique opportunity to reflect on the proud history of the growing sector, broaden public understanding, and highlight the unique roles these organizations play in improving communities; it also offered time and space for practitioners from around the world to think about how best to prepare for the next century.

As a result, the centennial year produced a wealth of resources about community foundations. A few focus on the history of the field, but the vast majority contain information, data, tools, case studies and analysis that can assist community foundation professionals in their current work and in their planning. As there is no one repository for these resources, this article provides a brief overview of what is available, where they can be found, and what information they provide.


1914 to now: celebrating a century of accomplishments

Many of the resources produced over the past year look at what has been achieved, and the lessons that can be taken, from this century of dynamic activity. As part of the centennial, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation – one of the most stalwart and long-term supporters of the field globally, providing support for almost all the resources and events mentioned in this article – launched a new microsite, Community Foundations – The Mott Foundation Experience which shares what the foundation has learned in its more than 35 years of supporting community philanthropy organizations. The site also details the growth of the sector, provides case studies from around the world, and offers a section on key lessons for working in the field.

Also a dedicated supporter of the community foundation field, the Council on Foundations organized several special initiatives over 2014, in addition to hosting the centennial conference in Cleveland in October, in order to reflect and to celebrate the sector’s milestone. The #CF100 Storytelling Project collected stories from the field which demonstrate how individual organizations are addressing critical local and regional issues, providing examples of innovative programmes and projects that may shape communities for years to come. Also seeking out great stories, the #CF100 Video Contest was run in partnership with the Knight Foundation and the Poynter Institute. Individual organizations from around the world created and submitted 100-second videos highlighting their roles in shaping their communities, and finalists were celebrated at the centennial conference in Cleveland.

In line with its mission to equip the community foundation field with tools to help advance the practice of community leadership, CFLeads released a series of publications focusing on resident engagement and best practice in this area. These were largely based on lessons gathered from their network over many years, and included: Community Foundations and Resident Engagement: Stories from the Field, offering specific examples of resident engagement projects, including how community foundations have succeeded in building understanding and support among staff, board members and donors; Powerful Partners: Lessons from Community Foundations about Resident Engagement, featuring an analysis of ten broad lessons from the CFLeads network to help inform about best practices in resident engagement; and, produced in partnership with the Aspen Institute, Resident Engagement Guidebook: Exploring Readiness and Options, which is a new tool meant to assist community foundations in assessing their readiness to deepen their resident engagement practices.

Finally, in terms of looking back and situating the sector, with the support of the Lily Family School of Philanthropy, Eleanor Sacks published the essay The Growing Importance of Community Foundations, which provides a detailed history of the origins of community foundations in the US. The research for the essay will form the basis for a forthcoming book by Sacks entitled Community Foundations in the United States: Their Origins, Growth and Development from 1914 to the Present.


2014: one century on, where are we now?

Beyond celebrating past accomplishments, several resources were produced over 2014 which provide a useful state-of-play on the global sector. An exciting development was undoubtedly the launch of the new Community Foundation Atlas, which for the first time provides detailed information about the identities, locations, assets, roles and effectiveness of the more than 1,800 community philanthropy organizations working globally. The Atlas, which was delivered in the form of an interactive website rich with qualitative and quantitative information, is the result of a two-year research effort coordinated by the Cleveland Foundation, Foundation Center, Global Fund for Community Foundations and Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support (WINGS). The Atlas was created with an eye to increasing the visibility of the sector, but also with the thinking that if the world’s place-based philanthropies were better informed about the existence of counterparts in other countries and made aware of the similarities of their concerns and the distinctiveness of their approaches to community service and improvement, they could more easily learn from and support one another.

To further contribute to the centennial, in 2014 WINGS released Infrastructure in Focus: A Special Look at Organizations Serving Community Philanthropy, which provides an overview of community philanthropy infrastructure organizations, including case studies of where community philanthropy support has made a significant difference to the field. The infrastructure organizations surveyed represent more than 1,000 community foundations worldwide, and the publication provides a useful snapshot of the current situation of support bodies internationally.


2114: onwards and upwards!

With an eye to making the next 100 years even more remarkable, a number of resources produced in the centennial year looked to the future, and focused on improving interventions, operations and strategic decision making. The Monitor Institute released its What’s Next for Community Philanthropy Toolkit, which aims to assist community philanthropy organizations to think creatively about their own business models, considering how they may need to change to remain relevant. The toolkit includes specific tools and guides to use with board and staff to find new and effective ways of working. Ten overarching roles that community foundations can play in their communities are also suggested as a starting point for discussions.

Editors Terry Mazany and David Perry published a new book, Here for Good: Community Foundations and the Challenges of the 21st Century, which is a compilation of essays by leaders in the community foundation field about insights and best practices. Chapters focus on a variety of issues, including: innovation, leadership, resident engagement, community development, and the community foundation business model, among others.

Interestingly, though not necessarily organized as part of the centennial celebrations, 2014 saw two different initiatives focused solely on youth community philanthropy – perhaps an indication that moving forward this will be a key characteristic of community foundation work? In June 2014, the Council on Foundations and the Council of Michigan Foundations organized a summit on youth community philanthropy, assembling practitioners from around the globe. A subsequent report documents major themes from the summit, including inspiring approaches, trending topics and the networks needed to amplify youth community philanthropy in the future.

Additionally, the Foundation Center, in partnership with Youth Philanthropy Connect, a programme of the Frieda C Fox Family Foundation, released a report along the same lines, Scanning the Landscape of Youth Philanthropy: Observations and Recommendations for Strengthening a Growing Field, which studies the scope of existing knowledge about youth grantmaking programmes and offers recommendations for community foundations wishing to expand their youth philanthropy work in future.


Just like a Speedo

While it’s not really expected that any one individual will delve into each and every one of these reports, websites and books in-depth (though it would certainly be commendable if they did!), it seemed important to put together this repository of tools as this is more than just a list of resources that may help to connect a field and improve future interventions. Rather, collectively, these resources signal a coming of age, illustrating that this is a maturing field looking to broaden its horizons. Individual organizations are moving beyond the confines of their own community and even country and are truly taking note of what colleagues around the world are doing. Others are taking note too: 2014 also saw work kicking off around the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, a multi-donor collaborative engaged in joint learning activities aimed at advancing the practice of community philanthropy and influencing international development actors to better understand, support and promote community philanthropy’s role in achieving more lasting development outcomes.

How will community foundations cope with the next 100 years? Perhaps, just like a Speedo, the key will be in staying flexible: adapting to rapidly changing conditions, being supportive but not suffocating, and covering as much ground as possible with what can often be meagre resources. With helpful tools abounding to aid in this work moving forward, one can only hope that it will all go swimmingly!

Upcoming webinar on diaspora philanthropy

Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmakers Support (WINGS) and Bolder Giving are pleased to announce this upcoming webinar exploring diaspora philanthropy. This has grown significantly, stemming from the global mobility of talent and increasing wealth within diaspora communities. At the same time, philanthropic groups in developing countries are also increasing their efforts to maintain ties with, and fundraise from, their diasporas.

Whether you are an individual donor who is thinking about how you can give to your home country, an NGO leader within a diaspora community, or are working to build a culture of giving within your country or diaspora, join this webinar to explore these issues in more depth.


Date and time:

Thursday 2nd April, 11am EST


Jenny Hodgson, GFCF

Burcu Mirza, Turkish Philanthropy Funds