Blog: Newsletters

Global Philanthropy Update - September 2017

September represents the start of a new school year, and at the Council our global program has been incredibly busy this month, from disaster response to major programming alongside the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

During this 2017 hurricane season, we have witnessed several storms impact communities in the U.S. and overseas, from Harvey to Irma to Marie. Two earthquakes also struck Mexico in recent weeks, leading to significant loss of life and damage to critical infrastructure. We are working with partners like the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and members responding to these disasters – please find disaster-specific resources on if you want to know more about how best to help.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

The 72nd Session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA) happened this week in New York City. Council staff hosted, spoke at, and attended several events focused on the role of philanthropy in achieving the SDGs and supporting development globally.

SDG Group Picture

Over the past two years, we have convened more than 350 foundations in 6 cities to discuss how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are relevant to domestic challenges in the U.S. Last week, five regional association partners from these meetings joined us in New York to explore how to expand this work and build connection across cities. We are excited to continue working with local partners to strengthen the role of philanthropy in achieving the SDGs here in the US.

Sustainable Development Goals panel

As part of the Concordia Summit, Council President and CEO Vikki Spruill moderated a plenary session focused on the role of U.S philanthropy in international development. Vikki shared the stage with Kathleen McLaughlin (President, Walmart Foundation), Dr. Rajiv Shah (President, The Rockefeller Foundation) and David Simas (President, Obama Foundation). You can watch the panel via the Concordia LiveStream of Day 2 (starting at 6:05:00).

Two new resources were also released in New York that may be relevant for your grantmaking:

  • Scaling Solutions towards Shifting Systems – a set of concrete recommendations for how foundations can change their behavior in order to better achieve systems change. The suggestions include shifting power dynamics, looking beyond financial support, building knowledge bases, collaborating, and changing the way grants are made. This research was undertaken by Skoll Foundation, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Ford Foundation, Porticus Foundation, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
  • Employees for Global Goals - the Medtronic Foundation joined with Aim2Flourish and Impact2030 to create a new open-source resource that teaches what the SDGs are. This is initially written for employees at companies, but the Council is talking to Medtronic about how to adapt this tool for other audiences, like foundation staff and boards.

Read more about the programs and announcements made at UNGA this year:

  1. In-Depth Coverage of UNGADevex
  2. New Goalkeepers report from the Gates FoundationNY Times
  3. New Models and Approaches for a New Era of Development - Council on Foundations blog
  4. Top 3 Development Takeaways from President Trump’s UN AddressDevex
  5. Philanthropic pledges to improve global gender dataReuters
  6. Top Quotes from Bloomberg Business ForumAxios

Disaster Relief

In the wake of three record breaking hurricanes- Harvey, Irma and Maria- in just three weeks, the Council has reached out to lend support to our members in the affected states as they respond to the needs of their communities. We have also created resource pages and co-hosted webinars as part of our disaster response, including:

We are also tracking response to the second earthquake this month in Mexico and will be developing a resource page. You can follow the Council (@COF_) and me (@nataliejoross) on Twitter for information on member response and resources for disaster relief.

Global Grantmaking Regulations

On September 26, the Council’s Senior Counsel, Suzanne Friday, hosted a webinar discussing the differences between expenditure responsibility and equivalency determination. Council members can view the recorded webinar on our website.

Suzanne also published a blog this week analyzing recent IRS regulations of equivalency determinations. The news rules provide specific guidelines that can be followed to ensure a taxpayer or exempt organization complies applicable tax law. The regulations also confirm that sponsoring organizations of donor advised funds may follow equivalency determination guidance for international grantmaking.

Cross-Border Philanthropy & Civil Society Updates

  • NGO Liberties in the EU: NGOs are currently facing a high number of restrictions in European countries like Poland and Azerbaijan. The restrictions are often intentionally aimed at stifling the work of NGOs, including by not limited to: smear campaigns, funding cuts, and over-regulation. This new EU parliament report highlights a range of policy tools developed by the EU for pushing back against restrictions on civil society globally.
  • DeSantis Amendment: This month, the Council watched closely as the non-profit sector united to oppose the DeSantis Amendment, which proposed to restrict government funds from being awarded to Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). IRW provides emergency relief around the world, and is currently helping communities that were affected by Hurricane Harvey. This amendment singled out IRW as a religious organization and falsely claimed affiliation with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The amendment was dropped.
  • Nigeria: This month, leading figures from global and Nigerian organizations and academia have urged the government to withdraw its NGO Regulatory Commission Bill. This bill threatens Nigeria’s democracy and freedoms guaranteed by their constitution including: freedom of association, assembly, speech, and religion. If passed, it is believed that the NGO Regulatory Commission Bill will “encourage the excesses of bad government,” and allow for an “ungoverned digression to determine whether an NGO exists” in Nigeria.
  • Ukraine: Ukraine’s government introduced new legislation in July that Human Rights Watch warns could be extremely harmful to privacy and security of international groups working in the country. The new legislation requires any international organization with annual budgets of more than $18,500 to report their 10 highest paid employees, international funding, government assistance, funding for consultants as well as names, and names of all donors. The penalty for non-compliance is loss of nonprofit status and immediate halting of funding.

Save the Date and Register Now!

The North American Community Foundation Summit, co-sponsored by the Council, Comunalia (Mexico), and Community Foundations of Canada, will be held in Mexico City on February 5-6, 2018.

The first-ever North American Community Foundation Summit will explore how community foundations can work locally to leave no one behind and build sustainable, resilient communities. We will also explore how communities can work locally to impact the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We will convene community foundation leaders from across Mexico, Canada and the United States. A discounted registration fee of $450 is available for all Council members. We will announce opportunities for a limited number of travel scholarships for Council members in October.

Please visit the Summit website for more details and to register. If you are interested in sponsoring the Summit, please contact me at

Fall Council Events

Endowments & Finance Summit: October 12-13, 2017. New York, NY.

CEO & Trustee Retreat: December 5-6, 2017. Miami, FL.

Remember to keep checking our global program page and the global grantmaking resources for all the latest updates!