New GFCF grants in China, Mongolia and India!

A grant for US $20,000 to the Guangdong Harmony Foundation will support a project to map the community foundation landscape in China, focusing on the characteristics, purposes and relationships with other sectors of this emerging set of institutions. Meanwhile, in Mongolia, a grant for US $15,000 will MONES, the Mongolian Women’s Fund to develop an online giving portal to promote local philanthropy. And in India, with a grant of US $10,000 Gramin Evam Nagar Vikas Parishad (GENVP) will be exploring the feasibility of creating a Dalit community foundation in Bihar.

A full list of GFCF grants made in 2014 and 2015 can be found here

Community-based philanthropy and peacebuilding

Members of the Foundations for Peace Network were clear about their message to the wider world of independent philanthropy and development aid when they met in Istanbul over the weekend of 10th – 13th October. Representing a range of locally-based funders from Serbia, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Colombia, India, Indonesia and Northern Ireland, they agreed that grounded community reach, knowledge and connections were essential for building the relationships that are necessary for effective peacebuilding strategies. Experience shows that grantmaking is an essential calling card, but trust and relationship building is also essential. The importance of mobilizing a diverse, and extensive, range of partners that can share their views about the specific challenges and opportunities in a contested society was also highlighted as an important remit. Conflict transformation needs uncomfortable questions to be asked in order to create space for different views and experiences. Community-based foundations can offer the safe space for this to happen.

The crucial area of mobilizing resources was not ignored, although it was accepted that this can be difficult in the midst of violent conflict when many external funders, and potential internal donors, might prefer to play it safe. From its experience of working in Sri Lanka, Ambika Satkunanathan from the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust (NTT) argued that this was the very reason that external funders should utilise the insight and local knowledge of organisations such as NTT. Funding partnerships, that might include the potential for a locally-based re-granting facility, were felt to be important.  Shaheen Anams, representing the Manusher Jonno Foundation in Bangladesh, made the point that organizations such as hers had a track record in transparency and accountability which could alleviate some donor fears.

Another message that was agreed on was the importance of offering more than the financial grant.  The added value work provided by community philanthropy in times of conflict ranged from cross-community meetings in order to challenge divisive stereotypes, to introducing new ideas from other societies that have successfully negotiated settlements. The Foundations for Peace Network members have already engaged in peer exchange visits and information sharing around the re-integration of victims/survivors of violence, a topic that is central to many of the members.  Proactive work to ensure that minority ethnic, and other marginalised groups, are given a chance to have their voices heard in the midst of conflict is also important, with Slavica Stojanovic describing the work of the Reconstruction Women’s Fund in Serbia.

The long-term nature of addressing the complex, and often sensitive, issues of peacebuilding was reflected in the final message emerging from the network deliberations; that of the importance of sustainability, which entails local buy-in to philanthropy. Although it was accepted that this will inevitably take time, the fact that community philanthropy was placed on the agenda was itself a powerful message. If good politics is cited as “the art of the possible”, then effective community philanthropy in societies emerging from conflict might well be described as the creative art of the impossible, where vision and values combine to take local ownership of making society better. But then as the Foundations for Peace members know all too well, the concept of the impossible is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

For further information on Foundations for Peace Network (including publications) please visit www.foundationsforpeace.org.

New regional network launched at Russian community foundation conference

Since 1998, when the first community foundation was established in Togliatti, the development of the community foundation field in Russia has been impressive, with 45 community foundations now in existence and an additional dozen or so institutions which could be described as community foundation-like. This growth has been accompanied by the emergence of a variety of networks; indeed the infrastructure supporting the work of Russian communtiy foundations is one of the most developed and robust in the world.

In another sign of the Russian communiety foundation sectors’ maturity and growth, the seventh regional platform of cooperation amongst community foundations in Russia was established in Tyumen (Siberia) on May 20th 2014. Representatives of the Pervouralsk, Nefteugansk, Noyabrsk, Berezovskiy, Tyumen and Sorokino community foundations signed an agreement which brought into being the Ural Federal District Alliance of Community Foundations. The development was welcomed as an opportunity to provide greater regional solidarity as well as offering a network for exchange of information and learning. Two of the member community foundations pledged a sharing of equipment which augured well for the spirit of cooperation.

Each of the six member community foundations is very different, reflecting how community philanthropy can be responsive to local circumstances. The youngest member has been operating for just two years, whilst the oldest – the Tyumen Community Foundation – was celebrating its fifteenth birthday. The Tyumen Community Foundation serves the urban centre of Tyumen in comparison to the dispersed rural area covered by the Sorokino Community Foundation, which relates to village populations of 10,000. Similarly, both the community priorities identified and the resources available cover a wide spectrum.

Larisa Avrorina, Avila Kilmurray & Vera Barova at the 15th anniversary of the Tyumen Community FoundationWhat was evident from the description of the programmes of work of each of the six community foundations was the emphasis placed on civic activism and volunteer energy. Whether it was organising a fundraising charity ball or environmental clean-ups, success depended in local participation and enthusiasm. At least one of the community foundation representatives explained what could happen if activities were organised in the absence of community buy-in – a tree planting initiative failed to attract the involvement of local people and within a week the trees that had been planted were vandalised and uprooted. The learning from this experience was taken to heart. Next time round the local community foundation activists took the time to invest in community engagement.

Each of the community foundations operated programmes of grant competitions, with a wide range of beneficiaries, however they also promoted a number of development interventions often in partnership with local government authorities and with the support of the small business sector. There was investment in children’s playgrounds and hostels for the homeless; also support for clean river campaigns and the rehabilitation of recreation zones. The Pervouralsk Community Foundation responded to the fact that there was no cinema in its area by sponsoring monthly film shows around local villages; and a number of the community foundations supported a very popular Book Exchange project, whereby children could exchange the books that they had read for new ones. In identifying community priorities, reference was made to household surveys and community focus groups as forms of consultation.

The new Ural Federal District and Russian Community Foundation Alliance received expert advice from speakers on behalf of the Russian Community Foundation Partnership, the Perm Alliance of Community Foundations, the Russia Donors’ Forum and Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Russia, amongst others.  Speaking on behalf of the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, Avila Kilmurray congratulated the community foundations in attendance at the two day event for their commitment and welcomed the new Ural Alliance. She noted that it was a particularly timely development, given that 2014 marks the centenary of the community foundation movement globally.

Call for applications for joint action research pilot to map community philanthropy institutions’ work on the environment!

The GFCF is looking to engage a global cohort of community foundations and community philanthropy organizations in a joint mapping exercise to explore their work in issues related to their local environment

This call for submissions is only open to organizations that define themselves as community foundations, community philanthropy institutions, grassroots grantmakers and other types of local fundraising / grantmaking institutions. NGOs which implement programmes directly are not eligible to participate. (Find out more about selection criteria and FAQs)

Guidelines for this initiative can be downloaded here.

Deadline for submissions is May 20th 2013.