For better or worse, the field of philanthropy is inundated with reports. My swelling “to-read” pile is the root cause of seemingly intractable clutter in my office.
The EDGE Funders Alliance Just Giving conference in Washington DC, 21-23 May, brought together some 250 donors, activists and allies on the theme of ‘What is to be done? And how do we do it?’ Participants enjoyed a casual yet focused environment to gain a deeper understanding of the current landscape of grassroots and transnational initiatives addressing structural injustice, and to explore grantmaking strategies for making an impact.
Blistering sunlight broils our small group as we gingerly perch around the edges of the raised bed our hosts have set out for us in front of their hut in Godha Village. We’ve come to visit a few of the 100 ultra-poor women in rural Uttar Pradesh recently employed by our local partner, a social-venture dairy firm called Samridhi Agri Products.
I enjoyed presenting at a great session, “Small Grants, Big Difference,” during last week’s Council on Foundations Annual Conference with Daniel Tillias of Pax Christi Sakala in Haiti; Kate Ahern of the Case Foundation; and Monica LaBiche Brown of Water for People. It was great that 75 or more people came to our session because they think small grants are important. I think it’s the beginning of a movement.
Having moved from London to New York just two weeks earlier, I walked into the Council on Foundatons’ day-long global preconference session with trepidation; would I remember what my organization did? Would the other attendees groan when they realised I was a fundraiser? Would they understand my funny English?
I recently received a call from a researcher on a new project. As I understood it, a prominent U.S. foundation had asked them to study how domestic donors deal with gender issues. They were to identify funders with a specific commitment to the gender lens in their funding priorities, and then document how these funders tracked the implementation of the gender analysis through grantmaking and programs.
Over the past several years, no strategy for change has captured the imagination of philanthropy more than impact investing. In the United States and even more so in emerging markets, people and institutions with financial means are deploying those resources in new and sometimes innovative ways. Right or wrong, some of the newer players are convinced that donations alone are not the solution to our world’s challenges. Indeed, some have considered structuring new entities that leapfrog over more traditional philanthropic strategies. Even tried and true grantmaking, the backbone of American philanthropy for more than a century, has gotten the cold shoulder from some of these new players.
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 the beautiful game parks there. 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.
Most Latin American countries continue with high GDP growth rates amid the global financial crisis. While the nonprofit sector in these countries is among the smallest in the world, these nations are on the cusp of significant philanthropic transformation. This is due, in part, to a rising middle class, technology connecting more citizens and Next Gen awareness, and increasing corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Feeling stagnant? Overwhelmed with today’s societal problems? Concerned we’re not making progress and reaching our full potential? Well, please find solace in knowing that global philanthropy is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, we’re giving birth to a new and improved philanthropy that will be a leading and lagging indicator of our social, human, and philanthropic development. We should not only be encouraged by these positive trends, but we should take copious notes because soon our students will be the teachers.