Community philanthropy

What do we mean by community philanthropy?

Community philanthropy is an essential part of the architecture for locally-owned development because it builds on assets that already exist within communities rather than depending only on what comes from outside.

The past two decades have seen the emergence of a growing global community philanthropy movement all over the world which is preoccupied with community control, resources, voice, agency and power. It is made up of both new kinds of institutions (including community foundations, women’s funds, environmental funds, LGBTQI funds, national public foundations etc.) and new ways of working (such as participatory grantmaking, giving circles and community asset mobilization).

Community philanthropy organizations have been shaped by local context and culture, and by people often frustrated by the failures of traditional development aid, anxious about the sense of alienation and disenchantment in their communities, and inspired by the belief that without local resources, local leadership and local buy-in, development projects will continue to land like fireworks – to flash spectacularly and then die.

The logic of community philanthropy is simple:

  • It is based on the idea that all communities have assets (money, skills, knowledge, networks, etc.). When these are pooled together, they build community power and voice.
  • When people contribute their own resources they start to feel like co-investors with a stake in their own development; they care more about the outcomes and act in ways that advance and protect their collective interests.
  • When local resources are brought to the table, a different, flatter kind of power dynamic is created when dealing with external donors, which challenges traditional donor-beneficiary imbalances.
  • Local resources help create new, more horizontal forms of accountability (to the community, not just external donors), which are based on trust and transparency.

Learn more about how organizations are building community philanthropy around the world.