There has been a lot of talk recently of giving money to existing foundations for ‘regranting’ as a strategy for individual donors. US philanthropy adviser Betsy Brill, writing in Forbes.com on 4 November, called it ‘A smart way to donate’. The UK-based New Philanthropy Capital published a paper in July called Achieving More Together, which suggests that this is ‘a good way for donors to leverage their donations and skills’ but ‘an option that is often overlooked’.
Jacob Harold, writing in the September issue of Alliance, suggested regranting might amount to ‘smart humility’. Four European philanthropy advisers weigh in with their views in response to Jacob in the upcoming December issue of Alliance.
One of the barriers to this type of grantmaking is identifying the right foundation to entrust your money to. Reading a few days ago that the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation had just made a grant of $600,000 to the Moscow-based New Eurasia Foundation ‘to implement the Mainstreaming Civic and Community Engagement into Social Development program’, it occurred to me that a good strategy for individual donors might be to look at the foundations that are receiving funds from larger foundations.
I asked Walter Veirs from the Mott Foundation about Mott’s rationale for making this grant. ‘One of our strategies for strengthening civil society in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia has been to support the development of local or “indigenous” foundations,’ he explained. ‘We believe they play an essential role in strategy development and programme implementation, and they help us work in ways we never could by making community-level grants. We also think they have the potential over time to leverage funding for issues and areas. Our grant to New Eurasia Foundation can be seen as part of this broader strategy.’
Finally, Walter explicitly encourages individuals to follow suit: ‘I would say that the reason that Mott supports local foundations in CEE/Russia is the same reason we would encourage individuals to support these foundations: we believe that foundations have a particular and important value-added role to play in accumulating and distributing funds. This is a strategy we’ve explored across CEE/Russia.’
My conclusion from all this is that if I was interested in making grants in Russia, watching where foundations like Mott are putting their money could be a ‘smart’ strategy. I assume that they will have thought carefully about what they’re doing and done extensive due diligence of the sort that I, as an individual, couldn’t do.