What Does Community Philanthropy Look Like? New report available

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

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

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

• Amazon Partnerships Foundation (Ecuador)

• Black Belt Community Foundation (United States)

• Bolu Donors Foundation (Turkey)

• Community Foundation for South Sinai (Egypt)

• Fundacion Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte (Mexico)

• Healthy City Community Foundation (Slovakia)

• Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis (Brazil)

• Tuzla Community Foundation (Bosnia)

Read the report

Why plumbing matters: introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jenny Hodgson

Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy featured in letter to New York Times

On February 28th 2014, Mirza Jahani, Chief Executive Office of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., responded to an earlier article on Pakistan’s private philanthropy sector and pointed out that harnessing the creative energies of community philanthropists holds great promise both for social development and for reducing dependence. 

He wrote, “A Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, which the Aga Khan Foundation is pleased to support along with the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Global Fund for Community Foundations and the United States Agency for International Development, has just been launched. The alliance studies and supports the practice of community philanthropy around the world. By fostering homegrown civil society energies, we can expand the capacity for self-reliance that is essential to preserving human dignity.”

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in 10 languages!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters was first published in English in June 2013. Since then, and thanks to the efforts of partners in the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, it has been translated into 10 languages, including Arabic, Haitian Creole, Turkish and Ukranian.

See the other languages

For further information on getting the report translated into other languages, please contact Wendy Richardson at the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Introducing the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy: article in the EFC’s Effect magazine

In a recent article in Effect, the magazine of the European Foundation Centre, Jenny Hodgson, executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, introduces the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy and its goal of making the case for community philanthropy as a key strategy for increasing local ownership and accountability in local development processes.

Read more 

Advancing the practice of community philanthropy worldwide: GFCF is appointed Secretariat to new multi-stakeholder collaborative

The GFCF has been appointed Secretariat of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, a new multi-donor, multi-stakeholder initiative supported by founding partners, the Aga Khan Foundation USA, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and USAID, which aims to make the case that growing local ownership and accountability leads to stronger communities and that this should be a key focus of development practitioners.

The Alliance offers an exciting opportunity to advance the field and the understanding of community philanthropy globally and the ways in which it can mobilize trust, assets and capacities and, by doing so, strengthen local development outcomes. For the GFCF, the work of the Alliance promises to build on a programme of work that has been developed over the course of the past seven years, aimed at strengthening individual institutions of community philanthropy, supporting the development of community philanthropy networks and raising the profile of community philanthropy among a broader cross-section of stakeholders.

In March 2013, a strategic review of the GFCF was conducted by two external consultants. It examined the work and achievements of the institution to date and concluded that the GFCF “is playing an exemplary role in identifying, nurturing and supporting the field of community philanthropy based on a solid programme of small grants to organisations around the world”. 

Read the strategic review and options appraisal

More details about the Alliance will become available over the coming months.

Position: Programme Coordinator, Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

The GFCF has been appointed as the Secretariat for a new multi-donor and multi-stakeholder collaborative, the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP), which aims to influence international development actors and others to better understand, support and promote the role of community philanthropy in sustaining a vibrant civil society and in achieving more lasting development outcomes. The Alliance will learn from both on-going and pilot projects that build assets, trust and/ or the capacity of local communities. (See The Case for Community Philanthropy for further information)

The Coordinator will take the lead role in coordinating the activities of the Alliance on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the GFCF. This will include managing relationships with Alliance members and their constituents, organizing programme and learning activities and reporting regularly to both internal and external audiences.

Read the full job description. Closing date for applications August 30th 2013

Position: Programme Coordinator, Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy

The GFCF has been appointed as the Secretariat for a new multi-donor and multi-stakeholder collaborative, the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP), which aims to influence international development actors and others to better understand, support and promote the role of community philanthropy in sustaining a vibrant civil society and in achieving more lasting development outcomes. The Alliance will learn from both on-going and pilot projects that build assets, trust and/ or the capacity of local communities. (See The Case for Community Philanthropy for further information)

The Coordinator will take the lead role in coordinating the activities of the Alliance on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the GFCF. This will include managing relationships with Alliance members and their constituents, organizing programme and learning activities and reporting regularly to both internal and external audiences.

Read the full job description. Closing date for applications August 30th 2013

New report makes the Case for Community Philanthropy!

Community philanthropy can be a powerful force for strengthening civil society and building on local initiative, according to a new brief released jointly by the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Global Fund for Community Foundations, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The publication, entitled The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, 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.

The case statement crystallizes an understanding gathered in recent years. Last year AKF USA and the Mott Foundation released a report, based on a series of collaborative consultations in North America, Africa and Asia, that explored how community philanthropy has worked around the world to help build local capacity. Amid increasing public interest, those foundations, along with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have supported development of a Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy.

The new publication synthesizes trends (one form of community philanthropy organization – community foundations – grew by a remarkable 86 percent from 2000 to 2010), the rationale, and views from experts. It addresses the role that donors can play in a community-driven practice. “It’s a challenge for outside funders investing a lot of money to expect programs to be sustained,” notes Shannon Lawder of the C.S. Mott Foundation. “From our experience, the work does continue when you’ve supported community philanthropy. It works.”