From Alliance magazine: news from the US community foundation field

Can community foundations lead community change?

Almost a decade ago, the Ford Foundation embarked upon an ambitious strategy to demonstrate that community philanthropy organizations could function as effective agents to expand economic, racial and social equity in the US. Linetta Gilbert looks at two community foundations and communities that Ford supported as part of this strategy.

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South Asian foundations convene at Tewa, Nepal’s Women’s Fund

I am just back from a three-day meeting in Kathmandu of 16 South Asian community foundations and community philanthropy institutions from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Although the GFCF has made a handful of grants in South Asia, it is a part of the world where we have been eager to take a more proactive approach with our work. When we started to explore the idea of convening current and potential partners in South Asia, we had no doubts as to the venue of our meeting: Tewa, Nepal’s women’s fund, is a great example of the kind of institution that the GFCF seeks to support. Its founder, Rita Thapa, is also on our board and was keen to host these discussions. A local grantmaker, which was established in 1996 and which prides itself on having funded all its small grants from local sources, Tewa has been providing support to women’s – and occasionally men’s – groups through what has been a turbulent period in Nepal’s history. During that period it has built an entire complex of buildings: offices, meeting rooms, a cafeteria, a shop and – opening soon – dormitories set amid landscaped gardens. The whole complex overlooks what was until recently entirely green fields, which are steadily being encroached upon by new building sites which are emerging all over the Kathmandu valley. (To read the founder’s story, ‘Tewa, Doing the Impossible: Feminist Action in Nepal’ click here)

Sitting in the beautiful meeting room at the Tewa complex as we discussed the question of how to connect, strengthen and provide greater visibility for institutions of community philanthropy in South Asia, it was hard not to be inspired by the possibilities of what can happen when institutions emerge which set out to do things differently. And with organizations like the Dalit Foundation, the Manusher Jono Foundaiton, the South Asia Women’s Fund, Sampradaan, and IPartner in the room, the conversations were rich and intense.
Over the coming weeks and months we will all be following up on commitments made individually and collectively to move this work forward. Watch this space!

African community foundations gather in Nairobi

Representatives from community foundations in Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were among those who attended the first pan-African meeting of community foundations hosted by the GFCF in Kenya in November.

The Nairobi group, gathered for the African Community Foundations Peer Learning and Exchange

GFCF Programme Consultant Halima Mahomed tells all about it:

‘The African Community Foundations Peer Learning and Exchange, with funding support from TrustAfrica and the Ford Foundation, was held in Nairobi on 1 and 2 November 2010, just before the African Grantmakers Network Assembly. The convening saw 34 participants, representing 26 organizations from 12 countries come together to engage in two intensive days of rich and stimulating discussion, interactive debates and learning, learning, learning …

‘A rose by any other name is still a rose? Or not so? Well, given the range of different institutions in the room – community foundations, local grantmakers, national public foundations, and corporate community foundations – we kicked off the convening with a session that asked “What does our tribe look like?” This was aimed at establishing a collective identity within the group, based not on institutional type (or name) but rather on a set of values and principles. Moving the term “community foundation” temporarily to one side, we had a rich (and very creative session) that underscored what the group had in common: these included a shared commitment to community ownership, leadership, trust and assets – as well as transparent, accountable and inclusive systems.

‘We also devoted some time and space to learning from and sharing with each other via small-group peer learning discussions. In kicking off some of these small group discussions we heard about the “tool box” devised by the Lurdes de Mutola Foundation in Mozambique (in which grantmaking is only one part of a comprehensive approach to strengthening local community-based organizations), about the PhotoSpeak tool used by the Community Development Foundation Western Cape as a way of engaging young people and of the ways in which the Urgent Action Fund in Kenya has tackled social justice issues head-on, particularly within contexts that have very skewed gender and power dynamics. Although most of the participants came from African institutions, we were also joined by practitioners from further afield: Black Belt Community Foundation, based in Selma, Alabama in the United States has as one of its most significant assets a network of over 100 volunteer “community associates” who share the foundation’s vision for their communities and ensure that it remains closely connected with the 12 communities it serves; while from Slovakia, Banska Bystrica Community Foundation underscored the importance of valuing and encouraging small individual contributions as a cornerstone of its community engagement and public awareness‑building strategy.

‘The highlight of the convening was undoubtedly the trial of Business As Usual. Apart from the fact that it was filled with enough humour and wit to rival the best “court TV”, the trial provided a space not only to analyse the context of development aid within which we operate but also to critically interrogate and reflect on the fault lines within our own frameworks and practices.  In addition, however, the trial also reflected how a number of local philanthropic institutions are engaging in business unusual and provided compelling and encouraging evidence to help make the case for locally owned and locally driven development paradigms.

‘One thing that this convening has reinforced, and also provided the opportunity to begin remedying, is that we need to begin to develop a knowledge base on Africa’s emerging philanthropic/grantmaking sector.  A wealth of good practice and innovative strategies exists, and yet so little of it is known or documented outside individual institutions. By the same token, there are serious challenges and hard questions that we need to ask ourselves – around our readiness to take risks and bring about real change, and around our commitment to building local philanthropic resources rather than relying on easy external money – but very few spaces in which to critically reflect on these.’

Over the next few months the GFCF will be drawing intensively on the wealth of energy, information, data, stories and personal commitment offered by participants to begin to build such a knowledge base and so help to strengthen the voice, practice and impact of community foundations in Africa.

Frederick Mandara (Morogoro Community Foundation, Tanzania) and Beulah Fredericks (Community Development Foundation for the Western Cape, South Africa)


South-East Asian Community Foundations gather in Bangkok – and a new regional network is born

Until recently, the emergence of community foundations in South-East Asia has been something of a gradual, stop-start process. Some truly homegrown, one-off, institutions have certainly emerged: the founders of the Pondong Batangan Community Foundation in the Philippines, for example, unaware of any global community foundation field, called their new institution a “community foundation” simply because those two words best seemed to describe what they thought it should be about. Other efforts by international funders to seed the community foundation idea have yielded somewhat mixed results.

If a recent meeting in Bangkok is anything to go by, however, there is a new energy emanating from and among community foundations in the region. In the first regional meeting of its kind, community foundations from Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam met in Bangkok, Thailand on 1–3 December. The workshop, which was supported by the Global Fund for Community Foundations, included 34 participants from new and emerging community foundations in Korat, Satun, Songkhla, Phuket and Bangkok (Thailand), from the Pondong Batangan Community Foundation and the Coalition of Social Development Organizations in South Cotabato (Philippines), the LIN Center (Vietnam) and the World Bank (Bangkok office).

The first day was dedicated to discussions among the group of five Thai community foundations, with a particular focus on the Thai context and the potential value-added of community foundations in that context. Although the five have all emerged from different processes and with the support of a variety of institutions –including the Thai Centre for Philanthropy, the World Bank, Synergos and the Van Leer Foundation – in recent months, they have increasingly found a value in collaboration, the seeds of which were planted by a joint study visit to Slovakia in 2009.

The group was joined on the second day by community foundation representatives from Vietnam and the Philippines and the day was spent sharing different country experiences of giving, effective fund-raising approaches, grantmaking for social change, social mapping and social media, with a view to teasing out some of the common characteristics and challenges of emerging foundations in South-East Asia.

It was on the final day, that the decision was made by the group to create an Asian Community Foundation Forum (ACFF), as a learning and sharing network that would link community foundations in the region. Songkhla Community Foundation was assigned the task of formulating different types of e-forum for the group, such as blog and Web S-splog.

Thanks to Pamornrat Tansanguanwong for contributing to this article.

Grants awarded – 2007

Europe and Central Asia

New Shamakhi Foundation, Azerbaijan
$10,000 for study tour to visit established community foundations and for dissemination activitiesq

Azerbaijan Community Development Research, Training and Resource Center (CD Center), Azerbaijan
$5,580 for study tour to Slovakia

Foundation “Community Donation Fund – Gabrovo”, Bulgaria
$15,000 for study visit and development of asset development strategy

Association of Czech Community Foundations, Czech Republic
$20,000 to explore the feasibility of philanthropic bequests in the Czech Republic

Enbekshikazakh Community Foundation, Kazakhstan
$12,000 for institutional development and grantmaking

Visaginas Community Foundation, Lithuania
$15,000 for study visit, development of asset development strategy and seed funding for small grants

Resource Center for Development ALFA, Serbia
$20,000 to serve as support organization to emerging / transitioning community foundations in Serbia

Association of Slovak Community Foundations, Slovakia
$20,000 to develop a fundraising strategy for the Association and a plan for its long-term financial and programmatic sustainability

Charity Fund “Community of Revda”, Russia
$10,000 for a peer exchange and organizational development activities

Regional information – resource Foundation, Ulyanovsk, Russia
$15,000 for institutional development (including board / governance development)

Samara Community Foundation, Russia
$10,000 for a study visit to another Russian community foundation and towards administrative expenses.

Community Foundation “New Dagestan”, Russia
$15,000 for training, institutional development and re-granting

Fund for development of Nikolayev City (FDN), Ukraine
$10,000 for institutional development and a study visit to a community foundation in Russia

Princes- Benefactors Ostrozky Foundation, Ukraine
$10,000 to pilot an employee giving programme in Ukraine

Foundation for Ukraine, Ukraine
$4,927 for a study visit to Via Foundation (Czech Republic) and King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium)

Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
$15.000, Organisational Development grant to support the development of Stara Zagora’s local donor base in the areas of external consultant support, survey of and engagement with local corporates and upgrade of website.

Nitra Community Foundation, Slovakia
$5,000 grant for board development through visit to Czech community foundations

Penza Community Foundation Civil Society, Russia
$35,000 challenge grant for grantmaking and endowment

Tyumen Community Foundation, Russia
$11,400 for consultant visit from Poland to develop Tyumen CF’s capacities in building social networks, communication strategies and donor development
$4,350 grant for peer visit to philanthropic institution in Poland

Ukrainian Grantmakers Forum
$15,000 to map community foundation development in Ukraine and to develop capacities of emerging community foundations by facilitating joint trainings with regional specialists

Community Foundation Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovenia
$15,000 for consultant support to develop the grantmaking, asset development capacities of the Community Foundation Tuzla.

Samogitia Community Foundation, Lithuania
$15,000 to Samogitia Community Foundation to serve as support organisationto develop capacities of five other community foundations in Lithuania.

City Charitable Fund Development, Rubtsovsk, Russia
$50,000 challenge grant for grantmaking, endowment fund and operations.

Community Foundation Kaliningrad, Russia
$15,000 to develop a strategy to develop a donor base in Germany and locally in Kaliningrad.

Community Foundation Partnership, Russia
$15,000 grant to develop the Board of this newly registered association of Russian community foundations.

Penza Community Foundation Civil Unity, Russia
$3,650 grant for peer visit to Togliatti Community Foundation.

Togliatti Community Foundation, Russia
$30,000 grant for Togliatti Community Foundation to play a supporting role in strengthening the capacities of four community foundations in Samara Oblast.

Latin America and Caribbean

Fundación SES, Argentina
$25,000 to support the start-up of three community foundations in Argentina

Fondo de Estrategia Social, A.C. (FES), Mexico
$20,000 to build a local donor base and for institutional development

Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca, A.C., Mexico
$3,050 towards travel to international capacity building meeting Louisiana, U.S.

Instituto Rio
$15,000 to develop the organization’s IT system for grants management

Lambi Fund, Haiti
$15,000 to support development of Lambi’s donor base among Haitian diaspora networks in the United States

Fundación Comunitaria Oaxaca, A.C., Mexico
$10,000 for general support

CEMEFI – Centro Mexicano para la Filantropia
$30,000 towards CEMEFI’s work with its community foundations partners in the area of building cross-sectoral alliances in Mexico

Anguilla Community Foundation
$32,500 endowment challenge grant.

National Community Foundation, St Lucia
$5,000 to conduct evaluation of impact of National Community Foundation’s work.

Middle East and North Africa

Maadi Community Foundation (Waqfeyat al Maadi al Ahleya), Egypt
$30,000 to support start-up activities (specifically, the development of tools and techniques for endowment models appropriate to the Egyptian context).

Dalia Association, Palestine
$15,000 organisational development grant to develop website, database, grantmaking programme to this emerging community foundation, and $5,000 to develop donor outreach materials

South Asia

Kodagu Model Forest Trust, India
$10,000 for start-up activities

Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy, India
$15,000 to pilot community funds in India

Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy, India
$15,000 to develop Sampradaan’s capacities to serve as a support organisation to emerging community foundations in India

East Asia & Pacific

Phuket Community Foundation, Thailand
$30,000 (as part of matched grant from Van Leer Foundation) for community mapping, board development and documentation

Phuket Community Foundation, Thailand
$15,000 to cover US and Thai consultant support to this recently established CF

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya
$15,279 to support strategic planning process

Urgent Action Fund, Africa (Kenya-based)
$5,000 for peer visit to African Women’s Development Fund, Ghana (to focus on monitoring and evaluation and communication strategies)

WHEAT Trust, South Africa
$15,000 for organizational development activities to this women’s fund

Akuapem Community Foundation, Ghana
$15,000 for organizational development activities to Ghana’s first community foundation

West Coast Community Foundation, South Africa
$10,000 to attend the Community Foundation Network Conference in Liverpool and to visit a U.K. community foundation

Morogoro Municipality Community Foundation Initiative, Tanzania
$4,445 to support attendance of South African community foundation practitioners at training for leaders of three emerging community foundation initiatives in Tanzania

Community Development Foundation for the Western Cape, South Africa
$15,000 grant for local consultant support in the areas of finance, human resource, marketing and organizational development for this emerging CF in the Western Cape

Uthungulu Community Foundation, Richard’s Bay, South Africa
$12,400 for consultant support for needs assessment and strategic planning

West Coast Community Foundation, South Africa
$15,000 to strengthen board and management capacity to engage in local resource mobilization.

Conference Attendance Grants

Community Foundation Network Conference, Liverpool September 2007
$24, 375 to 13 organizations to attend the CFN conference

Organisations in attendance:

  • City Charitable Fund Development, Russia
  • Community Foundation Kaliningrad, Russia
  • Community Foundation Pervouralsk XXI, Russia
  • Dalia Association, Palestine
  • Nitra Community Foundation, Slovak Republic
  • Penza Community Foundation Civil Unity, Russia
  • REVIA Small Carpathian Community Foundation, Slovak Republic
  • Togliatti Community Foundation, Russia
  • Third Sector Foundation of Turkey TUSEV, Turkey
  • Tuzla Community Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Union of NGOs Morogoro – on behalf of 3 Tanzanian CFs:
    • Morogoro Municipal Community Foundation
    • Arusha Municipal Community Foundation
    • Tazania Social Action Trust Fund

Council on Foundations Fall Conference for Community Foundations, San Francisco, September 2007
$37,030 to 8 organizations to attend the COF Fall Conference

Organisations in attendance:

  • Community Foundation Partnership, Russia
  • Dalia Association, Palestine
  • ICOM – Instituto Comunitario Grande Florianopolis, Brazil
  • Kenya Community Development Foundation, Kenya
  • Mewat Foundation Trust, India
  • Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy, India
  • Union of NGOs Morogoro – on behalf of 2 Tanzanian CFs:
    • Kindondoni Municipal Community Foundation
    • Mwanza City Community Foundation