But, will anybody be interested…?

By: Tamás Scsaurszki, Community Foundation Support Programme 

This is the question put by my colleague Ivan at our staff retreat in July 2014 – reflecting the uncertainty that he, and all of us, felt about our chances of finding local people motivated to start community foundations…in Hungary…now.

Our first step was to put together a team. After reviewing good practices from around Central and Eastern Europe, we knew that we had to get the right people together, who could design and run a national programme to support the development of community foundations across the country. The team formed in early 2013, and at the end of 2013 we launched the national programme, KözösALAPON or CommonGROUND. Though in English we generally still use the longer “Community Foundation Support Programme“, the Hungarian name aims to recognise that we need to find common ground with many actors different people in order to succeed. Most importantly we had to find able and enthusiastic local leaders without whom community foundations are just unimaginable. But first let’s look at where and when it all happens.

Community Foundation Support Programme team

The context: Hungary today

“Context is everything” – bearing this oft repeated wisdom in mind, we spent many hours debating our country. By the end of the discussions we agreed that maybe this will work, and maybe we really had a chance to create a community of community foundations in Hungary. Beyond the deeply divided public opinion about whether the current direction of the country is good or not[1], there are four key issues which affect our work directly:

  • Widespread disillusionment and perplexity regarding how to engage with politics and public policy, which has undermined people’s belief in expressing and taking action on important issues concerning them;
  • The sudden and regular major shifts in central government policy have heightened a strong feeling of unpredictability at all levels of society and in all sectors. This has prompted uncertainty about the usefulness of working for social change through long-term development projects based on joint action;
  • The rapid and comprehensive centralisation coupled with the message from government that a strong state will solve your problems, removes options and weakens a sense of responsibility among people for their own lives, especially at the local level; and
  • The government’s targeted actions to constrain civil society and NGOs (including harassing and attacking them) making the work of NGO activists difficult and worrisome, while also weakening the credibility of civic action in the eyes of the general public.

There are a number of other positive trends in society which are equally important to our work. First, the growing popularity of volunteering among all strata of society. Community service, a form of volunteering, has even made it into the national curriculum as a requirement for youth aged 16 – 18. This has had an impact on the non-profit sector: between 2000 and 2012 the number of volunteer hours worked for NGOs rose by 50%. Second, philanthropy is now an accepted social norm which people and companies increasingly practice. Almost in parallel to the growing poverty, it is apparent that many people have disposable wealth and/or high income. Interestingly, it tends to be internal personal motivation that drives them, and not so much external social pressure to give.

Yet, the country and society is a lot more complex than the overly simplistic categorization found in the above two paragraphs of negative and positive issues – and there is not space in this article to untangle all of the beautiful and complex connections and contradictions.

However, we felt unambiguous that the establishment and the development of the Ferencváros Community Foundation, the first such organization in the country, would influence our work positively. It was started and progressed during a time of economic hardship, in a doubtful environment, and it provides a model that works in Hungary (with special emphasis on working with local sources and strong involvement of board and volunteers). In our profession, working with invisible forces and connections, it has at times been crucial to see, feel and touch the “object” of our desire.

“Cultivating” community foundations is a long-term project: what it needs most is perspective and belief in the future. To paraphrase the late Czech president Václav Havel, the seed has to be sown, watered with appreciation, humility and compassion and given the time and patience needed for growth. Perhaps perspective and belief in the future are the hardest to find in Hungary nowadays, when tens of thousands are leaving the country each year for a better life abroad, most businesses focus on surviving in the short-term, and the non-profit sector’s ambitions (or the lack of them) are shaped by largely piecemeal, short-term, inflexible funding.

Embarking on our journey

Despite the mixed outlook we were brave (or perhaps foolish and naïve) enough to set goals for 2018, with a broad understanding of how we could reach them. Most importantly, we agreed we would like to see five or six registered community foundations in Hungary with the potential to develop into key community actors committed to improving the quality of life for all in their communities. As for the journey, we expected slow progress, perhaps with major changes in our work as responses to developments in the external contexts and/or our experiences en route. We regarded the 2014 – 2016 period as especially experimental and investigative while we were hoping that by the end of 2016 we would have clearer ideas about the way forward.

We understood that our most ambitious, and therefore most intriguing, task was simply to find people who would be interested in community foundations. We decided to adopt a traditional Hungarian approach and use informal networks and word of mouth. We selected seven major cities where we asked people we knew to recommend people to talk about their communities, the issues they were concerned with and the concept of community foundations. We made repeated visits to these cities and paid special attention to meeting with a diverse group of people from the media, business, NGOs, academia, art, and local government. We started this work in April 2014 and it remained our most important task for the rest of the year. As well as this very personal approach, we also used digital communications – and Facebook adverts proved to be effective in attracting the kind of people we were looking for.[2]

As a result of these efforts we met about 150 people, many of them more than once. We were quietly optimistic about the conversations, but we were still uncertain whether anybody would bother to start a community foundation.

The local response – can we do it now?

As we were talking with more and more people, intriguing worlds were unfolding: unique local universes shaped by both similar national trends and different local forces, which we were seeing through the eyes of a diversity of people.

We did not fully realize, sitting at our desks in the capital, how immediate some of the national trends were: for instance, one city we visited lost close to 10% of its population within 14 months, as young people left to find opportunities for themselves elsewhere. Equally shocking data and stories emerged about growing poverty and inequality, the over-politicization of public life and so on. On the other hand, the most promising experience was that local issues were important to people we met: despite all obstacles, people were willing to address them and engage with others – this rise in localism is a huge change compared to ten years ago.

We soon understood that good discussions and a general interest in community foundations were not enough. When the person we talked to waved good-bye saying “Let me know if something happens”, we knew nothing would happen. A local person embedded in the given community, ready to call people, organize meetings, send out papers and ask for feedback was a must. Interestingly (or not?) such people normally had a community development or NGO background.

At the same time, we noted that the basic attitude to community foundations in Hungary had shifted significantly. While ten years ago people would say that “it was probably a good idea, but it would not work in Hungary, and definitely not in our community”, in 2014 they would be positive that it was a good and achievable idea in their community. The question today is more whether “they personally and as a group could devote enough time and energy to do it now.“

In February 2015, we received 28 letters of intention responding to our call for proposals. Both the quantity and the quality of the letters exceeded our dreams. Therefore, as opposed to the planned four or five, we selected seven organising groups of three to seven individuals, each working in a different community, to support until the end of 2016. To show the journey of organising groups from the very beginning to the establishment of the community foundation, we had an infographic made.

A quick glance at the selected communities will reveal that there are four big cities (Nyíregyháza, Debrecen, Miskolc, Pécs), two smaller cities and their vicinities (Gödöllő and Dunaújváros) and one community from the Danube bend, which is a beautiful and affluent area north of Budapest without a clear central conurbation. The organising teams all provide a good starting point to establish strong boards representing the diversity of the selected communities.

The local response – the institution

Community foundations can be described as a specific form of institutionalised philanthropy. One of the challenges, according to our take on it, is that it takes a lot of nurturing and time to build strong and enduring organisations.

As a way of providing guidance and assistance to people, as well as starting a dialogue around building community foundations, we published a brochure describing the most important features of the type of community foundations we wanted to support. A thorough read of the selected proposals, along with our personal meetings with the seven organizing teams, gave us a good sense of the first response of the “field.”

We saw clear and strong motivations for such a complex and long-term task. Almost all organizing groups talked about “doing something for their communities“ – either because members of the organising groups were committed to stay (while many others had already left) and wanted to spend the remaining years of their lives in a better place, to stop the further deterioration of their cities, or simply because they had the energy, skills, time to do so and they loved the place. People also talked about creating “an institution that is different” – independent of the local government and beyond party politics, transparent, credible, built on voluntary contributions of the community. They wanted community foundations to “bring in new ideas”: be it a new culture of giving based on relations (as opposed to transactions) both for local wealthy people and those who left the community/country, learning best practices in connecting local business development and philanthropy, or promoting values that need (re-)introduction such as local self-determination, responsibility and subsidiarity. Finally many organising groups wanted to “belong to a bigger/national structure” to learn from others doing similar work, to share and be supported and feel the strength of people joining forces.

We were less clear to what degree the institution described by the organizing groups could be interpreted as clear-cut community foundations. We are wondering whether all organising groups understood that local fundraising will be part of the new institution’s work for ever (and not just a few visible and well-designed campaigns) in a way that it connects donors with their communities and mobilises so far untapped resources? We are unsure about the groups’ commitment to grantmaking as an effective (and very absent in Hungary) tool to connect and empower people. Last, but not least, we have question marks about whether the groups see the real value of a diverse board reflecting their communities as the single most essential resource that a community foundation has from birth (or even before)?

We do not mind these question marks, as the pictures emerging from our first dialogues with the local organizing groups are heartwarming and promising. We met a strong drive to create something that is more than just another nonprofit, that is a kind of flagship local civic institution representing a different Hungary. It sounds like a dream, perhaps a little idealistic, but dreams are important – especially in a country where they are so little on view.

The ball is back with us – will anybody be interested?

We are ready to engage with the dreams of the selected local organizing groups.  In fact this is the dream we had! Two and a half years after we first imagined supporting community foundations across Hungary, we now know the answer to our original and often repeated question: yes, local people are interested in setting up community foundations.

The Central and Eastern European experience suggests[3] that for local leaders to be successful in organising, starting and running community foundations, the support from the national level is crucial. To be able to provide the necessary perspective, nurturing and professional and financial support to local groups, a national community foundation support programme needs multi-year, large-scale support of big donors. We are in the second year of our five year plan. So far the NGO Fund of the EEA/Norway Grants was adventurous enough to support the first two years of our work, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation just approved a grant to cover some of the costs for the next 12 months.

Although we can demonstrate good progress and results since we started our work, the original question has not gone away. But it has become even more important, as our team is joined by 35 local leaders, all with dreams for their communities and for Hungary. So, who is interested in supporting community foundation across Hungary…???

And the team grows…


[1] For instance while the country’s macro economic figures (such as GDP, employment, private consumptions) continue to improve, people keep mentioning the difficulties and the lack of perspectives (see later in the article).

[2] For those interested in a more comprehensive description of what we have actually done, please get in touch at scsaurszki.tamas@kozosalapon.hu.

[3] For instance, see: Vera Dakova: Philanthropic infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe – A true champion for the field. In: Effect. Vol. 2, Issues 7., Autumn 2013.

Accountability is based on respect

The members of the Sanour Village Decides group gathered around a table in a semi-renovated house on the outskirts of the village. The plastic sheeting flapped in the wind in place of glass; bags of plaster were stocked in the corner. When completed this building is to accommodate the local Farmers’ Cooperative whose members were well represented. One man carefully extracted a laminated piece of paper from his wallet. It was handed round and showed signs of having been well handled before. It was an ad for the sale of a tractor that had been inserted in the local newspaper. There is a story behind it that is shared with pride.

Sanour is one of the hilltop “throne villages” that dominate the Palestinian heartland between Nablus and Jenin. The rocky fastness of Al Jarrar Castle is still home to local families that trace their sense of place to the era of the late Roman and Byzantine ceramics that are regularly uncovered.  Local people speak of the underground tunnels that still lead from the castle to the lower reaches of the village. They describe how the fortifications hindered the spread of the Ottoman Sultanate in the region. It is a village surrounded by vineyards, almond trees and the gnarled grey of olive plantations, although flooded farmland speaks of environmental challenges and the importance of prized livestock. Sanour is a village that knows the value of a tractor, even one that was once consigned to the scrapheap.

When the Dalia Association selected Sanour as one of the villages to be included in its Village Decides programme it came with the princely grantmaking sum of $12,000. The Dalia Association itself had been registered as a legal entity in 2007, after an extensive period of local consultations. Named for the vine, it also came with a clear vision: that of mobilizing and using resources to empower a vibrant, independent and accountable civil society in Palestine. It believes in the power of networking and building on organic local development. Established by members of the Palestinian community from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Israel and the diaspora, Dalia was acutely aware of the long-term impact of development aid in Palestine. It was determined to do things differently. It was convinced that when approached with respect and trust, local communities could manage their own grantmaking in a transparent, accountable and responsible manner. This was the genesis of the Village Decides approach.

Initial research undertaken by Dalia showed that Sanour was a village that had an existing infrastructure of community-based organizations. They were not staffed by professionals, but had credibility locally and active volunteer support. They included women’s organizations, farmers’ cooperatives and a group with a focus on childcare. They got on with their work despite lack of funding from the local municipal council, which itself had experienced major internal difficulties over an unresolved row concerning the position of chairperson. However, the village was not without other problems. When the Executive Director of Dalia took the bus from Ramallah to Sanour, her fellow passengers warned her “Turn back, they will never agree to work with each other in Sanour”; this despite the fact that 80% of the 5500 population are members of the one large extended family. Saaeda ignored the warning, she was on a mission.

After agreeing the inclusion of Sanour in the Village Decides programme, Dalia rented a local hall for a meeting and invited residents and the community-based groups to come along to discuss community priorities. There wasn’t a whisper of the grant money on offer, so attendance was a sign of interest and commitment. When the doors were closed representatives of the local groups were invited to outline the work of their organizations. Provision was made for women to speak from the body of the hall to prevent any accusations that they were putting themselves forward in an unacceptable manner. Meeting participants were then invited to vote for the four organizations that they felt were best placed to undertake programmes of activity. The four organizations receiving the highest number of votes were prioritized for funding. Notwithstanding some male reservations expressed about women speaking in public, the Sanour Women’s Club was one of the successful four.

A second round of voting decided the level of grant allocated to each of the four selected organizations. Each local participant decided the allocation of their “share” of the $12,000 that was available. One of those involved commented that the process was “More transparent than any other election…people really felt the ownership of the money, they sub-divided it down to half a dollar.” The results of the count were recorded on a board in front of the gathering. In the event the main winner of the evening was the Women’s Club, who were quietly satisfied with their allocation of over half of the money available.

Support was provided by the Dalia Association to help the successful groups to refine their project plans. The Women’s Club initially considered opening a shop in the village to sell household goods, but after some research changed their plan to purchasing and raising sheep that would then be made available to a number of poorer families in the area.  Reflecting on the planning process, they praised it as the “first of its kind that we were involved with all this process; (it) made us more confident.” The Club also raised an additional 25% of funds to contribute to the overall cost of the project. With the new confidence they now have their sights firmly set on cows, and no longer fear speaking to a public meeting from the front of people.

The Farmers’ Cooperative, which had also been selected as one of the four beneficiary groups, had problems of its own. It had been declared bankrupt due to debts resulting from a previous unsuccessful project. The Dalia Association agreed to be both flexible and patient. Local people had voted for the cooperative as a credible organization despite its current difficulties; Dalia worked with it to get the bankruptcy lifted. Then it was a question of what to do with the money allocated. The cooperative owned an ancient tractor that was valued at $700 for scrap metal. It was decided to renovate it for sale. The tractor eventually sold for over $2500 to the net benefit of the group. Discussion is still ongoing as to how this money will be invested – but chicken breeding is one the agenda.

Members of the cooperative speak about the importance of investing in local resources rather than always looking for the gloss of something new. Investing in the tractor was a case of “investing in our resources”, explained one; as important, however, was the vote of confidence that Dalia had shown in standing by the group despite external perceptions. The successful conclusion of the tractor saga gave the members of the cooperative back a sense of standing that was much more valuable than the money that was on the table. However there was another important learning point – the importance of accountability and transparency. Alongside voting for the four organizations, local people also elected the members of a Village Monitoring Committee to keep an eye on how the allocated grants were spent. Needless to say the Committee members could not be involved with the beneficiary organizations, explained one local man: a first lesson in conflict of interest procedures. The Monitoring Committee also ensured that transparent processes were in place for the selection of successful tenders for the purchase of both livestock and services.  In fact all tender bids had to be opened in front of them so that the process could be signed off to the satisfaction of all. Similarly with the eventual sale of the renovated tractor; an advertisement was placed in the newspaper and all was clearly above board. Little wonder that the ad was so reverently preserved; it is testimony to local accountability and transparency.

The roads leading to Sanour are embellished with the branding of many international aid agencies. In latter day Roman style, the crucial investment in water and roadways seems the preserve of the American people, through the agency of USAID. However, the representative of the Sanour Women’s Club summed up local feelings when she pointed out: “We have many projects, with tens of thousands of dollars, but we learned best from this project with a very small amount of money.” Development aid and community philanthropy need not stand in opposition to one another, but there is a need for the learning from the local to be both heard and taken on board. Like the vine that Dalia is named for, the roots of longer-term sustainable development must find purchase in local soil. The confidence-building and emphasis on transparency and accountability offered by Dalia, feeds these roots. And as the members of the Sanour Village Decides group confirmed, the community activists are now “Discussing things with each other that we didn’t before…learning and interaction changed.” As for Dalia itself, think what it could do if it had the resources to work with more than two villages at a time, and to invest in on-going networking of villages across the fraught terrain of Palestine?

Avila Kilmurray

GFCF Director, Policy & Strategy 

Philanthropia and Developmen(t) – an uneasy marriage?

This piece originally appeared on the Alliance Magazine website.

Some call it the “clash of civilizations.” Others, the marriage doomed to failure. And others still the wedding party where one of the guests is expected to buy an expensive gift but then not invited into the party. I would like to propose the title of a new (yet-to-be-written) book: “Developmen(t) is from Mars, Philanthropia is from Venus.” A European Foundation Centre (EFC) Annual General Assembly and Conference pre-conference session on strengthening philanthropy’s engagement with the post-2015 development agenda, was the latest in a number of recent discussions that I have attended about how philanthropy and development might work better together and how, if they tried just a little harder, they might find that have more in common than they had thought. The analogy of marriage and differences “between species” have popped up time and time again, the apparently plentiful – but one-off – examples of successful collaborations, set against the larger backdrop of fundamental differences and underlying bafflement.

And yet, despite all odds and as evidenced by the large show of hands in yesterday’s packed room, efforts to be made for this marriage to work still continue. So, some of the headlines from the conversation:

  • The majority of foundations don’t have any interest or share any affinity with the SDG project and yet data collected (in a slightly surreptitious kind of a way) by the Foundation Center suggests that there is already a significant overlap in terms of philanthropic funding and the 17 Sustainable Development Goal (and watch for the launch of http://www.SDGfunders.org in September 2015 which will map these synergies in terms of monetary amounts);
  • Foundations still need to preserve their independence from government agendas so that they can provide essential support to dissenting civil society voices: in the words of Rien van Gendt, they must “maintain their own DNA”;
  • For the SDGs to succeed, foundations – as flexible, risk-taking actors – have an essential role to play.

So, we have Philanthropia and Developmen(t), finding their way to a long-term relationship. Imagine them as a couple, both coming from similar, well-off backgrounds, educated to the same level, hanging out in different cliques as students perhaps and maybe in need of a little counselling at key points in their relationship but basically just a few acronyms and philosophical inspirations apart.

But…and here’s where the analogy starts to run out of steam, there is a real issue about how local voices and perspectives be included in the SDG process. It can seem elite, exclusive, impenetrable – and even irrelevant – to civil society and community groups, framed around high-level goals and aspirations, but which can prove much trickier when it comes to implementation. How, asked Avila Kilmurray, my colleague at the GFCF, can we overcome the current disconnect between lofty statements and roll-out, and is there a role that community philanthropy – community foundations, women’s funds and other community level grantmakers – can play in bridging it?

Jenny Hodgson

GFCF Executive Director 

Funder based in the clouds supports on-the-ground community work

This piece originally appeared on the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation website.

It seems incongruous to work in the community philanthropy field when your head is in the clouds, yet that is what Justin Welch does. Costa Rica’s cloud forests drew him to Monteverde, but what keeps him there is the opportunity to address challenges facing the region’s residents and the environment.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa RicaLocated in northwest Costa Rica, Monteverde appeared on the international radar screen after grassroots efforts succeeded in protecting what is now the Arenal Monteverde Protected Area. It’s the largest private reserve complex in Central America and is known worldwide for its vast biodiversity. “It seems like everybody knows about us even if they haven’t been here,” said Welch, Executive Director of the Monteverde Community Fund (MCF). “We are way up in the back woods, where it’s small and isolated, but are notably famous worldwide.”

Still, many eco-tourists make the trek to hear croaking frogs along streams, watch hummingbirds pollinate flowers and feel the trade winds while enveloped in mist. About 150,000 visitors annually outnumber the 6,000 residents, says Welch, an environmental science and policy specialist. He studied at the University of Georgia before moving to Costa Rica in 2006. Initially, Welch led the Water Resources Program and later the Community Programs Department at the Monteverde Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports on-site education, research and local extension programs.

MCF was a logical outgrowth of the Institute, he said, because there was a need for an organization to pool resources from and for the region to address its challenges. Created in 2012, the small philanthropic institution unites funders and community members. Its leaders work to engage and empower residents and organizations to work together in a democratic way to define their region’s development and conservation goals, Welch said. Among its services and programs, MCF offers the following:

  • The Monteverde Travelers’ Philanthropy Program, which partners with the tourism industry and its customers to secure financial donations and volunteers’ time to improve the community’s well-being;
  • The Small Grants Program, which awards mini-grants, typically $4,000 each, to local groups and organizations to fund projects in areas such as environment, social and cultural development, environmental educationand economic diversification;
  • The Technical Assistance Program, which provides hands-on staff assistance and advising for local community-based organizations about ways to create, develop and finance community and environmental projects; and
  • Workshops and courses for staff and volunteers of nonprofits on topics such as project management, community organizing and grant writing to strengthen their organizations overall.

MCF raises the money needed for operational support and an annual grantmaking budget of approximately $22,000 through the Travelers’ Philanthropy Program, as well as donors’ circles, which are composed of individuals with shared funding interests who combine their giving for greater impact. The institution’s organizational structure also is rooted in the community foundation concept — pooling local resources to meet local needs.

In fact, the GFCF, a Mott grantee, was an early supporter of MCF. So was the Inter-American Foundation, an independent U.S. government agency, that provides direct development assistance to non-profit organizations working in Latin America and the Caribbean. The GFCF provided an initial grant in 2012 to help fund a staff visit to South Africa as a learning opportunity with community-based philanthropy organizations from Vietnam, Romania and elsewhere. That first grant also supported development of the Travelers’ Philanthropy Program and printed materials for the field. MCF is a current grantee under GFCF’s newer Community Philanthropy and the Environment Programme, which is a Mott-funded project, said Jenny Hodgson, GFCF executive director.

According to Hodgson, MCF was created from a unique set of circumstances to become a community philanthropy institution that takes a broad view of “assets.” For example, MCF counts the region’s physical beauty and diversity of flora and fauna as one of its greatest assets. Consequently, MCF intentionally works to steward and preserve these assets in much the same way as cash-based endowment funds are managed and stewarded. Additionally, Hodgson said, MCF defines “community” broadly to include both permanent residents and visitors. That way, all who benefit from the region’s assets can be encouraged to donate to its sustainability. “The Monteverde Community Fund is a great example of a new kind of hybrid institution in a country that is neither super rich nor extremely poor. It is looking to bridge the sometimes competing interests of economic growth, social development and environmental conservation,” Hodgson said.

Throughout its work, MCF emphasizes the value of tangible impact. For example, a grant made from its Environmental Fund supported engineers to work with parents, staff and students at a public high school to improve the way wastewater is treated at the school’s dairy and pig farm, and to generate methane gas as a fuel source for the school’s food services program, Welch said. However, as the local economy shifts away from its primary dependence upon agriculture to a more tourism-based economy, its community leaders want to ensure the new economy contains enough diversity to be sustainable, he said. In response, the “Smart Economy Fund” was created within MCF’s Small Grants Program to support projects focused on linking, strengthening and diversifying local trades, among other areas.

“We’ve seen a lot of creative ideas come and go here, but I’d love for the Monteverde Community Fund to be a permanent fixture in the region,” Welch said. “Because we pool resources, some people think we’re competing with local groups for the same funds, but that’s not so. We are purposely generating new resources to benefit the greater good over the long term.”

CUNY 2015 Emerging Leaders International Fellows Program: Call for applications

The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society’s Emerging Leaders International Fellows Program provides leadership training through seminars with Third-sector practitioners, research based on best practices, and the application of a comparative framework. Fellows are based at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), where they design and pursue an individualized research project. In addition, they attend weekly seminars, explore work of key agencies and foundations, meet with non-profit leaders and study US and international community foundation models.

The program is geared to young scholar-practitioners interested in strengthening community philanthropy and building capacity in local Third-sector institutions. Emerging leaders at community foundations and similar place-based grantmaking organizations are especially encouraged to apply. This year’s Fellows will be selected from abroad and also from communities of color under-represented in the U.S. grantmaking sector.

For more information, including how to apply and deadlines for applying, please visit the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society’s website.

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Albanian, Mandarin and Serbian!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Albanian, Mandarin and Serbian. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

Translations of the report are now available in 18 different languages!

Help Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund, get their community partners back on their feet

Nepal is reeling from the immediate effects of the earthquake that hit the country on 25th April 2015. As the immediate emergency response gets underway and in the reconstruction that follows, it will be crucial for local needs and voices to be taken into consideration and that grassroots groups are part of efforts to rebuild, strengthen, and expand sustainable development in Nepal’s rural areas.

Tewa, Nepal Women’s Fund, has been working with grassroots groups across Nepal for the past twenty years and – uniquely in that country – encouraging Nepali citizens to support its work by building up a network of 3,000 local donors. Tewa is a long-term grant partner of the GFCF and any donations made to support Tewa’s work will be transferred directly to them. Tewa’s staff are, thankfully, all safe.

To donate to the GFCF’s campaign, please click here

Fondation de France and the Global Fund for Women are also currently running specific fundraising efforts for Nepal.

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.