Celebrating 20 years of community foundations in the Visegrad Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adapting YouthBank to South Africa’s West Coast

YouthBank has a huge potential in South Africa, says Jeremy Maarman, Grants Manager at West Coast Community Foundation. He tells the GFCF about the last two years of WCCF’s YouthBank programme, about its experiences so far, and where he sees this heading.

 

GFCF: WCCF completed its first year of YouthBank activities in 2013 – how did this differ from WCCF’s past activities with youth? What about YouthBank is different/interesting?

Jeremy Maarman: In the past WCCF focused mainly on funding youth projects through our Grants Program. This meant that the engagement with young people was really limited seeing that we did not interface directly with the youth. With YouthBank, the foundation was able to have a more hands-on approach to young people and also the relationship was more as equal partners. This was the biggest difference between our past activities with young people and the functioning of YouthBank. YouthBank is different because young people are not only the recipients of the development interventions but the YouthBank projects puts them in the position of active players in community development.

 

GFCF: Who were the youth that WCCF involved and what do you think they gained from their experience?

JM: The youth we identified were all from the Bergrivier Municipal area and we recruited them by engaging with the local municipality as well as the local high schools. The young people involved in YouthBank gained immense knowledge on community development and how they themselves can play a role in their communities. As part of the YouthBank project young people also gained knowledge about active citizenship and that the strength of a democracy lies in the responsibility that citizens take to not only keep public representatives accountable but also to themselves take ownership of development.

 

GFCF: Was it difficult to introduce the concept of philanthropy, particularly to young people? How has the broader community reacted?

JM: Philanthropy is a word that is not used in everyday vocabulary on the West Coast. Therefore WCCF introduced youth philanthropy by explaining what it “does” and not what the definition “is.” We realized that bringing development “words” (like youth philanthropy) to the communities is further alienating people from realizing that in actual fact African communities have been sharing their talents, skills and treasure with each other without ever using words like philanthropy to define their actions. The broader community are starting to see young people as real assets for development and are also beginning to realize that young people do become enthusiastic about and involved in projects if they are given the power to decide what they “can” and “want” to do.

 

GFCF: What were the lessons learned for WCCF during this first year? As WCCF expands YouthBank activities into two additional communities in 2014, will the programme be adapted at all?

JM: We learned a very critical lesson: trying to replicate projects as blueprints from other countries (like Westernized countries) is not the best strategy. We also decided to engage with school-age young people, similar to YouthBank projects in Europe, however we quickly found out that the South African education department are not very open to having non-profit organizations engaging with children via the school. The reason for that was that schools were just more focused on getting through the curriculum, and didn’t necessarily want to be seen as adding extra activities to the burden on students. We also found it very challenging to move the grants from YouthBank during that latter part of the year due to the school examination period – it became very difficult to get hold of the YouthBank members.  

The biggest adaptation of the YouthBank project in 2014 lies in the fact that our recruitment strategy is now focused on out-of-school youth who are unemployed. We are hopeful that this strategy will allow for more active participation by members. This is a very significant adaptation as it is also very different from how YouthBank is implemented in other parts of the world. We however believe that we need to be conscious of the local conditions and what works best for us in South Africa.

 

GFCF: How important has it been for WCCF to be connected, through Youth Bank International, to other community foundations running their own YouthBank programmes? How important has it been that it is a community foundation that has led this work?

JM: Connection with other community foundations running YouthBank in other parts of the world gave WCCF a frame of reference for what works and what does not. YouthBank International also makes WCCF part of a community of actors in youth philanthropy. The importance of having YouthBank implemented by a community foundation gives the community foundation another avenue through which we can make grants and also to explore how best to bring young people into philanthropy. This, I believe, is groundbreaking work for a community foundation as youth philanthropy still needs to be defined in a way that is understandable and applicable to different conditions and this can be a really exciting niche for community foundations.

 

GFCF: What do you think it is about YouthBank which resonates across communities in all regions of the world? Do you think the concept has the potential to spread in Southern Africa?

JM: The notion of young people as active players in community development resonates with all people in all cultures and countries because it is a globally held truth that youth are the leaders of the future; in order to sustain development it is important to bring young people into the fold as soon as possible. The transfer of leadership skills to young people is also a very important issue that is gaining recognition. Finally, the point is that organizations too often lose contact with young people because they don’t deal with them as equal partners, but merely as recipients/beneficiaries of development interventions. Such an approach leaves young people feeling apathetic and uninterested all over the world. I absolutely think that YouthBank has the potential to spread in Southern Africa as it is a project that puts young people in a position of power.

What’s next for community philanthropy?

It is appropriate (and no doubt deliberate) that launch of the “What’s Next for Community Philanthropy?” toolkit has come half-way through 2014, a year that sees the Cleveland Foundation – America’s first community foundation  – mark its centenary. Now I should probably say that the extensive toolkit, which has been produced by Gabriel Kasper and his colleagues, Justin Marcoux and Jess Ausinheiler at Monitor Institute, has not really be designed for someone like me. I do not work for a community foundation in the United States, and U.S. (and Canadian) community foundations are really the main target audience for this suite of tools and essays. So my comments and observations on the toolkit are framed by my vantage point at the Global Fund for Community Foundations, a global grassroots grantmaking organization, working to support the development of community philanthropy worldwide.

Evolving concepts, changing terminology: Let’s start with “community philanthropy”.  In my everyday work, I find myself constantly juggling language and terminology, driven by a desire to be inclusive and yet specific, to use the right kind of language that will resonate in particular contexts, that captures the essence of what happens when the magic ingredients of local asset mobilization, grantmaking for community development and multi-stakeholder governance combine together under one institutional roof. Unlike in the U.S. and Canada (where community foundations alone can be counted in their hundreds), there are far fewer of these types of organizations (whatever they are called) in most of the rest of the world, and so by focusing on one particular institutional form, you end up with very small numbers. So although community foundations form a large part of our constituency (and we even prioritise them in the name of our own organization – a fact that is not lost on me), we have always embraced other forms of “community philanthropy institutions”, including women’s funds, local grantmakers, environmental funds etc. So I was pleasantly surprised (and also curious) to see that the more inclusive “community philanthropy” is used throughout the toolkit (defined as “community foundations and other community philanthropy organizations”).

A global world – fact not choice: One of the perils of working locally (and most community philanthropy organizations tend to be place-based) is that it is easy to become inward-looking and insular. The excellent essay, “Shift Happens: Understanding how the world is changing” does a great job in providing a succinct overview of six different types of global trends that are having a profound effect on the nature of communities. If you are a community foundation leader or board member in need of evidence to convince your colleagues that the community that your foundation was set up to serve is no longer the same, and to find examples of how other community foundations are responding, then this document, which provides excellent sources as well as cogent examples, will save you many hours of Internet searches. Although much of the specific data is geared towards a U.S. audience the essay demonstrates to any reader how global trends (both good and bad) are driving huge changes in our communities the world over.

Community foundations as specialist generalists:  Community foundations tend to make grants across a range of different portfolios. This is well understood within the community foundation field, but it can sometimes like to outsiders like a lack of focus or being overstretched in terms of technical expertise. (In fact, I once got involved in a very long rather heated conversation with a U.S. immigration official in New York, who doubted my professional credentials because he was very sceptical about the community foundation idea, insisting that all philanthropic organizations and NGOs should have a focus – he suggested water, healthcare or education – and that it was poor form to try to do everything in a community). What the toolkit also highlights in its examples is quite how specialised and sophisticated specific programmes clusters and approaches have become within the community foundation field. In our grantmaking at the GFCF, we have also been looking at how to deepen community philanthropy practice around particular issues (such as youth engagement or the environment) so that community philanthropy organizations can deliver excellent programmes but within the context of a broader, holistic and networked approach.

A launching point for a more linked-up global field? Certainly, there are some valuable tools in the kit that a community foundation or community philanthropy organization anywhere in the world could use to test assumptions, stimulate reflection and inspire creative thinking (although for those community foundations operating in contexts where local giving is still very nascent, the level of sophistication around different kinds of donor services might still seem like wishful thinking). It is also good to see strategies that have been adopted by many of our community foundation partners, often driven more by innovation and instinct than blue-print, are listed and named in the tool kit.  So when in the “Bright Spots” tool, which looks at “Promising approaches in community philanthropy”, there is a question, “What if you solicited small gifts from less affluent individuals?”, I think immediately of Odorheiu Secuiesc Community Foundation in Romania which created a “Community Card” programme through which over 13,000 donors give small amounts each month. And another “bright spot” on “Sharing Community Information”, asks “What if you conducted routine check-ups of your community?” which takes me to a recent blog by one of our partners in Ukraine. Moloda Gromada (“Young Community”) is based in Odessa, which has seen its own fair share of violence which resulted in the deaths of 42 people on May 2nd 2014. The foundation’s director Inna Starchikova describes how, following the violence, the foundation conducted a survey to “check the state of health” (her words) of the community by asking people about how they saw their own personal role in allowing the violence to happen and their thoughts on how future violence might be prevented.

What’s next for “What’s next”? A separate essay, which focuses specifically on examples of community philanthropy innovation from the global field, is in the pipeline and I look forward to that. And finally, I wonder whether this kind of reflective, big picture exercise might provide new opportunities for those community foundations, wherever they are in the world and which are interested, to create spaces for engagement, solidarity and collaboration. Although there may be huge differences in the financial asset bases of community foundations in different parts of the world, it seems to me that energy, innovation and commitment to community-driven development are plentiful the world over.

Jenny Hodgson

Executive Director, GFCF

Climbing the ladder: GFCF referenced in New Statesman article

“If civil society is to play a role in combating poverty, we need a vibrant, independent voluntary and community sector”, argues Barry Knight, Executive Director of CENTRIS and adviser to the GFCF, in a recent article in the New Statesman. Climbing the Ladder is the lead article in a special supplement on Civil Society and Poverty.

“Much of the voluntary sector contributes little to civil society because it is highly professionalised, possessing few connections to local people other than through the delivery of services” says Knight. “Resources should instead go to organisa­tions such as London Citizens, which is composed of citizens themselves and en­ables them to build their own power. We can also learn from international organisations like the Global Fund for Commu­nity Foundations, which helps citizens’ groups to build their own asset base so they can be free from the persistent ‘pro­jects’ demanded by official aid agencies.”

Read the full article

Community philanthropy: A new model of development

13 December 2013, AsianNGO

It has always been a weakness for many small non-government organisations that donors tend to ‘own’ them and their programmes in the communities where they work. But a new model in development—community philanthropy—is emerging through forms of community foundations shaped by local context.

It could be the new driving force for local communities to more actively and effectively manage their programmes given their sharper sense of ownership, a stronger trust among each other based on common culture and thus, a more personal sense of accountability. “Community philanthropy organisations are organic, rooted in local culture and thus, do not necessarily adhere to the standards of someone else’s notion,” says Halima Mohamed of TrustAfrica.

Although booming only in the last two years, community philanthropy is not exactly a new concept. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, community foundations grew by a staggering 86 per cent, averaging with 70 new institutions born annually. But apart from the traditional values of NGO activities—organised structure, self-direction, an openness of its strategies of engagement and being a civil society institution—community philanthropy takes on enabling local groups to use their own assets and building an inclusive and equitable society guided by local context.

This makes for a reciprocity based on a principle of solidarity, providing for wider public benefits as opposed to that contained or limited to certain privileged groups in the community—whether internally in a community or externally. These benefits transcend traditional tangible results; they also yield trust, community leadership, social capital, sustainability and reduction of the attitude of dependency—factors typically regarded as important yet very hard to measure.

The rise of community philanthropy, mostly through local community foundations, have also been vital in democracy-building, such as the case of Egypt’s Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation; and in changing people’s mindsets, as in the success of the Dalia Association in Palestine demonstrates.

With civil society in Egypt deeply rooted in its history of conflicts and political turmoil, Waqfeyat al Maadi seeks to revive and modernise the concept of endowment to encourage sustainable non-governmental financing and development in the country. To kick-start and support development efforts, the organisation has been working since 2007, a bit before the Arab spring, to close the gap between the rich and the poor in Al-Maadi and improve the residents’ standard of living through social endowment.

Palestine’s Dalia, meanwhile, organised an art competition called ‘Momentum for Philanthropy’ that called for poetry, short stories, videos and photographs from youth entrants from Palestinians across the world. The competition showcased examples of Palestinian philanthropy to change the concept that [Palestinians] receive help but do not give any.

Despite these organisations being small, local people are both taking the lead in the works and are contributing their own resources. At its core, community philanthropy thus harnesses the passions and dedication of local communities to enable their members to help each other even at a personal level—which is very well a natural group dynamic in any society.

In India, the Prayatna Foundation has brought together over 5,000 residents across 50 villages, mobilising Dalit and Muslims to contribute their time, resources and knowledge to work together on addressing housing and unemployment issues, protecting their human rights and pushing for government accountability and social justice. With a history of religious divide between Hindus and Muslims, both groups have now forged connections together to develop the skills of local leaders in bringing real development in their community.

In Nepal, the Tewa Foundation has rallied over 3,000 local donors. Giving has become intimately connected with identity, being an important their culture. It has been a powerful means of bridging the varying interests and patching gaps of differing opinions; but still offering a sense of hope for sustainable interventions that transform their community away from dependency from external aid. The people’s use of their own money to carry out their programmes has thus affirmed the legitimacy of the organisations’ legitimacy.

The alternative model that Tewa presents is grounded in local realities. Despite a troubled history and a deeply conflicted contemporary cultural landscape, Tewa has done away with many of the established hierarchies of gender divide, social classes and the caste system, ethnic divisions and even geography. This shows an empowered civil society with an all-inclusive structure that can be transparent and accountable; as well as trusting and respectful. And global foundations are certainly not one to ignore this new emerging value system.

“Community philanthropy leads to better results for development works. If people feel like they’re co-investors in their own development, bring their own assets to the table and are enabled to govern the works, then they care more of the outcomes and are more accountable in ways that build social capital. The power dynamics are more equal in a partnership setting, not the traditional donor-beneficiary relationship,” says Jenny Hodgson of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

The Aga Khan Foundation, together with the Mott Foundation, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Global Fund for Community Foundations, has rallied partners across the globe—donors and NGO recipients alike—to pursue community philanthropy in their respective scopes of work. They all agree that having local people involved as donors is a game-changer in efforts to build civil society and enhances prospects for sustainability of (external) funding even when the programme has been completed.

“We have worked on civil society for a long time. When people do things for themselves, those programmes have been the most sustainable. Leadership, financial resources and voluntary support are all sustained,” says Aga Khan Foundation CEO Mirza Jahani.

If community-level collaboration has the power to transform societies from within, using local resources and talent, then it’s about time that corporate philanthropy becomes a mainstream development strategy not only for local NGOs and civil society groups. Rather, it is an engagement policy that multi-lateral donor agencies can integrate into their collaborations with NGOs and CSOs, particularly in developing countries. And that programmes should develop the capacities of local organisations’ community philanthropy, making them more effective partners with foundations and development agencies.

The collective and inclusive picture of community philanthropy—as a new model for development and civil society engagement—sends a powerful message for the ‘within group’ and ‘between group’ dynamics in a society. Such a process holds high potentials to resolve, if not avert conflicts—armed or political; builds harmony and frames an equitable point of reference for real development to take place: one that empowers each member of every level of the community. (With reports from the Aga Khan Foundation and the Mott Foundation; image from the Mott Foundation.)

This article was first published on 13 December 2013 in AsianNGO

Community philanthropy and development: Deepening the discussion

Issue 1: Community philanthropy and mutual accountability

One of the things that Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy offers is a rather unique platform for a diverse set of donors and development practitioners to come together to expand their understanding and share learnings about complex issues in development and, in particular, how community philanthropy might perform a particular and valuable role that results in more effective development outcomes.

A few weeks’ ago a conversation began between some members of the Alliance about how community philanthropy might foster greater mutual accountability. We thought it would be good to invite others to contribute to this discussion so we tidied up what was originally an email exchange, sharpened our thinking and have published the conversation so far. Please join the discussion!

The question:

I would like be able to be able to distinguish more clearly community philanthropy from other forms of civil society support. Specifically, there is a reference in “A Different Kind of Wealth” (a GFCF publication on African community foundations) to one of the defining features of community philanthropy being “mutual accountability” between the philanthropic organization and its community. I’m wondering if you could say a bit about how you see that form of mutual accountability as distinct from efforts by outside donors to support CSOs (assuming that the donors aim to support the CSOs relationship with its community/constituency).

I also wonder if you can speak to the way that having grantmaking power affects this pre-existing mutual accountability relationship.

I suppose part of my aim is to be able, in discussions with colleagues who say “we already support mutual accountability when we work with CSOs,” to have more clarity on how the community philanthropy meaning of that term might be distinct from the typical donor efforts to support the same.

The response:

Thanks for your question about the extent to which community philanthropy can foster mutual accountability between a local philanthropic organization and its community. It is indeed a big and important question and one that, where community foundations / community philanthropy organizations are still quite young or emerging, represents both a hypothesis and a potential source of tension. The answers aren’t yet cut and dried and, within the global field at least, we have to rely somewhat on anecdotes and one-off experiences of partners we have been working with over the last few years (although the outcome indicators that the GFCF has developed in the last four to five years are aimed at facilitating the collection of evidence across a diverse set of individual organizations and geographic regions so that we can begin to talk about trends, common characteristics, etc.).

Firstly, it is probably worth emphasizing that that the report, “A Different Kind of Wealth”, focuses specifically on community philanthropy organizations that are all grantmakers to some extent or another and that we didn’t include other types of NGOs / CSOs that were seeking to leverage local philanthropic assets. So this response will focus on experiences from that narrower cohort of specifically grantmaking organizations (as against broader forms of community philanthropy).

In very practical terms, a community foundation can demonstrate mutual accountability by modelling transparency. In regard to transparency, that might include an Annual Report that outlines how grantmaking has been carried out and which groups have received what grants to do what. Because grantmaking is often the community foundation’s primary tool for fund development, it is essential that local donors see exactly how money flows to and through the community foundation if they are to be convinced to give again. It should also include annual Donor Statements that allow each donor (whether local or international) to see exactly where their money has gone. It should contain a Summary Income and Expenditure statement for the community philanthropy organisation.

By comparison, typical outside donor funding for a CSO may include requirements for an annual audit, but generally does not require that the organization publish information in a way that makes it accessible to local stakeholders. Outside donors tend to emphasize accountability (tracking, through third-party audits, how funds were spent) rather than transparency (information sharing about how funds were spent).

In terms of governance and local participation in decision-making (beyond the board itself), there have been some very interesting efforts by some community foundations to engage with power dynamics directly and root themselves more firmly and “horizontally” in their communities. Strategies include publically advertising for board members (Community Foundation for Northern Ireland), organizing community-decision making processes around the allocation of grants and then having grantees report back to those same community forums (Central American Women’s Fund and Dalia Association, Palestine), working with communities to create their own community funds within the foundation which give them a stake both as co-investors in the foundation but also decision-makers in regard to their allocation for local development purposes (Kenya Community Development Foundation) and engaging young people both in fundraising and grantmaking activities through projects such as YouthBank (where they raise the funds, decide how to allocate them and then monitor and review them, with the support of a community foundation or other hosting institution). We also have examples of foundations (e.g. Tewa in Nepal and West Coast Community Foundation in South Africa) where organizations that have received grants are encouraged to make a donation back to the foundation as a strategy for fostering a sense of co-investment / mutuality between the foundation and its partners. Of course, the potential for elite capture and for token participation always exists with any organization. But a community philanthropy institution that is making decisions about how to spend locally-raised resources often tends to have a stronger incentive toward horizontal engagement, and it is often built into governance structures or programmatic management.

Central American Women’s Fund

 By contrast, in terms of local participation in decision-making, where large outside donors support CSOs, even including re-granting facilities, their emphasis tends to be on the organization’s reach and potential array of activities to support, rather than the quality of engagement between the CSO and its constituents. Outside donors often have incentives to define a minimum standard of engagement for the CSO and push it not to go beyond that standard – so it is effectively a minimum and maximum – in order to maximize “value for money” from the donor perspective.

In the realm of governance, outside donors often have very robust governance standards. Their standards, while often high, reference compliance with international best practice or local legal requirements and tend to place emphasis on avoiding conflicts of interest among staff or board, with much less attention to formal roles for an organization’s community in its governance.

What is key here is that the simple “bricks and mortar” of the institutional framework of a community philanthropy organization are not in themselves sufficient to ensure mutual accountability, power-sharing with the community and only a clear articulation of some key values and principles by board and staff can help ward against the push and pull of forces that exist within any multi-stakeholder institutional arrangement.

And finally perhaps it is worth touching on the role of grantmaking and re-granting in all of this. A recent issue of Alliance magazine included a special focus on grantmaking. It explored whether grantmaking as a tool for achieving social change had been over-stated and whether other philanthropic and development tools might be more effective. Overall, contributors from emerging markets and developing contexts were adamant that grantmaking was an essential tool in fostering local development – and that it was so much more than a series of transactions and transfers of money (as is often the case when it comes to “re-granting” on behalf of international donors. Filiz Bikmen observed that in Turkey grantmaking is so much more than the transfer of funds; it is all about increasing the capacities of civil society, fostering connections between different groups – an investment in democratization. And Akwasi Aidoo, from TrustAfrica, also noted that in Africa, for so long dependent on donor aid and only just now beginning to experience the reality of a developed and indigenous African philanthropy sector, “grantmaking becomes an essential tool in fostering new and more horizontal and transparent forms of mutual accountability between donors and recipients; it constitutes part of a paradigm shift towards a form of development that is driven and resourced by Africans.”

What do you think? The GACP offers a valuable platform to establish a dialogue across different development approaches and agendas and what it needs is a range of different voices and perspectives. So, please, join the discussion!

 

 

 

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

Alliance magazine editorial: Bringing grantmaking in from the cold

Increasingly, the practice of grantmaking as a tool for bringing about social change has fallen out of favour, replaced by newer, snappier-sounding forms of philanthropy. In laying out their wares, venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy, philanthrocapitalism and, most recently, ‘catalytic philanthropy’ have all made claims for greater effectiveness. 

Barry Knight & Jenny Hodgson

This change has been largely driven by outsiders, for example by business people entering the sector or by consultants. However, there has also been introspection within established grantmaking platforms and networks about the significance and purpose of grantmaking. For example, a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference of the African Grantmakers Network worried that grantmaking – or giving away money – understated what African philanthropies were really about. Globally, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for GrantmakerSupport) has been reflecting on whether its emphasis on grantmaking as a development tool is still relevant.

Is ‘traditional’ philanthropy, with its emphasis on grantmaking, being left out in the cold?

Complex solutions for complex problems
The complexities of bringing about social change require complex solutions and multiple strategies – of that there is no doubt. This special feature does not make claims that grantmaking is the strategy, the truth. Rather, it seeks to reinstate grantmaking as a highly strategic development tool – an art, even – which can play a central role in the pursuit of social change, not least because in the end good grantmaking means letting go, devolving power and putting resources in the hands of people and institutions to make their own decisions and shape their own futures.

It is clear, however, that in recent years the tide has been turning against grantmaking as more and more foundations adopt the top-down strategies of strategic and catalytic philanthropy and philanthrocapitalism. As an illustration of this, a 2013 report on catalytic philanthropy by Danish foundation Realdania draws heavily on a three-part hierarchy devised by FSG. In the table, the common metaphor of fishing is used, with traditional philanthropy and grantmaking equivalent to giving a hungry man a fish, strategic philanthropy equivalent to teaching a man to fish, and catalytic philanthropy equivalent to reforming the whole fishing industry and improving the lives of poor people as a result.

The unsurprising conclusion from the FSG table is that traditional philanthropy and grantmaking won’t achieve social change. In effect, ‘grantmaking’ has been equated with scattergun charity with no interest in long-term results.

Tables of this kind oversimplify the real world. Sharp divisions tend to produce false dichotomies. We do not wish to simply defend traditional grantmaking or to trash other models of philanthropy. Instead, what we want to do is to examine what grantmaking has to offer in the context of a range of other strategies.

Grantmaking as a strategic tool
We see grantmaking as a philosophy, a creative and strategic tool, a mechanism for building voice, agency and trust that in turn deliver social change. The articles in this special feature describe grantmaking for social change in all its diversity – big grants, small grants, long-term and short-term. Despite their differences and nuances, what they all have in common is the basic fact that at some point money moves from one organization to another – a grant is made.

At its most literal, grantmaking means ‘the practice of giving money’, ‘non-repayable funds disbursed by one party to a recipient’, or ‘the discretionary awarding of funds’.

However, the simple catch-all category of ‘grantmaking’ is perhaps reductionist and unhelpful. There are many different types of grants. For example, we need to distinguish between reactive grants where applicants bid into open programmes;responsive grants where funder and funded develop a programme together based on the ideas of the grant recipient; proactive grants where the funder takes the lead and finds the grantee to implement its ideas; and contracts – beyond the scope of this special feature – where the funder tenders for organizations to fulfil specified work.

Moreover, we have to take account of context. One type of intervention is not going to work across the entire world. In developing and emerging markets, where the field of organized philanthropy is often new, levels of public trust are low (particularly towards non-profits), and civil society is weak, grantmaking can play an essential role in building trust and demonstrating transparency and good governance. There is a similar need for a highly local and culturally sensitive type of grantmaking in marginalized and excluded communities in the Global North.

A changing context for philanthropy
Why are models like philanthrocapitalism and strategic or catalytic philanthropy gaining the upper hand? The answer lies partly in the rapidly changing context of the past quarter of a century. We live in a world where constant technological innovation has become the norm, so that what is new is always better than what has gone before. The world of spin and instant media means that people put enormous effort into communications to get their message across to global audiences. At the same time, there have been dramatic changes in the balance of economic power. We have seen the rise of multinational corporations, a reduced role for the state in many places, and increased use of private/public partnerships, along with raised expectations of philanthropy. The philanthropic context is changing too, with the emergence of a new class of mega-rich individuals who establish enormous foundations shaped by the type of business model that made them wealthy in the first place.

However, intractable problems remain. We face a world where inequality is rising nearly everywhere, environmental degradation and climate change threaten our planet, and whole areas of the globe are locked in seemingly endless violent conflict. Despite our best efforts and considerable investments of money, both through official development assistance and philanthropy, deep-seated problems seem entrenched.

Does philanthropy need to raise its game?
This calls for new models and a sense that philanthropy needs to raise its game. Such a perspective has resulted in a variety of initiatives from the philanthropic sector designed to deepen the effectiveness of philanthropy. In 2000, the four-year International Network on Strategic Philanthropy was set up through the Bertelsmann Foundation. Since then, we have seen the rise of ‘philanthrocapitalism’, designed to use business methods to achieve social ends. This has been followed by other approaches, each with slightly different names, but with similar ‘strategic’ approaches, including ‘venture philanthropy’, philanthrocapitalism, ‘collective impact’ and ‘catalytic philanthropy’.

What all of these approaches share – and their similarities outweigh their differences – is the top-down, planned use of resources from a variety of actors being brought to bear on a serious problem with the goal of bringing about large-scale social change that can be measured. Paul Brest, recently retired from the Hewlett Foundation, defines strategic philanthropy as:

‘… the setting of clear goals, developing sound evidence-based strategies for achieving them, measuring progress along the way to achieving them, and determining whether you were actually successful in reaching the goals.’ [1]

The leitmotif here is to use business methods to control the change and to measure the outcome. The role of non-profit organizations or wider civil society is downplayed and treated at best as one of the means of delivering change, but not as a source of the ideas behind the change. At the root of this is the belief that philanthropy knows best.

Pablo Eisenberg has called this ‘a dangerous shift of the balance of power in the non-profit world’,[2] noting that 60 per cent of US foundations will not receive unsolicited proposals. This will enable donors to ‘call all the shots and exclude non-profits with great new ideas’.

It is not just outsiders to philanthropy like Pablo Eisenberg that are making this point. Peter Buffett, son of Warren Buffett, has noted that ‘philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field’, but the main effect of this is ‘to enable the rich to sleep better at night’. He suggests that the answer lies in listening to those who have the answers and might create the conditions for the changes we need. The role of philanthropy should be to produce the risk capital for those ideas.[3]

Voices from the field
Other voices – from the grassroots – echo these concerns. The articles in this special feature display opinions from a range of grantees and foundation and community foundation leaders who stress the importance of grantmaking and disavow the well-resourced messages of ‘strategic’ and ‘catalytic’ philanthropy.

The lesson of history would appear to support them. Much of the really important social change in the past century has been driven not by philanthropy but by grassroots organizing at the local level. Think of civil rights or feminism. In the webinar discussion, Kathleen Cravero, president of the Oak Foundation, believes that social change comes from ‘strong, community-based civil society organizations’. In the same discussion, Rana Kotan, from the Sabanci Foundation, points out that advocacy to change public policy to address child marriage in Turkey resulted from a grant application from a local women’s group.

Moreover, failure to engage with the grassroots may cause failure. A 2013 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy argues that elite-driven, top-down approaches adopted by funders in the battle against climate change in the US, for example, have not achieved their goals because of a failure to involve grassroots communities directly affected by environmental harms which had the energy and resolve to take up the issues.[4]

Contributors to this special feature also emphasize the importance of grants as a flexible and powerful tool that can play a pivotal role in bringing about social change by allowing funders to engage with and spread risks across a range of ‘untested’ groups to take the lead on those issues that affect them the most, such as the case of grassroots activism around mining land rights supported by the Fund for Global Human Rights in Guatemala.

Clearly, the current shift by more and more large foundations away from the ‘front lines’ of more traditional, open-ended styles of grantmaking, often in favour of ‘big bet’ grants to a smaller number of larger, more established organizations, has implications for grassroots organizations. It cuts them out of the loop.

Grantmaking in emerging contexts
In developing and emerging contexts, dismissing grantmaking has even more significant implications. Here, philanthropic sectors are still young or emerging, and grantmaking is new or not well established. It is in these contexts that grantmaking has the greatest potential to play a role in bringing about real change that goes far beyond the transactional nature of cheque-writing. In Russia, for example, grantmaking, although now well established thanks to the efforts of philanthropy infrastructure organizations like the Russian Donors Forum and CAF Russia, dates back only 20 years. In Sub-Saharan Africa, too, the cohort of social justice grantmakers, such as the African Women’s Development Fund and TrustAfrica, are at an early stage in their existence. While the East Africa Association of Grantmakers can claim a decade of existence, its continent-wide sister, the African Grantmakers Network, was established only in 2009. Further north, the Arab Foundations Forum is a mere seven years old.

Why does grantmaking matter so much in these contexts? In the Global North, where functioning legal systems and a level of public awareness of the role of non-profits can be assumed, the role of grants might be less significant. But in contexts where trust is low, where people simply don’t believe in institutions, grants play an enormously significant role in building trust and modelling transparency and democratic good governance. As Filiz Bikmen observes, in Turkey grantmaking is so much more than the transfer of funds; it is all about increasing the capacities of civil society, fostering connections between different groups – an investment in democratization. Similarly in Africa, for so long dependent on donor aid and only just now beginning to experience the reality of a developed and indigenous African philanthropy sector, grantmaking becomes an essential tool in fostering new and more horizontal and transparent forms of mutual accountability between donors and recipients; it constitutes part of a paradigm shift towards a form of development that is driven and resourced by Africans.

The ‘retreat’ from traditional grantmaking in parts of the world where it never got established in the first place is a particular concern in terms of its effects on strengthening democratic culture and fostering social innovation, as argued by Andre Degenszajn, discussing the situation in Brazil. It also represents a harsh blow to those who have sought to introduce grantmaking – in doing so, choosing the road less followed – a task which can be fraught with challenges.
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For emerging public philanthropic institutions such as community foundations, which are both fund seekers and grantmakers, it can be an uphill task to convince potential donors to support their grantmaking programmes when their instincts are to want the community foundations to deliver programmes themselves rather than to grant funds on. Donor education becomes essential to demonstrate how giving to and through local grantmakers can offer a way for donors to spread their philanthropic resources across a broader cross-section of grassroots groups and civil society organizations and, by doing so, to spread their risks too. Giving to local grantmakers can also play an important role in creating strong, well-managed local groups and serve as a way to build important bridges between donors and beneficiaries.

Where grantmaking is so new, its easy rejection is of great concern if it encourages corporate or business-oriented donors, impressed by management school wisdom, to believe that operating their own programmes is a preferable option to partnering with civil society organizations. It serves to justify their resistance to working with non-profits, and allows them to look no further than themselves, rather than seeking to build partnerships with, and harness the expertise and experience of, others engaged in social development.

Beware all models

So far in this article, we have argued that thoughtful grantmaking can create positive social change. This view is reinforced by stories of successful grants made by grantmakers in different countries covering diverse issues ranging from same-sex partnerships in Ireland through to drones in the war zones of the Middle East, education in Brazil, micro-micro lending in America and many more.

These examples seem to counter the idea that strategic or catalytic philanthropy or philanthrocapitalism is superior to traditional philanthropy.

Does this imply that we should abandon trying to build models in philanthropy? Not necessarily, but it does mean that we need a better understanding of what different models offer. Given that the process of social change is so complex, it is unlikely that the simple three-fold FSG hierarchy will be sufficient.

A more nuanced approach can be obtained by looking at how foundations themselves actually perceive change. We have reanalysed material from a survey of 80 European foundations conducted by Selim Iltus and Barry Knight in preparation for a session at the 2013 European Foundation Centre conference called ‘From Good to Great Philanthropy’.

Questions were based on an extensive literature review on ‘what makes organizations great’ conducted by Bettina Windau from the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Based on her literature review, we identified 28 items that could transform ‘good’ work in a foundation into ‘great’ work. Examples included: ‘a first-class theory of change’, ‘a highly focused programme’, ‘the right grantees’, ‘remaining positive in the face of setbacks’ and ‘good knowledge management’.

Using a statistical technique called factor analysis, we found seven archetypes perceived by foundations as the route to greatness that foundations aspire to.

Seven routes to greatness

Passionate rationalists These foundations use a first-class theory of change. They are dedicated in what they do and always measure their impact. They are also good organizers, valuing collective impact with collaborating agencies. They are good at leveraging resources and, when necessary, find new ways of tackling old problems.

Flexible risk-takers These foundations are always optimistic and hopeful about their results. They like to take risks and have a flexible approach. Valuing learning, if things do not go well, they change course and explore new options.

3. People-centred For these organizations, it is all about people. This means the right leadership, good people in the right positions and the right allies. They also have a strong understanding of the political context.

Short-term pragmatists They value short-term gains. They also aspire to spectacular outcomes. They do not always plan in detail but they always have clear short-term plans for how to proceed and achieve results.

Focused professionals These foundations have highly focused programmes. They concentrate on a few areas and have clear objectives. They clearly define their role from the beginning and stick to it. They also stick with their grantees and make long-term commitments.

Gamblers These foundations believe in luck and not necessarily in careful planning. They also go after simple ideas. They believe any project can turn out to be a success or failure.

Big investors These believe that for foundations to be successful, they need to make big investments. They select their grantees very carefully, because they also think that the right grantee is the key. They tend to avoid social justice investments.

The first type of foundation – the passionate rationalists – looks very like ‘catalytic philanthropy’. However, the model allows for six other types. What is striking is that all of the types use grants as part of the strategy, though the role of grants is different in each case.

These results suggest that there is a variety of ways that foundations aspire to achieve greatness. Moreover, since there is a variety of ways to achieve greatness, there needs to be a variety of forms of evaluation, risk assessment, and other management techniques. These findings relate only to European foundations and it is likely that we would add to the picture if we incorporated foundations from other parts of the world.

This special feature suggests that we should be wary of coming in with a simple slogan or matrix to guide our actions. The world is more complicated than this allows for and multidimensional approaches are called for. Above all, we should run a mile from management books or consultancy advice that promote a single, simple answer – otherwise we will fall prey to unevaluated fashion. Indeed, as Andrew Kingman observes in his excellent article, which seeks to delink the idea of catalytic philanthropy as a breakthrough model from the sound development principles that lie behind it, the interventions of development and philanthropy have often been unambitious in both their framing and their delivery. When it comes to social change, we have to embrace complexity, and that means many different tools, approaches and processes which, as Kingman illustrates in his case study from Mozambique, can be driven by a ‘thoughtful NGO or a good grantmaker’ as much as by an ‘inspired philanthropist’.

Conclusion
The impressive consistency in the views of the range of grantmakers writing in this special feature suggests that grantmaking should advance, not retreat. It is clear from the contributions that follow that practitioners see grantmaking playing a central role in fostering creativity, promoting democratic participation, changing power dynamics and reducing poverty and inequality. Philanthropy has many other important tools besides grantmaking, to be sure, but the evidence suggests that grantmaking is central.

We hope this special feature will bring the debate to a higher level so that we do not all rush to the next simple solution that tells us that there is a ‘right way’, when in fact there are ‘right ways’.

This article was first published in the March 2014 edition of Alliance magazine which had a special feature on Grantmaking for Social Change

1 Paul Brest: www.nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/22745-bill-schambra-s-problem-with-evidence-based-philanthropy.html 

2
 Pablo Eisenberg: http://philanthropy.com/article/Strategic-Philanthropy-/141263  

3
 Peter Buffett: www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html?_r=0 

Real Results: Why strategic philanthropy is social justice philanthropy, Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski, NCRP, 2013

Jenny Hodgson is executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations

Barry Knight is secretary of CENTRIS

Their joint publications include More than the Poor Cousin: The emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm and A Different Kind of Wealth: Mapping a baseline of African community foundations.

Call for concept notes: community foundations and the environment grants pilot

The GFCF is inviting concept notes for a grants and peer learning programme at strengthening the links between community philanthropy, people-led development and the environment in ways that are holistic and process-driven.

The purpose of these short-term grants will be to support the work of individual community foundations and community philanthropy organizations, both programmatically and institutionally, and to begin to draw a map of the range of different activities around the environment in which community philanthropy organizations are engaged.

Grants will be in the range of US $7,000 – $12,000 and the grant period will run from April 15th – December 31st 2014.

Read the full set of grant guidelines here

YouthBank International introduces its new identity and new digital magazine

Says Vernon Ringland, Executive Group member and YouthBank International Coordinator, “At YouthBank International we are looking forward to a promising, dynamic and invigorating 2014. With a renewed spring in our step, we are putting into action the projects that we have developed and refined in 2013. This year, after building solid foundations, we are ready to set up our stall and showcase the fruit of our collaborations and internal work within and outside our network.”

YouthBank ‘supports projects designed and run by young people that address issues and concerns relevant to them and their community.’ They do this via over 200 YouthBanks in 26 countries across Europe, parts of Africa, and Central Asia… from South Africa to Romania; from Bulgaria to Kyrgyzstan; from Ireland to Turkey.

Learn more about YouthBank International’s new identity and its new e-magazine.

YouthBank International – Think Big from Daniel Kendall on Vimeo.