Woods, trees and the rise of African philanthropy

In the early 1990s, I spent a year living and working in Uganda. One day I was with some friends driving back from a trip to one of Uganda’s beautiful game parks. It was late afternoon and not long before darkness would set in. We decided to pitch our tents by the side of the long and sparsely populated road rather than drive on to the nearest town. As we started to unpack tents, stoves, pots and pans, a small group of people emerged, apparently out of nowhere. They watched us, intrigued and probably rather baffled by all our camping gear: we exchanged greetings and one of them told us that they had been sent by the village elders to find out who we were and what we were doing. We were, it turned out, camping on land belonging to their community and so their interest was only natural. On our part, we were somewhat embarrassed by our assumption that our camp site was an empty spot in the middle of nowhere, when in fact it turned out that we pitching our tents in the middle of a community, with its own members, leaders, systems and dynamics. Just because all of this wasn’t immediately visible to us in terms of name signs and bill boards, didn’t mean it wasn’t there.


I have often been reminded of that experience over the last 15 or so years I have spent working to build the field of building local philanthropy in different parts of the world, and nowhere more so than in Africa. I am occasionally asked, “How many community foundations are there in the Africa?” Well, if you count the institutions that call themselves ‘community foundations’ there are about 12, and if you applied the precise definition used by the U.S. Council on Foundations (“tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their area. Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds that help their region meet local challenges”) then you’d probably come up with fewer than that. On a continent made up of 54 countries, these figures can start to look rather insignificant, the map rather empty.

But if you ask some different questions – about the organized systems of grassroots giving and solidarity in Africa that have existed for generations, for example, or about the emergence of new and different institutionalized philanthropic forms over recent years, including women’s funds, local multi-stakeholder-type foundations, regional and national grantmakers as well as community foundations and community development foundations – the landscape suddenly looks quite different. Suddenly those 12 community foundations no longer look so isolated and inconsequential. Instead they can be seen as some of the more visible structures in an environment which is much richer and more complex.

While taxonomies in philanthropy are certainly important in helping to define and bring clarity to some of the different “families” of institutions and practice that make up the field – and in contexts like the United States and the United Kingdom, these definitions can have serious legal and tax implications which cannot be ignored – one can’t help wondering whether sometimes they also prevent us from seeing what is right in front of our eyes.  By being overly simplistic in our search for clarity, do we in fact end up being unable to see the woods for the trees and become blind to whatever doesn’t fit into our neat definitional categories?

In our new report, A Different Kind of Wealth: a baseline of African community foundations, Barry Knight and I have attempted to lay a baseline for the African community foundation field (in all its diversity) and to contribute towards a new African narrative which derives from both within and outside the continent. So yes, the U.S. community foundation story, whose origins date back to 1914 and the creation of the Cleveland Foundation, is one part of this narrative, but so is the role of international development aid. And within Africa, the continent’s rich traditions of giving and mutual support are also important but so are the failures of governance, and particularly of governments.

We have sought to begin to tell an important story about a new generation of local philanthropic institutions which is emerging in Africa, some seeded with money from outside the continent, others entirely home‑grown – and all seeking to draw on local resources and tap into different forms of wealth, which include cash and property but also include other, less tangible, forms of social capital such as trust and credibility.

Although the cluster may not be uniform in terms of the labels different organizations use to describe themselves (it includes those that might call themselves community grantmakers, community development foundations, women’s funds before they call themselves community foundations) they all share a commonality of “essence” around the importance of assets, agency and trust in driving a form of development which is “people-led”. It is in this context – where a strong community is one in which there are high levels of trust, which has access to resources and assets and where there are strong local capacities for organizing  – that the term “community foundation” really comes into its own as a force for transformation in the African context. Its connotations of local ownership of assets (both for and of the community) and of permanence (so not just another NGO running another 3-year project) go far beyond any legalistic definition.

Many of the issues we raise in our report – around the nature and potential of African philanthropy – were up for discussion at the recent  conference of the African Grantmakers Network in Johannesburg, South Africa which was an inspiring and energising event and evidence of a vibrant and expanding African philanthropic sector on the move. One of the highlights of the event (and there were many) was the appearance of Graҫa Machel, a leading African stateswoman, the wife of Nelson Mandela and the founder of the Community Development Foundation in Mozambique (another one of those institutions that doesn’t quite fit into a neat category). Mrs Machel, who is in her late sixties, had just arrived back in Johannesburg off an overnight flight and came straight to the conference. She spoke forcefully and without notes about her vision of African philanthropy, emphasising the need for a new African narrative, highlighting the distinct nature of African philanthropy which goes beyond money to encompass solidarity and empathy, and emphasising its potential significance in driving the continent’s development.  Relying on external resources can only ever take one so far: after all, she warned the conference in closing, “Your neighbour’s granary will never fill your stomach.”

Jenny Hodgson is the executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations: a version of this blog first appeared on RE:Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations’ blog page.

 

Rubtsovsk community foundation: building philanthropy and civic engagement in one of Russia’s “dying cities”

Philanthropy in Russia today is no longer just about big private Moscow-based foundations or humanitarian aid organizations. Editor of Philanthropy (an online portal on all matters philanthropic run by Charities Aid Foundation Russia), Matthew Masal’tsev, went to Siberia, to find for himself out how local philanthropy is changing lives at the community level. He began his journey in Rubtsovsk, in the Altai region of Russia.

In many ways, Rubtsovsk can be regarded as the birthplace of a new kind of local philanthropy which is as much about civic participation as it about money. Eight years ago, the local community foundation (known in Russian as City Charitable Fund, “Development”) produced its first “charity show”, an adaptation of the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The performers included prominent businessmen as well as local officials and deputies, and proceeds from ticket sales went towards a community grantmaking programme. The show was an instant hit: it has been performed every year since and has raised over 1.2 million rubles, or around US $36,000. (It has also inspired similar types of charitable / theatrical productions in other parts of Russia).

Building on this success, the community foundation went on to hold other community-oriented charitable events, including a talent show and, most recently, a music contest called, “Together Through Song” where the musically talented – and the less musically talented – all have an opportunity to perform.

Talent competition organized by the community foundation

Igor Levin, director of a local metals factory, is a newly inspired bass guitarist, having picked a guitar for the first time only a few months ago to join one of the bands playing in the competition. This isn’t Igor’s first foray into the activities of the community foundation – he’s starred as the heroic lover in five of the charitable productions, competed in the talent show, and been a key member of the team in a charitable football tournament.

Rubtsovsk is in the Altai region, near the border with Kazakhstan and a 300 kilometres from the nearest airport in Barnaul. Although the city (pop. 150,000) was founded 120 years ago, it began to grow significantly during the Second World War when two large factories were relocated there away from the front lines. These two factories – one producing tractors the other agricultural machinery – formed the pillars of the city’s economy during the Soviet era, bringing jobs and infrastructure. In fact, during Soviet times, Rubtsovsk was one of the largest employers in the manufacturing industry across the Union.

However, in the early 1990s with the demise of the Soviet Union, industrial production ground to a halt and Rubtsovsk went through a very difficult period as state salaries and pensions went unpaid.  Although things improved after 2000, Rubtsovsk is still categorised as one of Russia’s “dying cities”. (Even in the last year the city has seen more job losses with the abolition of customs controls between Russia and Kazakhstan).

As times got more and more difficult, local businesses found themselves frequently approached with requests for assistance. Businessmen like Alexander Varatanov and his partners felt strongly that it was their responsibility to do what they could to help. “But then I became concerned that we were starting to see the emergence of a ‘professional beggar’ mentality. It’s impossible to help everyone. And it’s hard to make decisions when people turn up at your office,” says Vartanov. “At the same time, you need to have systems in place to ensure that money is spent properly and for the intended purpose. A few of decided that we needed some kind of structure which could help address some of these problems.”

Tatiana Bukanovich, director of the foundation (on right)

The idea of introducing such a mechanism took root and the foundation was established in 2000, under the charismatic leadership of Tatiana Bukanovich and with support from local business leaders. Over the last twelve years the foundation has organized charity performances, grants programmes, social projects, public campaigns and, more recently, it has been the driving force behind the alliance of Altai community foundations. It has also created a stronger links within the local business sector and the conversation these days is much more about the development of civil society and of active citizens than about charity.

For one of the donors to the foundation, the aspiring bass guitarist and head of a local factory, Igor Levin, the relationship with the community foundation has been an interesting journey. Levin believes in “doing” and had always been rather sceptical about the idea of “charity” as something that perpetuates passivity and inertia. So it was only in 2003, when he decided to run for political office and was advised that he needed to improve his image in the community, that he approached Tatiana and her colleagues at the community foundation – and promptly received an instant and thorough education about the role and importance of philanthropy.

For Levin, the community foundation goes beyond mere charity to community development and innovation. He describes receiving requests from two kindergartens: one was for a television and video recorder and the other was to purchase materials to decorate a room that they had turned into a children’s theatre. “Of course, I supported the second: after all, how many children will pass through that children’s theatre. You never know, some of them might turn out to be great artists in the future!” (He adds with a sly smile, “And by the way, one of the community foundation projects has actually brought me business”. His company was commissioned to construct 10 play structures with the funds raised through the charity show).

Marat Yelagin, a former radio journalist turned furniture entrepreneur and a board member of the community foundation, harbours a rather sceptical view of the local community whom he sees as often disengaged and distrustful. Despite this he has established his own designated fund within the community foundation and is exploring the idea of creating a system of legal aid for citizens to support them in asserting their rights in their dealings with government. Whether people would appreciate such an effort, he muses, is another thing altogether.  So why engage in philanthropy at all? “In my own way, I’m just trying to make sure that everything I’m involved in is at least transparent and effective.”

And it is around that last sentiment, it seems, that the Rubtsovsk Community Foundation continues to strike a chord: that in a broader environment of inertia, corruption and distrust it is still possible for individuals to come together to engage in philanthropic giving in ways that are both transparent and effective.

 Translated and adapted from an article originally published on the “филантроп” website published by CAF Russia

 

Community Philanthropy with a Social Justice Approach: The Added Value

‘Social justice’ encapsulates the values of justice, fairness and peace within communities. Philanthropy for social justice examines structural arrangements that cause and maintain injustice and unfair treatment and focuses on changing those structures.

The Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP) Network is a global network of philanthropy practitioners working to increase the impact of grantmaking for social justice and peace and to shift the narrative in philanthropy to one that understands and embraces the importance of a social justice approach.

A social justice approach to philanthropy respects the role of those most affected by injustice as agents of their own change. While this may be close to the central tenet of Community philanthropy – local ownership of local solutions, not all Community Philanthropy addresses structural issues. However, there are interesting and inspiring examples that show us that where the two intersect and strategies that both deepen community engagement and employ a cohesive approach to address structural and contextual drivers of injustice, there is added value to the change that is brought about.

The Dalit Foundation is the philanthropic arm of a social movement for structural change in the Indian society. It supports grassroots initiatives that address beliefs and practices that perpetuate caste discrimination and unequal treatment of Dalits. Committed to the principles of sustainable and bottom-up change, the Dalit Foundation has recently partnered with the Global Fund for Community Foundations to further enhance community engagement in mobilizing resources for the Dalit Movement. The Prayatna Foundation, a former grantee of the Dalit Foundation and a small community based organization (CBO) covering 50 villages in Barabanki in India offers many lessons in rethinking community philanthropy with a social justice approach.

Prayatna Foundation, India

Prayatna Foundation’s over 5000 members belong largely to the Dalit and Muslim communities and almost all of them fall below the poverty line. Against a backdrop of poverty and traditional beliefs that foster differences between the two communities, the philanthropic content of Prayatna transcends monetary contributions and is based significantly on social capital. Trust, reliability, care/concern and a common ground of affinity resulting from centuries of structural injustices and exclusion are the most important elements in the shared responsibility of the CBO members for their development. The philanthropy of the community here plays an important role in transforming situations of potential conflict to one of collective responsibility.

As the PSJP Network moves forward building connections worldwide in order to deepen and broaden the impact of philanthropy for justice, peace, equality and fair treatment for all, I’m sure that we will encounter many such interconnected lessons for community philanthropy practitioners and social justice grant makers to increase the value, impact and sustainability of their work.

Chandrika Sahai, Coordinator PSJP

For more information on Social Justice Philanthropy and the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace Network, visit the PSJP Website and PSJP Blog.

 

 

“Rooted in the country, rooted in the community”: The Story of the Balkan Community Initiatives Fund

The GFCF asked Tanja Bjelanovic, Programme Director at the Balkan Community Initiatives Fund, about the establishment of the organization in 1999 and some of the challenges that Serbia’s largest grassroots grantmaking fund has encountered along the way.

The Balkans have a chequered record in European history. Still identified as the trigger point for the First World War, they were also, at the end of the last century, the source of the unpleasant reminder that Europe had not outgrown war. The Balkan conflict was bloody, protracted and the source of much international hand-wringing. The European and world community watched in horror as events spiralled out of control in the 1990s, and then intervened with belated heavy-handedness, and in an arguably partisan manner, with a bombing campaign against the perceived primary aggressor, Serbia.

Political conflicts have the effect of simplifying issues, and what is easily overlooked is that the people of Serbia were by no means universally supportive of the Belgrade administration run by Slobodan Milosevic. However popular he might have been with part of the Serbian population, Milosevic was a controversial figure, and there were a large number of Serbs who felt that he had usurped power and that he did not represent them.

The international origins of BCIF

Belgrade dominates Serbia: almost one-third of the country’s population lives in the city, and almost all its administration and industry. In the 1990s, a whole country was being held responsible for the actions of a political minority, or so it seemed to British development practitioner, Jenny Hyatt, who gave a speech in 1999 on behalf of the ‘ordinary’ citizens of Serbia – particularly those in small, remote communities – whose suffering from the conflicts caused by Milosevic was being overlooked in the blanket condemnation of the aggression of Serbia.

Jenny’s speech attracted support and funds: a small amount – £2,000 – but enough to establish a foundation to begin working in Serbia, designing programmes of support for Serbian communities and working with local people at a grassroots level. For five years, the newly formed Balkan Community Initiatives Fund (BCIF) provided small grants for people throughout Serbia, building capacity and local activity. Then, in 2004, the Fund was established as a local indigenous foundation and two years later, in 2006, the international wing of BCIF was disbanded, having, in Jenny Hyatt’s words, ‘ensured that local people had a lot of power from the beginning [and that there had] been a process of building people’s confidence and capacities to use that power well in relation to their own communities and external supporters’.

Aspects of the background to BCIF, together with the general status of civil society, did not necessarily endear it to sectors of the Serbian population, however. For one thing, it was established with international money and run, in its infancy, mainly by people from outside Serbia. For another, its primary purpose was to support communities far from the country’s capital, Belgrade, which was (and is) where most of the money and power were still to be found. As Tanja Bjelanovic, the current programme director at BCIF, explains:

At the time we began to work in Serbia, not many people actually knew about us. We were invisible except for some small communities and some most prominent NGO activists. The main problem for us at the time was outreach – how to reach communities, how to motivate people to take the initiative, how to build trust among other stakeholders and gain a good reputation. Trying to activate people in small communities and direct them to their own resources in their communities – that was the real challenge.

Tanja Bjelanovic, BCIF’s Programme Director

At the same time, civil society faced considerable mistrust from some sections of the Serbian population. Tanja describes the atmosphere of the time, and the specific issues facing the Fund, in this way:

[Civil society] used to have this image among certain groups of people or citizens that it was working against national interests, that it was working for those from abroad – for international donors from the European Union, from the US. [Milosevic’s government] perceived it as receiving money from international sources and doing what they are asked to do. And they do not trust it; because civil society in terms of human rights and this new movement of fighting for political freedom and democracy in Serbia – that was mostly developed in the 1990s, during the crisis, and it was directed against the authoritarian regime. So still some people have this picture of NGOs as working for somebody else who are traitors to the Serbian cause or using funds for their own interests but not for public good.

For us, as donors, the problem was more that there was little in terms of grassroots/bottom-up/community activism in Serbia. During the 1990s, donors used to invest large funds in human rights, in the economy, elections, democracy building on a policy and institutional level, etc. Support to small grassroots initiatives was rare and neither citizens nor stakeholders were used to it.

Another challenge for BCIF was the decline in an established tradition of philanthropy in Serbia and the absence of a model precisely matching its own chosen focus of work. At every level of society – governmental, commercial, regional, individual – voluntary activity and philanthropy were practised little and only partially understood.

These challenges persist: more recently, the campaign to re-establish trust has not been helped by the perception that a number of voluntary sector organizations had behaved inappropriately:

There were a few bad examples and affairs that happened with a few foundations that spent the money in an inappropriate way; and, of course, the media have this approach to present scandals rather than something less simple, less attractive, so people heard about these bad examples and it affected their trust generally in the work of civil society and in the work of foundations. For example, speaking about our foundation, fundraising from individuals is the biggest challenge: how to rebuild the trust, how to make them aware that we are somebody who will use their money in an appropriate way and invest it in the good parts.

In the early years of BCIF’s activity, however, it was clear that changing perceptions and patterns of behaviour would be central to any possible success the Fund might have. But here again it was not helped by one particular fall-out from the conflict that had led to its establishment. The suspicion and mistrust of people who were proud Serb nationals is possibly understandable. What is less understandable – at least, at first – is the difficulty in mobilizing support from those people who actively campaigned for change, who fought to introduce democracy into Serbia and to cleanse the country of the authoritarian stain of the Milosevic era. These, surely, would be the people to participate in civil society vigorously and enthusiastically? The reality is slightly different:

People expected that another day there will be a heaven; but, of course, it didn’t happen, and they lost their strength, they lost their energy, they lost their enthusiasm because they had been fighting and investing efforts but they didn’t see any significant improvements. So, in terms of community work, the challenge is how to mobilize communities, how to attract people and how to recover and rebuild this enthusiasm.

Reinvigorating local communities

This was the background against which BCIF launched itself as a community organization in 2004, one of a very small number of organizations of that kind, orientated towards small local communities, supporting grassroots initiatives across Serbia. And it is this background that also explains why the Fund is currently based in Belgrade (despite its focus on local initiatives) and why its funding is still predominantly drawn from international sources, despite its commitment to developing national and local philanthropy.

If this might give the impression of a centralized, internationally funded organization, the activity of the fund is as far away as can be imagined from such a description. It has been an early axiom of the fund that it would not impose programmes on local communities but elicit from them their concerns and their preoccupations. If a community is particularly concerned about an environmental issue, for example, then the Fund’s support would be to help them develop a programme to focus on that; if it’s cultural, it would work with the community to provide the venue, or the outlet, or the facilities that the community was seeking. There was no attempt to impose a prescribed menu of topics and issues:

At the time we had only one grant programme – Active Communities – supporting people for any issue they find relevant, they find important in their community. And we’ve been running that programme now for 12 years. We let them choose their priorities. I think that’s something that is really unique here and it’s really flexible in terms of support: it helps the development of civil society but this civil society is rooted in communities and supported by citizens.

The strategy was clear. In order to build civil society, to increase its scope and to develop the habit of philanthropy, the important thing was first to give communities back their voice, to empower them and to allow them to see the consequences of the action that they were able to embark on with the help of the small grants BCIF provided.[1] This in turn would lead to eventual financial sustainability, with the majority of the funding for programmes supported by the Fund coming from local sources. Seismic changes of this kind take time, however, and this strategy – reinvigorating local communities in order to build civil society and develop individual and local philanthropy in a way that allows these community initiatives to be self-sustaining – was never going to be achieved overnight. Today, even 12 years after the Fund was established and 7 since its registration as a Serbian organization, the vast majority of its funding continues to come from international donors. As Tanja puts it:

We do have programmes that promote local fundraising; we also have capacity-building programmes for civil society organizations, trying to make them aware of local potential, local resources and local fundraising sources, teaching them to fundraise from small and medium enterprises, from citizens, from government, from local sources – and we are doing this ourselves. It is still pioneering work in Serbia, and there is still a lot to do in the future to reach significant results.

Successes against the grain

The development of philanthropy is just one element of BCIF’s work. The major part of the Fund’s activity is still grants programmes, but it is also involved in development programmes (including capacity building, education, networking, the opening of dialogue between civil society and government). Increasingly, of course, there are areas where the three strands overlap.

Here are some examples of programmes that have proven successful, some of which already show this kind of overlap:

  • Two organizations – the Blue Bird association working with people with mental disabilities in Kula, and a similar association working with mentally disabled people in Trstenik – raised more than €50,000 on a local level, allowing them to build houses in their community as daycare centres for disabled people, and to become service providers within their communities as NGOs. This was largely the result of a programme BCIF had with the Cooperating Netherlands Foundations, which helped the Fund deliver grants up to €15,000 for local organizations engaged in the development of social services.
    These two organizations were given guidance in fundraising and were then given matching grants – allowing them to secure the sum given above. Both started in similar ways, supported by BCIF with small grants, providing daycare centres for people with learning difficulties and organizing different activities. The programmes slowly became more developed and advanced, involving fundraising from individuals, businesses and the community – emerging, amazingly, with more than €50,000 in receipts. Funded like this, they have now become sustainable and – in the case of Trstenik –  are able to operate out of a new building which is itself environmentally sustainable, powered by renewable energy and solar heating. On top of this, Blue Bird has won a tender to become the service provider for people with learning difficulties in their community, so has itself also become organizationally sustainable.

  • Another example specifically related to community foundations is Moonlight (in Subotica, northern Serbia). Starting out as a civil society organization, Moonlight started by organizing clubs for children from dysfunctional families and then rolled out this model, setting up many more similar clubs and establishing a community foundation to fundraise for future clubs.

  • A third example is an informal group of young people in southern Serbia, which came into being through BCIF’s Active Communities programme. Young people from two small villages – young people who willingly choose to live in their community, rather than join the exodus to Belgrade – came together to repair an old building and make it a community centre. In the process, they succeeded in gathering all the community around them, connecting young people and elderly people, introducing cultural activities so that the elderly people could dance again. As Tanja put it, ‘Somehow they revived the whole community. And that’s impressive because it was young people who did it, who were there, working with enthusiasm on something for their community, not escaping from their lives and their communities.’ The young people’s programme, Cobra, is now being funded by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (see below), and has won awards from the Ministry for specific projects. BCIF continues to support them, encouraging them to develop local philanthropy, but the young people are already well on the way to sustainability.

A changing backdrop

These impressive success stories[2] represent a considerable success for BCIF, especially when the circumstances of its establishment are taken into consideration: the demoralization of the country, the devastated national economy, a decline in the tradition of philanthropy and volunteering. Clearly, the Fund could not have achieved these successes single-handedly, so what are the additional factors that have lent it support?

One significant change is in evidence at a national level. Tanja has noticed that ‘the government and the state and local authorities are now more open to co-operation with civil society’. This development is still in its infancy: the Ministry of Youth and Sports (mentioned above in relation to the programme Cobra) provides a small grant for distribution to youth groups aiming to raise the voice of youth in the community; but it is a small grant and rare in that it is distributed transparently and in a structured fashion.[3] There is, however, a new government office for co-operation with civil society – recently established by government – and the Fund has co-operated positively with this new office.

Another change is in the willingness of companies and corporate organizations to engage in dialogue with civil society. Again, things are moving slowly here – unsurprisingly, given the economic position at the turn of the century and the current financial crisis – but there is clear evidence of a new openness, and some actual projects that have resulted from this new relationship:

Companies in Serbia see us as some kind of resource centre for civil society for projects that they would want to fund but which they have a lack of expertise for, because after the crash of the 90s the economy is now redeveloping in Serbia. Also companies are talking about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate philanthropy, but they are still in the development phase of this activity. So we serve as a resource centre: we help them to organize their giving, to create a strategy of giving or a bridge between themselves and civil society. And we are open in our approach to companies. If there is a programme that we want to create or that we already have but which would benefit from being funded by companies, we offer the programme to companies as something they could support. But on the other hand, sometimes, maybe more often, companies approach us asking our help in advising or consulting about their giving.

This approach has led to a number of successful partnerships with companies: the Fund received a grant from the Erste Bank, for example, for a five-year project focused on youth and culture; and the Fund has also worked with the Serbian state lottery, helping them to fulfil their legal obligation to give funds to the community – another clear instance where the Fund was recognized as having the connections, links and expertise (in terms of its relationship to civil society) that the corporate organization lacked.

There is still work to be done at this level, and much of that work involves changing perceptions. One way the Fund is doing this is to run competitions for companies in Serbia in corporate philanthropy, with VIRTUS awards being presented to the best company in the previous year in the field of corporate philanthropy, building civil society, or community support. These awards are both national and local, and the Fund sees them as a way of encouraging all stakeholders to look at potential local resources and promoting philanthropy at the same time.

The final piece in this changing picture is at the local or individual level. The Fund’s major activity here is three-fold: it works with other community organizations, training them in local fundraising, equipping them with the skills to do this on their own. It also has a grant-matching policy (‘We like to challenge them: if they collect a certain amount of money, we match the funds,’ says Tanja), which a number of the projects mentioned above have already benefited from. And the Fund itself has organized campaigns to promote individual philanthropy, one of the most successful of which, in terms of raising the profile of the activity, was an eight-month campaign called ‘Penny is not petty’ – a project designed to show how giving even small amounts of money can have a very real use, and which succeeded in heightening awareness of the issue while also raising significant funds.

 

Here, too, things are changing – for example, what was essentially an awareness-raising campaign for the Moonlight programme (mentioned above) ended up raising more than €3,000, almost all from individuals – and the landscape is shifting, if slowly. Community organizations have no difficulty, for example, in mobilizing support for programmes in the form of volunteering or in-kind support. But there remains considerable scepticism about the whole field of civil society, a scepticism that extends to the media:

Our challenge is the lack of trust on the part of the people. They still don’t see the usefulness and the good things that are practically done for ordinary people for everyday life by civil society. [Apart from] the major visibility of so-called human rights organizations, the rest of civil society is still quite invisible. So we are trying to promote civil society as something that works for the interests of citizens and that is dealing with ordinary issues, like the environment, like social issues, like children, like women – something that is doing simple, useful things for the population, for the citizens. And the media are becoming more and more open to this idea but they are not sensitized enough – and they are now also too dependent on marketing and, in the current crisis, on money, so there is not a lot of space for media for this kind of promotion. So that is also something that is a challenge in Serbia – how to build up support for civil society, how to present all these good examples and success stories which people and civil society produce to the public, how to build citizens’ trust in civil society, especially in foundations: they do not have an idea of what it is, what we do, how we raise money, what we support, how all that functions in terms of finances.

Moonlight Foundation, Subotica, one of BICF’s partners

This change of perception is vital if BCIF  is going to achieve one of its main ambitions, which is to encourage its partners to find other sources of funding, not to be dependent on the Fund but to achieve financial sustainability by raising funds from other sources. And this sustainability is becoming more and more important with the accelerating withdrawal of aid from foreign donors.

Enlisting the support of others

Tanja would not go so far as to claim BCIF’s successes entirely for themselves. In two important areas, the Fund has been able to draw on the support and experience of other organizations. The first involved learning from the experience of an organization in a different country:

Serbia is in the transition stage as far as its moves towards EU integration are concerned – something which many countries in the region have already passed through. And just as being among the last few countries to fight for EU accession can bring some advantages (learning from others’ experiences and, hopefully, avoiding some mistakes), the same goes for donors’ practice in times of transition. We’ve been lucky to have a great partner from the Czech Republic – the VIA Foundation – which operates in a similar way to BCIF and has nearly the same mission. Peer learning from the VIA Foundation has helped us develop faster and less stressfully, primarily in terms of fundraising strategy and development of local philanthropy.

From the VIA Foundation, BCIF learned how important it is to focus on local resources from the word go but also to have plans for switching to different funding models, should the need arise in the future. The VIA Foundation also gave BCIF useful advice when the Fund was approaching companies and setting up the VIRTUS award for corporate philanthropy. And it is now five years since, with the help of the VIA Foundation, BCIF set up the first grant-matching programmes in Serbia, to build the capacity of local CSOs to fundraise from local sources.

The second source of support has come from the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), which has provided peer exchange with other community foundations across the world. The BCIF has found this of huge value, especially in clarifying its role in Serbia: ‘Our bottom-up, community approach places us somewhere between foundations operating on a national level and community foundations,’ says Tanja. ‘And, since the few community foundations that there are in Serbia are at the very beginning of their development, BCIF is often seen as the one that should fill this gap.’ As a result, the Fund performs a double function, providing funds and supporting community initiatives through CSOs, but also serving as a resource centre for information, capacity building and consultation for the few community foundations in Serbia.

For example, the Moonlight community foundation in Subotica was established following years of BCIF support, and it’s been in partnership with them that we’ve raised awareness of individual philanthropy – and it’s through the campaign ‘Penny is not Petty’ that we have been raising funds for Moonlight activities. It’s also thanks to financial support from the GFCF that we have been able to support seven CSOs and community foundations in their capacity building for fundraising from individuals. It’s through this programme that Moonlight received donations from individuals in their community and therefore had the funding to open more clubs for children and youth from dysfunctional families.

GFCF support has also given BCIF the chance to explore individual philanthropy practice internationally, and to pilot a campaign for raising funds from individuals for its own work (for general purposes). The support has thus allowed it to test a new model for its future funding – an important development in the context of the current lack of popular trust in civil society in Serbia and, especially, the lack of understanding of the work that foundations perform.

Long-term viability in the absence of international support

Even seven years after its establishment as a national organization (and some 12 years after it was first set up), BCIF still receives over 90% of its funds from international sources.[4] It is a proportion that has shown no significant change over the years despite the changes at national, commercial and individual level, and despite the Fund’s increasing success in raising the profile of civil society generally, and of community organizations and initiatives in particular. And it is a proportion that is becoming a growing concern for the Fund as a growing number of international donors withdraw from Serbia.

Tanja recognizes that ‘this is one of the main challenges, not just for us as an organization, but for civil society in general in Serbia’ and dates her first awareness of the issue (some eight years ago) as the moment that the Fund began to promote local philanthropy and to develop other programmes. It is a challenge that the recent economic turmoil in the international markets has served only to exacerbate.

Association working with the mentally disable inTrstenik, BCIF partner

In the short term there has been a change in focus. Where previous funders had been international donors  such as the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, USAID and others, the European Union (EU) is now emerging as the biggest donor to Serbian civil society. The structure of the EU’s administration and bureaucracy, however, makes it difficult for small civil society organizations to reach; for this reason, BCIF would like to see itself operating as a conduit between the EU and the smaller organizations it represents in Serbia, although such a role of advocacy would always be secondary to its primary role of grantmaker.

Until recently the signs were that things were moving inexorably in the direction of change, even if at a slower pace than many might have hoped. But the winds of economic change are blowing particularly strong and cold at the moment, and it is difficult to see how the Fund will entirely escape the storm. Tanja Bjelanovic is quietly confident, even if she does not underestimate the scale of the challenges that still face her organization.

That’s why we’re keeping this form of work and these structures, rooted in the country, in the community, and knowing the situation and knowing the context. There are other challenges, too: how to stay independent from the state, how to help civil society to be independent and how to continue to be the watchdog of government while still receiving funds from them.

To an outsider, these seem daunting challenges, particularly in view of the continuing suspicion with which civil society and philanthropy are viewed in her country. But where others might see grounds for pessimism, Tanja sees grounds for hope, noting how far the Fund and the programmes it has supported have come, and against odds that at one stage looked even worse than they are now. Looking to the future, she sees the Fund’s role as essentially undiminished:

We want to keep these programmes independent and support the kind of initiative that cannot find other support from elsewhere, from the state or the EU. We want to continue to be a grantmaker, definitely, so that we can provide space for an independent and dynamic civil society.

Interview by Andrew Steeds

 


[1] Nowadays the Fund has a budget of €1.3 million. It gives approximately 60% of its annual budget in grants, most in the form of small grassroots grants of €3,500 or less – these days it also gives out larger grants, up to €15,000 in value, for social services projects.

[2] And there are many more. Visit http://www.bcif.org/en/Success_Stories.htm

[3] The Ministry is not the only state institution distributing money to civil society, but it is currently unusual in the open and organized way in which it is doing so.

[4] Two donors in particular – the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund – have provided regular and flexible support for the Fund, which has been crucial for the success of its operation.

In praise of intangibles

Seventeen wells, nine dams, twenty-three kilometres of road, eighty-four institutions, seven thousand active members. There may be plenty of figures available to help measure the remarkable transformation of a community in Makutano, Kenya. But the process – supported by the Kenya Community Development Foundation and now the subject of a case study by the GFCF and Coady International Institute[1] – has followed its own, organic, largely unforeseen path, taking fourteen years to achieve these results, and the most significant changes may well be in the attitudes and perceptions of the eighty thousand people in the broader community. If there had been benchmarks and monitoring at every step, would Makutano have found and followed its own path towards success?
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.”

The growing emphasis among foundations on hard outcomes and measurable results may not be a bad thing. Foundations have often been accused of letting too many “flowers grow” and of investing too little in monitoring and evaluation, particularly compared with their bilateral and multilateral brothers and sisters. A culture of learning and reflection within an institution helps to keep it dynamic and responsive to pressing issues of social need. Indeed, over the last few years, conference sessions on this subject – previously relegated to the smallest meeting rooms and attracting only die-hard evaluation specialists – have invariably become standing room-only events. This sudden interest in evaluation reflects a growing awareness of the importance of measuring and understanding the impact of philanthropic investments. But it also suggests that while more and more foundations may indeed be seeking to introduce greater rigour in evaluating the impacts of their interventions, when it comes to the level of practical implementation many practitioners are still searching for the answers to basic questions about methodologies.

Who determines what is to be measured, what is an acceptable outcome, and over what time frame? Or as one development practitioner with many years of working in Africa puts it: “How do we know how many girls have been saved from crocodiles and hyenas when a new well is created or a path diverted from danger?”
Long-term social change is rarely neatly linear: it can be hard to separate out the multiple variables and factors at play, and to develop systems of learning and measurement that reflect these complexities, long-term horizon, and varying attitudes.

Clearly, certain types of development interventions lend themselves to relatively straightforward means of measurement: x number of vaccinations lead to an x percentage reduction in new incidences of a particular disease. But things become more complex when it comes to measuring some of the less tangible, more subjective drivers of development: levels of trust within a community emerging from conflict and division, for example, or the attitudes of young people towards themselves and their futures, or the feeling of ownership and involvement that is inspired when community members contribute to the solutions of their own problems. And yet these may well be key contextual factors in determining the success or failure of other development efforts. A library opened on the right street may reenergize and reconnect a community; on the wrong one it may serve to reinforce old divisions.

Swimming against the current tide of interest in big grants and hard outcomes is a growing group of local organizations – community foundations, grassroots grantmakers, women’s funds, and other local public foundations – which are working in and with communities. In Palestine, for example, when a local foundation – the Dalia Association – ran a small village-based grants programme where community members were asked to decide on how grants were allocated and were also the first audience for grantees reporting back, the point of the exercise was not just to achieve a particular result but rather to model an alternative scenario where community members were encouraged to be a part of and have a view on the kind of development they wanted to see, rather than be the passive recipients of it.

On paper, this kind of “intermediating” can appear costly in terms of ratio of grants made to operational costs, because in many instances local foundations have to work intensively with community groups to bring them up to the level where they are able to manage funds and implement projects for themselves. And yet, in many developing contexts, these organizations play key roles in transforming individuals and communities in fundamental but often subtle ways that are far below the radar of most international funders and their metrics frameworks. How, for instance, do you measure trust?

 


[1]  The story behind the well: a case study of successful community development in Makutano, Kenya, 2011

African community foundations gather in Nairobi

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

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

GFCF Programme Consultant Halima Mahomed tells all about it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

News from our partners

Fostering local leadership in the Amazon region: interview with the director of the Amazon Partnerships Foundation.

Mary Fifield helped to set up a community foundation in Ecuador with a focus on environmental issues – the Amazon Partnerships Foundation (Fundaciòn Tarpuna Causay). Mary, executive director of the APF, spoke to the Global Fund for Community Foundations about her experience.

Mary Fifield in a community meeting in Campaña Cocha (photo: David Barnes)

 1. Can you tell us about the origins of the Amazon Partnerships Foundation (APF) and the context in which it operates?

The Amazon Partnership Foundation’s (APF) model grew out of an experience I had a few years ago when I first started working in Napo Province in the Ecuadorian Amazon for an international community health NGO, whose primary objective was offering health workshops. Visiting rural, indigenous communities, I discovered that many people had their own ideas for projects but lacked the technical skills or financial resources to implement them. I researched grassroots grant-making approaches and developed a model that applied to health issues. But then I found that communities were repeatedly asking for support to address worsening environmental degradation and the changing climate, which of course affects everything from health to economic development to community cohesion.

Meanwhile, I had begun to discuss some of these issues with my Ecuadorian and North American colleagues – in particular Natalia Santillan, Stella Klemperer and Susan King – all of whom had worked in the area and would later become APF board members. Given the fact that we were working in the world’s largest tropical rainforest and one crucial to maintaining climate stability, we saw the opportunity to broaden and refine the model so it could be applied to conservation projects. We recognized that this strategy would also allow us to foster environmental leadership and a sense of ownership among traditionally marginalized communities. That was the beginning of the APF.

Mary helping people in the community of Isla Appai install a water system (photo: David Barnes)

2. Can you say something about the role that institutions play in local culture and also about how the communities you are working with relate to the mainstream in Ecuador?

The relationship between institutions (state, religious, and non-governmental) and communities is as complex here as it is in most developing countries. Rural communities, especially indigenous ones, have usually been regarded with a mixture of disdain, disregard, pity, or worse, and have been marginalized or discriminated against for years. Recently that dynamic is changing, and the new Ecuadorian constitution guarantees many more rights for indigenous groups than they’ve been afforded before. Some indigenous federations have made inroads in terms of development policy, government assistance in health and education, and land rights, but communities in Napo Province are still quite removed from most decision-making processes. Despite changes in the law that are intended to include and empower the grassroots, by and large many institutions still take a paternalistic approach to development, and many communities expect the government or NGOs to bring projects to them.

3. How did you come to the (community) foundation framework as a way of framing your work? How different is it, in your view, from what has gone before?

In Napo Province, one thing that always concerned me with the traditional NGO approach –whereby the organization designs the project (even with significant participation from community recipients) – is that the initiative, no matter how well researched and planned, comes from outside the community. Although the community may want a reforestation project, for example, it’s the NGO that has to show results and therefore must do whatever is necessary to encourage community participation. Depending on the community, this may be relatively easy or difficult, but ultimately the NGO owns the project until the day comes when it has to be turned over to the community to make it ‘sustainable’. At that point, it is difficult to convince people to take ownership, especially when they know they won’t have any outside support. And that’s when many projects fail.

The power dynamic inherent in this model, where the project really belongs to the NGO and the communities are participants, discourages a genuine sense of community ownership. That was one of the reasons that a community foundation model appealed to us: initiative, responsibility, and ultimately success or failure of the project rest in the hands of the communities. Through our competitive grant solicitation process, communities have to think carefully about what they want to do and how they are going to do it, and they learn more about how the world of grant-making works – this knowledge can help them find other sources of funding for future projects.

Of course, for this very reason, our model is much more labor-intensive than a conventional grant-making approach. We first conduct workshops with communities to teach them how to plan and design proposals. If our board approves their proposal, we work with communities for at least a year, teaching them how to monitor and evaluate their projects. Results based on benchmarks they set themselves help determine whether they qualify for follow-on funding from us.

Despite such a deep culture of paternalism, many communities respond favorably once they learn about our model. We see people – some of them indigenous women who are typically quite reserved – participating actively in meetings, brainstorming new project ideas, and even coming up with ideas to help us improve our process. Many of the techniques we use in our project management workshops were suggested to us by the communities.

4. What have you learnt about the context for local philanthropy in Ecuador and, specifically, how it relates to communities with which APF is working? What do local philanthropic traditions or systems of self-help look like at the community level? Do they provide a basis from which to build?

The philanthropic sector, as it might be defined in the US or Europe, is quite weak in Ecuador. The country suffers from a history of corruption, including in the non-profit sector, and many, including the government, view foundations or NGOs with distrust. The few wealthy individuals who give to charities tend to have a direct connection with them, whether it’s their children’s school or their church. With no government tax incentive for giving, there is no culture of social investing or supporting organizations working in social or environmental justice.

Despite these obstacles, we do see some potential for change. A number of high-profile environmentalists also have power and influence among potential philanthropists, and could be important allies in changing philanthropic culture. We focus on strengthening our relationships with local small business owners because they are often willing to provide in-kind support to local NGOs. We also find that communities themselves are willing to make a contribution to the project budget and, though the amount is usually small, the practice encourages a ‘self-help’ attitude.

A family in Campaña Cocha standing proudly by their water tank (photo: David Barnes)

5. In our report More than the Poor Cousin? we looked at the notion of building trust and of the role of community foundations in trying to build it within and across communities. Does this resonate with the experiences of APF?

Very much so. I think one of the reasons we have been well received by communities is that they know that we are committed to the process. We strive to be accessible and reliable, and we expect communities to fulfill the commitment they make to us. When they don’t, we respectfully and directly address the problem with them, supporting their process for resolving it. Because there is a dearth of good jobs and local professionals to fill them, we are also committed to building a local team who can eventually manage the organization. Many of the skills we teach communities are the same we try to cultivate in our staff, though these may be on a more advanced level. This professional capacity building is a new approach for the region, and our partners view it favorably. All these activities have helped us build a good reputation with stakeholders, and we are very conscious of maintaining positive, transparent relationships in our area of influence.

Distributing saplings in Shiwa Yacu

6. Do you see the community-foundation approach – with its emphasis on local assets, ownership and participation – as having something to offer more mainstream development?

Absolutely. This is one of the hypotheses we want to explore as we continue to refine and implement our model. We have discovered that setting up a truly collaborative relationship from the beginning, where each party has well-defined responsibilities and commitments, is crucial. Mainstream development organizations could adopt this practice when starting new projects with new communities, though it requires a willingness to let communities learn through failure as well as from success. It may also mean that mainstream development organizations have to be more selective in choosing communities, because fostering ownership is both time and labor-intensive. In the short run, an organization might have to collaborate with fewer communities but do more far-reaching work with them.

With the community-foundation approach, to some degree we have to let go of our over-dependence on large quantitative goals and outcomes to prove we are effective. In the long run, though, I think this will serve both the grassroots and the development sector. Though it may be slow going at first, I believe changing the power dynamic and generating a true sense of ownership among communities will have farther-reaching, longer-lasting impact than efforts to impose development from the outside. In the long run, this approach may also prove more cost-effective, which is a theory we will test as we continue working. In the short run, we know we can help communities accomplish concrete projects, such as household ecological sanitation, small-scale reforestation, and organic agriculture, more quickly and with a smaller budget than most mainstream development organizations.

7. Who are your peers in this work? Are there others interested in taking a new look at ways of doing development?

We haven’t found many other community foundations working in the Amazon, but we have strong partnerships with the Universidad Andina in Quito, as well as with the US Peace Corps, Ecuadorian environment ministry and the German Development Cooperation. All of these are primarily focused on conservation initiatives, but our model intrigues them. We’ve also been invited to participate in a regional sustainable development planning body, which we see as an excellent opportunity to lay out our version of the community foundation model to government officials and other institutional stakeholders.

News from the community foundation field

The 2010 WINGS Global Status Report on Community Foundations is now available online.

The 2010 WINGS Community Foundations Global Status Report is now available in a new online format. According to the report, globally, the number of community foundations has almost doubled over the past ten years from 905 in 2000 to 1,680 in 2010. Some of the growth has come from North America (700 in 2000 and 880 in 2010), but the bulk of this growth occurred between 2000 and 2003, after which the trend levelled off. In other continents, numbers have remained below 100 for the whole decade, though there are some suggestions that numbers are set to grow in Africa and Asia.

The report can be viewed here.

The conversation continued . . .

Thanks to those of you who have responded to our invitation to engage in discussion! And also, to those of you who have shared and written about the report in your own circles, such as this one published by GFCF partner in Mexico, Alternativas y Capacidades A.C. A Spanish version of the report will be available very soon and we will post it on this site and on the GFCF homepage. Portuguese and Russian translations of the report will also follow – and we are exploring the possibility of a version in Thai (there is a growing and active cluster of community foundations in Thailand but there are few resources available in Thai and English is not always so widely spoken).

Some interesting points have been raised in the responses so far on this blog. To summarize a few:

Further unpack the notion of trust One conclusion of the report is that many community foundations see one of their roles as that of building trust at the community level. In thinking about their responses, were community foundation respondents referring to organizational trust or community trust? Bheki Moyo reflects “This (community trust) it seems to me would be the greatest contribution that community foundations can make. It is only when communities have trust for themselves that they can begin to trust organisations and institutions. After all community foundations are supposed to be made up of community members.” Here in South Africa, with the end of the World Cup imminent, there are already concerns about a resurgence of xenophobic violence against non-South Africans (I recently wrote about this on the Mott Foundation’s World Cup blog): and yet only last week, it seemed the whole of Africa was united as one behind Ghana….

Writing from Vietnam, Dana Doan of the LIN Center puts it very succinctly: “building trust is a key requirement for success in terms of both community engagement programs and local fundraising. Here in Vietnam, gaining such trust depends on transparency, effective use of funds and, most importantly, the demonstration of impact.”

What are other thoughts from the field? What is your organization’s take on the question of building trust?

Exploring the role of government. In writing our report, Barry Knight and I did not go into a great deal of depth on community foundations’ interaction and engagement with government. Certainly, our data suggests that experiences differ from one community foundation to another. There does, however, seem to be a common concern regarding the importance of a community foundation’s ability to preserve some degree of independence – both in terms of governance (so in Russia, where it is common practice for government representatives to sit on the board of community foundations, they constitute no more than 1/3 of the board) and resources (in the UK, many community foundations have implemented government-funded programmes as described here by the East London Community Foundation: what have been the implications of this in terms of preserving their independence, I wonder?). In his comment, Vadim Georgienko is not convinced that states are always developmental in their orientation and methods:  “At the same time, let’s never forget totally different methods (taxes versus donations) to reach development: state has a legal monopoly for violence, coercion. Community foundations can work only with a good will.”

From a practitioner’s or even policymaker’s perspective, what would you be interested in finding out more on as far as examples and experiences of community foundations’ relationships with the state are concerned?

Engaging donor institutions Chris Mkhize from uThungulu Community Foundation in South Africa points to the current apparent disconnect between the community foundation / community philanthropy and international and national development agencies and urges greater collaboration across different development silos.

This is a key interest of the GFCF and one that we are very interested in pursuing. What are some of the steps that others are taking to raise the profile of community philanthropy institutions in international development circles? How can we, collectively, strengthen the case?

Next steps

Dana asked in her post about next steps: well, these will include making the report available in other languages and working with this current cohort of grantee partners – and others who are interested – to deepen our understanding of the different roles that community foundations with a particular view to the question of measurement and impact.