Tracking the Growth of Organised Community Philanthropy: Is it the missing piece in community development?
Looking deeper, looking ahead
The early development of community foundations outside the global North 20 years ago focused strongly on developing practice, and sharing tools and skills on such areas as grant-making, local fundraising and governance. Early work built networks of peers in emerging and developing country contexts, such as Mexico, Russia, Slovakia, and South Africa, with more mature organisations in the Canada, United Kingdom and United States.
Recently, more attention has begun to been paid to why it is that these institutions have taken root in so many diverse contexts and how they relate to existing cultures and traditions. A report 2005, The Poor Philanthropist, shone a new light on the complex systems of giving and social solidarity that exist in Southern Africa. The report argued that such practices (described as ‘horizontal’ or ‘philanthropy of community’) had much to offer more formal community development efforts (‘philanthropy for community’) in terms of local values and practices and, in particular, of trust and social capital. TrustAfrica, an independent African foundation working across in the continent, has also begun to play an important role in fostering ‘thought leadership’ around new ways for the cultivation of African resources for the continent’s developing, launching its State of Philanthropy in Africa series in 2008.
In 2011, the C.S. Mott Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation conducted a series of consultations in Africa and Asia aimed at exploring ways to stimulate and develop community philanthropy as a means of contributing to the sustainability of civil society and supporting the effectiveness of development aid. The final report, The Value of Community Philanthropy, argued that community philanthropy has much to offer in strengthening development outcomes through civil society, but that it is undeveloped and not well understood by the development world.
The Global Fund for Community Foundations is building up the evidence base for this emerging field, publishing a series reports drawing on data collected through grant-making. These reports seek to understand the different ways in which community philanthropy institutions are building financial and social capital in their communities. The field is small and the data is still provisional, but the evidence demonstrates that community philanthropy is an important and yet often missing piece in the jigsaw of international development.
CSOs in many countries are witnessing restrictions in their space to undertake their work as independent development actors, resulting from constraining government policies, regulations and political harassment, and the impact of onerous conditions attached to official donor aid. In this context, new community philanthropy institutions may be seen as part of a fresh wave of community level organisations, which are contributing to a more enabling environment for local CSOs and community initiative. They are doing so through more helping to develop more inclusive and democratic decision-making processes, and greater harnessing of local assets and resources, rather than a reliance on ideas, money and initiative from outside.
 Jenny Hodgson is the executive director of The Global Fund for Community Foundations. The GFCF is a grassroots grantmaking fund based in Johannesburg, South Africa, which provides grant, technical and peer learning support to community philanthropy institutions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. See the GFCF web site at http://www.globalfundcommunityfoundations.org/.
 Fowler A., Mulenga C.F.N., and Wilkinson-Maposa S., 2005. The Poor Philanthropist: How and Why the Poor Help Each Other. The Southern Africa – United States Centre for Leadership and Public Values at the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa, accessible at http://www.impactalliance.org/ev_en.php?ID=14913_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC.
 Hodgson J. and Knight B. 2012. A different kind of wealth: Mapping a baseline of African community foundations, Global Fund for Community Foundations, Johannesburg, South Africa, accessible at http://www.globalfundcommunityfoundations.org/information/a-different-kind-of-wealth-mapping-a-baseline-of-african-com.html
 Further information on these trends is available at http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/dividedwestandwhyinequalitykeepsrising.htm and http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/nov/21/oecd-report-emerging-economies-inequality
 Growth of the community foundation field has been consistent and stable across the last decade, with an average of 70 community foundations being added each year. See www.wings-community-foundation-report.com/gsr_2010/gsr_theme_facts/global-growth.cfm
 See Hodgson J., Knight B. and Mathie A. 2012. The New Generation of Community Foundations. Global Fund for Community Foundations, Johannesburg, South Africa, accessible at http://www.coady.stfx.ca/tinroom/assets/file/HodgsonKnightMathieNGCF.pdf
 The term “community foundation” describes one form – the most common and the most visible of these institutions. “Community philanthropy institutions” is a more inclusive term, which includes women’s funds, environmental funds and other community grant-makers without “claiming” them necessarily as community foundations.
 Hodgson J., and Knight B., 2010. More than the Poor Cousin? The emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm. Global Fund for Community Foundations, Johannesburg, South Africa, accessible at http://www.alliancemagazine.org/members/pdfs/morethanthepoorcousin.pdf
 See Barry Knight, 2012. The Value of Community Philanthropy: The results of a consultation, Aga Khan Foundation USA and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, February 2012, accessible at http://www.mott.org/files/pubs/thevalueofcommunityphilanthropy.pdf