Where next for a global fund?

Jenny Hodgson

The Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), established in 2006 at the joint initiative of the World Bank, Ford Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to broaden community foundation development globally, is beginning to map its future as an independent entity. A project of WINGS and hosted by the European Foundation Centre in Brussels, GFCF’s initial funding was structured over a three-year pilot period.

As a first step in the process of becoming independent, a study has been commissioned to explore some of the key questions that will need to be addressed if the Fund is to realize its goal of becoming a valuable and sustainable resource for the community philanthropy sector globally. These include:

Questions of identity and legitimacy
The diverse institutional actors involved in the pilot phase brought different perspectives to the GFCF. Is the aim to demonstrate the potential of community foundations in sustaining the community driven development initiatives of the World Bank at the local level, or to promote the community foundation concept as widely as possible, or to support a broad range of local community philanthropy initiatives as mechanisms for solving local problems? Ambiguities between these perspectives must be resolved and a strong sense of shared ownership developed among key constituencies.

Questions of focus
As a result of the original GFCF’s very clear focus on community foundations, the distribution of GFCF’s grants has been unintentionally ‘slanted’ towards Eastern Europe and Russia, where there is an established community foundation sector. Should the GFCF broaden its mission to reflect a more nuanced understanding of community philanthropy and what would be the implications of taking this approach?

Questions of strategy
How should GFCF act in countries where there is a weak or undeveloped local philanthropic sector? And to what extent should it go beyond grantmaking and try to position itself as a global knowledge centre?

Questions of structure
What kinds of governance and decision-making structures are most appropriate for GFCF? In setting up an office, how important is geographic location? At present, the GFCF is a ‘virtual organization’, with its office in Brussels and two senior staff members located in Thailand and Russia.

A framework for the consultation is currently being developed. This will take place over the next six to eight months and will be as inclusive as possible, featuring a series of ‘roundtables’ in key target regions and countries, convenings of donor organizations and other partners, and targeted interviews. The Global Fund would also value the ideas of philanthropy practitioners in general about its future direction. Please provide your input by completing a short online survey using the following link http://www.feraonline.com/gfsurvey.

Jenny Hodgson is Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Email jenny@wings-globalfund.org

For more information

To complete the GFCF survey, go to http://www.feraonline.com/gfsurvey

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