Sri Lanka to South Africa: Reflections on my community philanthropy study visit

I joined the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT) in February 2015 as I was keen to work with grassroots initiatives in Sri Lanka. After working with the Trust for four months, I was offered this spectacular opportunity to meet with organizations and activists in South Africa that do similar types of work as NTT. The visit was organized by the GFCF and though I am not new to the subject of community development, community philanthropy is a new area for me. This is a subject that did not cross my path in my academic or career experience before. I equipped myself for this study visit with background reading about South Africa and some studies/research done on the subject of community philanthropy. Despite this groundwork, it was a surprising experience to see how “real” community philanthropy can be!

I was able to understand more about community philanthropy with every conversation I had. I heard many powerful stories of community philanthropy initiatives from the GFCF and learned about its support for such initiatives. In fact it surprised me when I understood how broad community philanthropy can be and how practical it is when I met with the Community Development Foundation Western Cape. They have creatively used seed funding from the GFCF to inspire community contributions for a small-scale environmental project, thus community “giving” is extensively defined. Witnessing and understanding the well-established systems in place for community philanthropy initiatives such as YouthBank and other community projects at the West Coast Community Foundation was equally impressive and inspiring. Meetings with other individuals broadened my definition of community philanthropy, as I heard about relevant academic research, and heard numerous simple and practical examples of the field in action.  Gayathri Gamage (C) with Beulah Fredericks of CDF Western Cape (L)

Inspired to be an advocator for community philanthropy, I plan (in fact have already started) to prepare the findings of this study visit as a paper, along with a step-by-step practical plan, that can be used by NTT and other grassroots initiatives in Sri Lanka, looking to add a community philanthropy lens to their work. This will not only help to contextualize my learning from this study visit, but will also allow us to introduce a new, strategic approach to development that empowers communities to make decisions about their own future. The importance of such a community-driven approach will also be examined through building an evidence-base around the work, which will be achieved through surveying our partners on the ground. I plan to continue updating this paper like a journal, adding the findings and good (replicable) practices of community philanthropy as I grow in this area of work. I found the materials developed by GFCF for community philanthropic organizations to be very helpful and believe they can be contextualized for replication in preparing the above plan.

I think that opportunities like this study visit broaden horizons and make us reflect. It helps one to understand the bigger picture, and to put into perspective what they do in their small communities / or in their countries. Engaging in discussions with colleagues doing similar types of work has helped me gain more confidence in my own work, and how I can best contribute to society. Hearing success and failure stories has especially motivated me to look for more innovative approaches to implement in my country. We should all take these opportunities to learn, share and reflect on our work: it is like this, I believe, that the case will really be made for community philanthropy, and the sector will continue to grow.

By: Gayathri Gamage, Programme Officer, Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust

Mott Foundation launches new community foundation microsite, sharing lessons and insights from 35 years of funding

To mark the centennial celebrations of the first community foundation established in the US, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has launched a new microsite,, to share what they have learned over their more than 35 years supporting the field. The site offers key insights and highlights the foundation’s legacy of partnering with community foundations.

The Mott Foundation has bene a stalwart supporter of the field since the 1970’s, focusing its work around providing direct support to individual institutions, training global leaders, and developing a global network. Building local philanthropy has been a central part of the foundation’s strategy since its founding and the community foundation form continues to spread around the world as it helps ordinary citizens exercise their charitable impulse and, as Mott Foundation President and CEO William S. White notes in the site’s introductory video, the field keeps growing simply because “it makes so much sense.”

Visit the new Mott Foundation microsite

A Snapshot of the Global Community Philanthropy Field: new GFCF report brings together data from its grantmaking and from the Community Foundation Atlas to highlight how community foundations are building assets, capacities, trust

Together, assets, capacities and trust form the backbone of strong, effective community philanthropy organizations and it is these three features that distinguish them from other parts of civil society. So says a new report launched recently by the GFCF. The report draws on data to the Community Foundation Atlas (unveiled in Cleveland at the Council on Foundations Fall Community Foundation Conference in October) from 110 community foundations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as insights accrued from the GFCF’s own grantmaking to community philanthropy organizations in over 50 countries.

In three separate sections, the report shows how community foundations are building Assets, Capacities and Trust in their communities and what that looks like in a variety of different contexts, short case studies from Russia, China, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Kenya among others. This framework emerged out of a series of consultations conducted by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation, in conjunction with the GFCF, as part of the planning process for the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, as well as from indicators used by the GFCF in its grantmaking.

The report provides a first foray into the substantial data set accumulated through the Atlas project and the GFCF looks forward to engaging in additional studies – whether on specific geographic regions or on particular issues – drawing from the Atlas and other data sources.

Read the report

Celebrating 20 years of community foundations in the Visegrad Region

25 years ago last month the Berlin Wall fell, sparking a wave of civil society development across Central and Eastern Europe. Within this, there are the over 30 community foundations of the Visegrad Region (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) who celebrated “20 Years of Community Foundations in V4 Countries” with a conference in Bratislava in September 2014 organized by the national associations of community foundations, as well as with the launch of new material outlining their achievements.

Each of these organizations has different roots: sometimes it was EU money that opened new possibilities, in other instances it was thanks to international foundations that were supporting the building of civil society, while in other contexts it was as a result of national programmes building local organizations. The first, the Healthy City Community Foundation, was established in 1994 in Banska Bytrica, Slovakia and is thriving today. The Visegrad community foundations differ from each other with regards to national legal regulations, operating models, range of activities, resources and potential. But each had the benefit of being established by charismatic local leaders and activists that wanted to make a difference in their communities, and it is this motivation that still drives these organizations.

They prioritize learning and growing, and these community foundations cooperate and learn one from another through robust regional cooperation. A fundraising idea from the Southern Czech Republic is implemented in Northern Poland, practitioners from the Czech Republic present their projects to Slovak community foundations, volunteers from Poland visit volunteers in Slovakia, a new Hungarian organization uses the knowledge and expertise of Czech and Slovak community foundations, etc.

In their view, these organizations play a bridging function, offering a neutral space connecting communities and donors. While some critics may ascertain that civil society in Central and Eastern Europe is still relatively weak and immature, the Visegrad Foundations merely need point to some of the impressive statistics they have backing up their work: 40,000 grants and scholarships directed to local projects; USD $53 million raised in communities where trust is not a standard currency; USD $8.5 million contributed towards endowment building to ensure the long-term sustainability of these organizations, etc.

On the occasion of their 20th anniversary, Aneta Kapel of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland talked with the GFCF about this dynamic network of organizations.

GFCF:  What do you think have been the major accomplishments of community foundations in the Visegrad Region over the last twenty years?

Aneta Kapel: We think that the major accomplishment has been returning to the tradition of community philanthropy, which was disrupted during communism. Community philanthropy has once again become a significant issue, and we think this is also because of community foundations’ enormous contribution to the building up of civil society in the region: building social capital on the local level, meaning trust and the feeling of responsibility for the community, has been their most significant contribution. Community foundations’ work is so different from the rest of civil society because of the presence of donor advised funds, as well as the huge amounts of volunteers that are attracted to the work – this is also what makes us distinctive.

As part of our network, we have been encouraging individual community foundations to more clearly communicate their own accomplishments, and they have developed short films in this regard which can be viewed online.

GFCF: Could you tell us a bit more about how these organizations are engaging with communities and responding to identified needs?  

AK: Grant and scholarship programmes are the most common activities of Visegrad community foundations. Under the V4 Program, we have financed plenty of projects, identifying local needs using many different tools. The programme has also allowed us to share best practice with regards to balancing donor interests with the needs of the community. The needs across the region seem to vary greatly: from education scholarships for students and other children’s’ projects, to adapting public spaces and artistic projects, to more sophisticated work around advocacy, legal advising and supporting the development of NGOs.

What we find very interesting, and a common characteristic of those in our network, is that fact that these organizations seem to put more emphasis on issues that are not typically part of wider social debates, but which may still be extremely important to the local community. One such example is work being done around local traditions and history. The other characteristic that ties these organizations together is their engagement with youth, particularly through youth grant programs.

GFCF: How important has regional contact and peer learning been in the development and success of the community foundations in the Visegrad Region?  

AK: Since establishing our programme in 2007 we have organized several study trips among community foundations in the region, and we strongly believe that the issue of peer learning is getting more and more important every year. Through links we have already made, these developing organizations have been able to share best practice, and exchange experiences frankly. Concretely, there have also been several instance in which organizations have made successful joint bids for funds from external sources (for example joint events for volunteers from the Nitra Community Foundation in Slovakia and the Generations Foundation in Poland, or the joint Grundtvig project developed by the Snow Mountain Community Foundation in Poland and the Southmoravian Community Foundation in the Czech Republic). Some network participants have also developed cross-border cooperation or exchange in specific areas, such as a legacy/bequests giving campaign started in the Czech Republic which was later adapted by the Slovaks. This year of 20th anniversary celebrations has also initiated closer collaboration and discussion.

GFCF: Could you tell us more about the conference that was organized to commemorate this anniversary? Is there anything specific or interesting emerging from the event regarding a role for these organizations over the next twenty years?

AK: From the participant point of view, it was really important to experience the feeling of unity and “togetherness” of the Visegrad community foundations and I left feeling very confident about future cooperation between these organizations. We are currently trying to measure the influence made by the community foundations in our region via a joint project co-financed by the International Visegrad Fund called “Change comes from the bottom up: Community foundations’ role in 25 years of building civil society.” The aim of the project is also to plan a way forward for community foundations in the years to come, based on past learnings.

Working for civil society sustainability in Kenya

The Aga Khan Foundation, US, working in partnership with USAID, has announced an exciting new $6 million, four year programme, to support the long-term sustainability of key civil society organizations in Kenya. Named the Yetu Initiative – “yetu” meaning “ours” in Kiswahili – the aim of the programme is to encourage local ownership of civil society activities. This will involve a platform of support for community philanthropy which is best illustrated by the work of the Kenya Community Development Foundation.

Drawing on their joint partnership within the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, both the Aga Khan Foundation and USAID believe in the power of community philanthropy to mobilize assets, build organizational capacity and contribute to the mutual trust-building that is social capital in action. An emphasis will be placed on helping to connect key civil society organizations with the private sector throughout Kenya in order to reduce dependence on external funding sources. The Alliance is well placed to augment the impact of the initiative by sharing ideas and learning drawn from other parts of the world, alongside charting the lessons that this new initiative will highlight. Peer exchanges between community philanthropy practitioners have already proved their worth on numerous occasions given the common aspiration of local activists to make development outcomes “ours” – “yetu”!

Meet the West Zone Community University

Graciela Hopstein introduces the West Zone Community University with the enthusiasm of an activist that believes in the power of shared reflection. Created by the Instituto Rio, the first community foundation in Brazil, this may be one of the few examples where a local community foundation has established a university. This, however, is a university with a difference. The emphasis is not on physical infrastructure or elite education. The aim, instead, is to offer open and democratic public space for the production and sharing of knowledge. In the style of renowned Brazilian educator, Paulo Friere, community activists co-produce and exchange knowledge, while benefiting from the workshops, seminars, conferences, training sessions and ongoing discussions that take place under the umbrella of the community university. There is also a focus on creating partnerships with a variety of public, private and civil society entities. What provides a twist to this initiative is the fact that the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro is marked by enormous social inequalities. The priority area for the community university is the growing favelas which shelter some of the poorest communities in Rio.

Instituto Rio is currently providing grant support, alongside the opportunities offered through the West Zone Community University, to a range of community-based projects. Luiz Vaz, long term cultural activist with the House of Love street project, outlined the positive role that drama can play in working with young people who might otherwise be attracted to gang culture. Not only have a number of these youngsters graduated into the professional theatre, but Luis believes in the power of creative self-reflection in the tradition of the famed Theatre of Resistance.  The medium may be giant puppets, but the message is of the streets. The power of culture to embed community identity was also emphasized by Adilson Almeida, who recently received an award in recognition of the work of his organisation, ACUCA.  Extensive voluntary effort is invested in protecting the dance, song and historical environment of what was once a slave community. Located in an area of natural beauty, Adilson is being supported by Instituto Rio to train young men and women as ecoguides in the local environmental project. Youth are also the focus in a cultural centre operated by an ex-gang member turned community activist, who now preaches the art of living in peace in what was a very violent area. Learning to be; to know; to do and to live became his mantra that he now shares with others.

For community activists from the West Zone there is general agreement that people feel safe working with the Instituto Rio – no mean achievement in an area where trust is a preciously guarded commodity. There is recognition that what Instituto Rio provides is much more than the small amounts of grant money available. As Selma explains the support from the West Zone Community University ‘Makes us see things we didn’t see before’. This is the mark of true sustainable development; although there are also grants for re-cycling projects and cooperative craft ventures.  As for the Instituto Rio itself, it wants to create a West Zone Community Fund endowment.  It believes that there is a real opportunity not just because of the forthcoming Olympic Games, but also because this zone of the ‘City of God’ (the film Cidade de Deus was based in these communities) has the will and tenacity to make its own future. Notwithstanding this sense of independence, partners are always welcome. After all, if Instituto Rio can create a university, why not a West Zone Community Fund?Graciela (left) and Avila Kilmurray (second from left) at the University

Latin America and the Caribbean: New report on philanthropy for social justice and peace

Read the report here

US peacebuilding theorist John Paul Lederach talks about achieving “critical yeast” in difficult circumstances, with this arguably being of greater importance than “critical mass.” If the recently circulated report on philanthropy for social justice and peace in Latin America and the Caribbean is to be believed that is exactly what exists: critical yeast. The 32 foundations located and working in the region that participated in this study are mainly public or community foundations. They display a depth of experience that ranges from a focus on women to an expertise in human rights and social activism. A shared concern is shown about the extent of inequalities, lamented by one participant as the “big gap between the haves and have nots”, across the continent. These are foundations that are themselves activist, participative and mission-driven in nature.

The Mobilization of Assets

The importance of mobilizing assets and resources for both grantmaking and organizational sustainability in order to achieve a critical mass of philanthropy is clearly recognized as essential. For most, however, talk of foundation endowments might be the ideal but is often seen as a utopian step too far. The pervasive influence of giving for charitable purposes through the Catholic Church continues to frame the general public understanding of philanthropy. The vogue for corporate social responsibility (CSR) has paralleled this more traditional giving through a proliferation of corporate foundations that promote “private social investment.” Neither of these philanthropic models are felt to address entrenched systemic and structural issues, although the work of community foundations in Mexico and Brazil to influence private sector and individual donors is noted. This work is described as being particularly important given the marked decline in both philanthropic and development aid resources from the Global North.

Efforts to design effective fund development strategies in order to mobilise resources that can support aspects of civil society that promote progressive social change in the region has resulted in some collaborative platforms and alliances. One such is Conmujeres, which involves the Women’s Funds working in Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia. However the challenge of fund development is still formidable.

“Part of a Process”

What is striking about many of the quotes from locally-based funders contained in the report is a certain sense of humility. There are no grandiose claims about being at the “cutting edge” of development (although many of the survey respondents are) or to assert strategic impact. Instead the emphasis is placed on collective impact between funders and their grantees, with the latter encouraged to be co-designers and protagonists of their own change. Working to ensure that individuals and groups have the power to have a say on issues that affect them is central to what funders for social justice are all about. This was explained by a women’s fund respondent: “We respect the decision of women and their organizations and empower them to define their priorities and use their resources accordingly.” This entails listening and responding to people rather than making them jump through hoops (however strategically crafted) by the foundations themselves.  Another foundation offered the view: “Our partners are a reflection of us: if there is a weakness in their political or external persona that affects us.” For this reason an emphasis is placed on building mutual trust and good communication between funders and their grantees, as well as encouraging peer learning amongst the grantees themselves.

Translating relationship building into effective organizational alliances is reported as being a harder ask. It often requires “paso a paso” (step by step), that can be particularly fraught when the local foundations themselves are struggling to achieve even medium-term sustainability.

“There is a Tremendous Need for Help”

The report, which was issued by the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, concludes with the warning that the relative scale of the community philanthropy institutions involved appears miniscule when measured against the issues that they are seeking to address.  There is the challenge of fund development but also the uneven spread of mission-driven funders across the region. Faced with the problem of diminishing external funding and a local philanthropic culture that tends to shy away from addressing social justice issues, foundations that are committed to social justice and peace have a major task in shifting the accustomed approaches. It is accepted by the study participants that there is an urgent need to hone their messages. As one foundation staff member argued: “Much of the time we are assessing what we do, but not necessarily communicating it, or creating narratives that would convey what we do.” This is an honest critique that may apply to other areas of the globe in addition to Latin American and the Caribbean. It is clear, however, that when the appropriate narrative is crafted – and work on this is ongoing – it will continue to assert the importance of activism and social participation. Community-based philanthropy for social justice and peace in Latin America and the Caribbean may well have its weaknesses, but equally it has the benefit of impressive programmatic experience and commitment that can usefully be shared with others.

For more information on the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, please visit their website at:

A global line-up of community philanthropy in Cleveland!

It is a hundred years since the first community foundation, the Cleveland Foundation was established, the vision of lawyer and social entrepeneur, Frederick Goff. It is very fitting, therefore, that Cleveland is the location for the Council on Foundations (COF) 2014 Fall Conference for Community Foundations, which kicks off with pre-conference events from 17th – 19th October and the main conference from 19th – 22nd October.

The conference will reflect on 100 years of community foundation development and it will also look ahead to the next 100. With most of the growth of the community foundation field now taking place outside North America and Western Europe the conference has a strong international theme to it, with participants coming from 25 countries.

Some of the international highlights will include:

  • A welcome reception for international participants and US community foundation leaders on Sunday 19th October at 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm, hosted by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, COF and GFCF;
  • The launch of the Community Foundation Atlas, the most comprehensive dataset and online directory community foundations worldwide, a project led by the Cleveland Foundation in collaboration with WINGS, the Foundation Center, CENTRIS and the GFCF with grant support from the Mott Foundation. The big launch will take place at the opening plenary on Monday 20th October.
  • A session reflecting on “Global Perspectives for Local Action” from 2pm – 3:15pm on Monday 20th October, including a presentation from Anderson Giovani da Silva of Icom in Brazil.
  • An invitation-only session for GFCF partners and supporters to reflect on the state of the global community philanthropy field, its strengths, its vulnerabilities and opportunities for growth. The meeting will take place on Monday 20th October from 3:15pm – 5:15pm in Room 14 of the Cleveland Convention Center. For further information, please contact Wendy Richardson
  • A whistle-stop tour of global community philanthropy! Set your alarm for the breakfast plenary on Wednesday 22nd October from 7:30am – 9:30am which will consist of short “Ignite-style” presentations from community philanthropy practitioners all around the world, which will highlight the dynamic growth of the global field in recent years. Speakers will include Anderson Giovani da Silva (Icom, Brazil), Beata Hirt (Healthy City Community Foundation, Slovakia) Ansis Berzins (Valmiera Community Foundation, Latvia), Ian Bird (Community Foundations of Canada), Janet Mawiyoo (Kenya Community Development Foundation) and Avila Kilmurray (GFCF and former director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland). Jenny Hodgson (GFCF) will moderate the plenary and there will be opportunities for the audience to pose questions and join in the discussion.
  • Immediately following the plenary on Wednesday, GFCF board member and President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Clotilde Dedecker, Chair of the Kilmani Project Foundation (Kenya), Irungu Houghton and Executive Director of Tewa – Nepal Women’s Fund will be in conversation in a breakout session: Assets, Capacities, Trust: Why Community Philanthropy Matters from Austin to Zagreb. Although the three organizations have evolved in very different contexts, they share much in terms of their aspirations and ways of working. Come and join the discussion, which will take place in Room 25C.

For information on conference programming, please visit the COF conference website

Call for expression of interest in commissioned research for GFCF

GFCF wishes to commission research studies in the following areas:

(i) Report on the status of community-based philanthropy in Latin America and the Caribbean

This study will compile a comprehensive list of grantmaking foundations (and philanthropic organisations with the active objective of being grant-makers) that are located, and are working to address needs at the community level, in the respective countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, the research will collect qualitative data through telephonic interviews with a sub-set of short listed foundations (to be agreed with GFCF) to gain an in-depth understanding of the context in which they work; the nature of their grantmaking and related programmes; the size and structure of their foundation; the nature of their donor base; and any strategic approaches or stories they would like to share with their peers to make the case for community philanthropy.

It is envisaged that the commissioned research will be available in draft form for review by 16th December 2014, to be available as a final report by 31st January 2015.

(ii) Report on the status of community-based philanthropy in Central Asia/Central South Asia

This study will compile a comprehensive list of grantmaking foundations (and philanthropic organisations with the active objective of being grant-makers) that are located, and are working to address needs at the community level, in the respective countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In addition, the research will collect qualitative data with a sub-set of short-listed foundations (to be agreed with GFCF) to gain an in-depth understanding of the context in which they work; the nature of their grant-making and related programmes; the size and structure of their foundation; the nature of their donor base; the main challenges they face; and any strategic approaches or stories they would like to share with their peers to make the case for community philanthropy.

It is envisaged that the commissioned research will be available in draft form for review by 13th February 2015, to be available as a final report by 13th March 2015.


Expressions of interest should be submitted to Avila Kilmurray, Director of Policy & Strategy ( by Friday 26th September 2014. Completed submissions should include the following:

  • Name(s) and contact details of researcher(s)
  • CV with reference to previous research studies completed, together with the name and contact details of two referees
  • Summary of experience relevant to the research topic
  • Languages spoken
  • Outline of proposed methodology
  • Timescale for the research study
  • Estimated number of days aligned to methodology and timescale
  • Summary of financial costs (set out against number of days and related expenses)

Katanga Community Foundation: Dreaming of a poverty-free Katanga!

Read this post in French 

In February 2014, plans to create a Katanga Community Foundation (KCF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) got underway. An initiative group, coordinated by NGO professional, Pierre Kahenga, engaged in a series of consultations and discussions aimed at exploring how to grow the idea of local philanthropy under the auspices of the new community foundation. The Katanga region is in the south of Congo and is known for its rich deposits of copper and cobalt.

Once a shared understanding of what a community foundation for Katanga might look like had emerged within the group, it was time to translate these ideas into action. It’s fair to say that we all had some reservations, even fears:  the fear of the enormity of the task; the fear of stepping off the “beaten path” of development and discovering new ways to work; the fear of writing a new page in history, of innovation. There were other things missing too: a greater sense of legitimacy perhaps or more resources… or knowing even where to start!

And so it was to help overcome these “birthing pains” that we looked to Kenya and the well-established Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) for both guidance and energy. In July 2014, eleven of the fourteen members of the FCK planning group traveled to Nairobi on a study visit. KCF has already benefited from good relations with its partners, the King Baudouin Foundation, GFCF and the Haiti Community Foundation initiative. KCDF can now also be added to the list.


Understanding the context

The global financial crisis that hit many of the world’s developed economies in 2008 forced a radical rethink about the potential role of local resources in supporting community development. This thinking is now also moving beyond the traditional sphere of development cooperation.

According to current statistics, the DRC’s economy will grow by 8.7% this year, thanks mainly to the development of the mining industry. However, although the impact of this growth is not yet evident in terms of poverty reduction among the majority of the population, it is enough to convince traditional development partners to shift their attention to other provinces in the country. At the same time, few companies are using their social responsibility programmes to really invest in supporting the socio-economic recovery of communities, preferring to establish funds or foundations or to run their own social development programmes directly. But the unbalanced distribution of development assistance to urban and mining areas is clearly felt by rural areas.

In the face of such inconsistencies, how can one contribute to the overall wellbeing of the greatest number of people? What could we learn from KCDF’s fifteen years of experience and expertise to help inspire and shape the Katangan project? And would KCDF be ready to accompany us on this journey. If so, how?

In Nairobi, Janet Mawiyoo, Tom Were, Francis Kamau and the rest of the KCDF team provided a warm welcome and an excellent programme for our visit, which was comprised of both meetings with KCDF and visits to some of KCDF’s partners, including St. Martin’s School, Haki Self Help Group, Grapevine Hope Centre, and Watoto Wema Centre. We were also invited to attend the Forum of KCDF’s “Fund Builders” which focused on the review of performance evaluation and investment strategies, as well as the launch of KCDF’s new strategic plan (“KCDF: 2014 to 2018”) and its “Community Day.”


What did we learn?

KCDF emerged as the result of the frustrations of its founders, who wanted to challenge the situation in Kenya, where despite numerous external interventions, the poor continued to be poor. International donors continued to design projects from their own countries, without a real understanding of local needs or of local expertise. KCDF has its roots in both the Kenyan national context as well as within the broader African cultural heritage. Its institutional architecture and form were shaped by its long-term vision and KCDF has invested in building up a strong and professional staff, which can continue to maintaining the trust of the general public.

KCDF is a truly public fund that operates in the service of the most disadvantaged. It has filled an institutional vacuum in Kenya by establishing two key roles for itself. Firstly, as primarily a grantmaker that mobilizes resources and targets them towards development projects. As such, KCDF doesn’t seek to be an operational organization but rather to position itself at the national level and to provide financial support and capacity building to 180 partners scattered across the country. The organization has also managed to build financial capital, including property (specifically the office block where its office is located), all of which generates interest and / or income. These resources are held in perpetuity in the form of a Trust, which can provide ongoing funding for local development. Its donors include companies, individuals, the government as well as grassroots organizations, all of whom are regularly invited to forums to discuss strategic direction and reflect on outcomes.



An organization that started from scratch and learnt through its experiences, KCDF has evolved into a highly complex “machine” which is hard to sum up. As a highly trusted organization, KCDF has managed to build up a sustainable development fund for the community. KCDF’s success comes down to the skills and commitment of the individuals behind it, who have combined their know-how and values to create a mechanism for local communities to be in charge of their own development. No-one can develop someone else but, at the same time, no-one develops alone. As such, KCDF works to empower communities.

This trip to Kenya encouraged us all to reflect on some of the fundamentals: vision, mission and goals. Returning home, we have continued to work on this, inspired by KCDF’s story.


Next steps

We need to:

  • Review Congolese laws governing non-profit organizations in order to develop an organizational structure that best meets FCK’s vision.
  • Embark on a campaign to build up some initial capital.
  • Create a simple organizational structure with light and flexible management procedures.
  • Meet regularly and consistently.
  • Analyze our own local context further in order to be able to review our options and then to develop a multi-year plan of action.


Pierre Kahenga has been involved in the planning group for the Fondation Communautaire du Katanga initiative from its outset. The King Baudouin Foundation has been a key source of support to the process. The GFCF has also provided technical support to the intiative.