New Report Details Role of Philanthropy in Achieving U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in United States

Study by Council on Foundations Underscores Applicability of Global Framework; Encourages U.S. Foundations to Integrate SDGs in Grantmaking
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
New York

A new report released today by the Council on Foundations highlights the critical role that U.S. philanthropy plays in helping to realize the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The study, “From Global Goals to Local Impact,” outlines in detail how the new global development framework is universally applicable to the work of U.S. foundations, and presents concrete ways in which funders can integrate the SDGs into their domestic grantmaking.

The report follows a series of nationwide convenings hosted by the Council and its partners to examine how U.S. foundations, businesses, and governments at all levels are already working toward the 17 Global Goals, which went into effect January 1, 2016, after being ratified by all 193 U.N. member states. Through case studies, interviews and extensive research, the report presents a “Philanthropy Checklist” – practical actions that individual institutions and the sector can take to make an impact on the SDGs.

“In an increasingly fractured world, the SDGs call us to see our work as part of humanity’s larger story,” said Vikki Spruill, chief executive of the Council on Foundations. “By providing a framework that allows all people to contribute, the SDGs have the potential to transform our planet by building alignment about the challenges that all people face. The SDGs mark an unprecedented global commitment to the shared responsibilities of building a better world. U.S. philanthropy must seize this historic moment and contribute meaningfully to the success of this effort because foundations that work domestically have just as much reason to care about the welfare of others as those who make grants overseas.”

Among the report’s recommendations for action for U.S. philanthropy:

  • Prioritize collaboration and partnership with other foundations, as well as the private sector, governments, and NGOs.
  • Leverage the power of data and technology, including mapping the SDGs to local reports, indices, and studies.
  • Educate and raise awareness among the public, grantees, staff, and peers across sectors about the transformational potential of the SDGs.
  • Track progress and identify new ways to measure success and promote evidence-based solutions to the SDGs.
  • Engage local leaders and grassroots community organizations to develop effective approaches to make impact on the SDGs.
  • Mobilize the global community and seek new ways to catalyze long-term projects and complement private and public funding toward the SDGs.

The SDGs, which build off progress made from 2000-2015 under the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), represent a first-of-its-kind “global plan of action for people, the planet, and prosperity.” While the MDGs were mainly focused on human development and geared toward low and middle-income countries, the SDGs incorporate all dimensions of development—economic, social, and environmental—and apply to all nations, both in international aid and domestic policymaking.

Both the United States government and U.S. philanthropy played an integral role in developing the SDGs, with President Obama unequivocally committing the United States to working toward the goals both domestically and abroad. The work of the SDG Philanthropy Platform, formed in 2014 to build awareness around and increase philanthropic resources toward the Goals, is already tracking foundation funding toward the SDGs. According to recent analysis by Foundation Center, it’s estimated that funders could direct as much as $360 billion in grants toward the Goals—far surpassing foundation funding totals on the MDGs.

As a national association with a diverse philanthropic membership, the Council works to ensure that this diversity of philanthropic institutions is represented in cross-sector endeavors such as the Sustainable Development Goals. For the past year, the Council has worked with key funders and partners to ensure that philanthropy has a voice in development of these new Global Goals. This report is affirmation that all funders can find their work within them—regardless of the type of foundation or initiatives and programs funded.

A copy of “From Global Goals to Local Impact: How Philanthropy Can Help Achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in the U.S.” is available here. Additional information on the SDGs can be found on the Council’s website. For more information on the report or the Council’s global philanthropy work, contact Natalie Ross, Natalie.Ross@cof.org.

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About The Council on Foundations
The Council on Foundations (www.cof.org), founded in 1949, is a nonprofit leadership association of grant making foundations and corporations. It provides the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance, and sustain their ability to advance the common good. With members from all foundation types and sizes, the Council empowers professionals in philanthropy to meet today’s toughest challenges and advances a culture of charitable giving in the U.S. and globally.

About The SDG Philanthropy Platform

The SDG Philanthropy Platform informs and catalyzes collaboration through building awareness and connections between those working in the philanthropy sector and beyond. Launched by the United Nations Development Program, Foundation Center, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in 2014, the Platform has brought together hundreds of foundations and philanthropists across many countries to create new partnerships to increase funding and create programs that will have greater, and more sustainable, impact on people’s lives. For more information, visit: www.sdgfunders.org.