Future World Giving: a positive narrative on the future of global philanthropy


Adam Pickering


Adam Pickering

What do the momentous social changes around the world mean for the future of giving? We are living through a time of monumental social change: the world’s global middle classes are set to grow by 165 per cent (according to OECD figures) by 2030, with the vast majority of that growth set to occur in the developing world.

For all of us involved in promoting giving and philanthropy, that opens up a historic opportunity. Despite weak economic performances in much of the developed world, we must not lose sight of this wider global trend.

On 26 February Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) launched a paper outlining a concept for a project we are calling Future World Giving. It reveals that if the expanding global middle class grows to give to the same extent as the equivalent sector in the UK, giving could rise to $224 billion (£146 billion) a year by 2030.

This just shows the vast potential of a world where the benefits of philanthropic giving are valued by all, and where governments, civil society and citizens are able to identify what actions to take to get society giving.

Our calculation is purposely optimistic. Thinking about philanthropy is currently centred on a world where traditional philanthropic powers dominate and where emerging markets are seen as beneficiaries rather than potential future leaders in giving. With current economic concerns having a clear effect on giving in the ‘rich world’ there is a danger that pessimism about philanthropy in western markets could lead us to miss the opportunity to engage properly with a more positive global narrative of growing global disposable income.

Rapid economic growth in the developing world may see an organic emergence of higher rates of charitable giving. But in the absence of good comparative guidance on how to nurture both domestic and cross-border giving, avoidable mistakes could be made and opportunities missed, preventing philanthropy from reaching its potential. Those of us who see philanthropy as crucial, not just for addressing need but also for enhancing community cohesion and wellbeing, should be thinking about how we can help emerging economies to future-proof their philanthropic development. Experiences of flawed policies and initiatives may be as valuable as success stories. There will also be much that developed countries can learn from emerging philanthropic markets.

Central to the concept of the Future World Giving project is the idea of measurement and comparison. We know from our experience of publishing the World Giving Index (the world’s largest survey of philanthropic engagement) that benchmarking charitable performance can have a positive influence. For example, the Malaysian government’s youth and sports minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek cited his country’s low ranking for volunteering as a reason for establishing the 1Malaysia Corps, an umbrella body for volunteer organisations.

But while ranking engagement in philanthropy helps to identify the need for improvement, it does not suggest a corresponding solution. By creating a framework of recommended actions for governments, the Future World Giving project will enable politicians and activists alike to assess the current environment for philanthropy in their country and decide what needs to be done to improve it. By separating these recommendations into tiers, the Future World Giving Framework will create standards to aim for and definitive actions to be taken to achieve them.

In the coming year we will publish three thematic reports. These will make recommendations that will ultimately form the Future World Giving Framework. The three core themes are:

  • Building trust in philanthropy (looking at the efficacy of policies designed to make civil society more transparent and accountable).
  • An independent civil society (looking at ways in which the rights of civil society to campaign and achieve financial stability can be protected).
  • Motivating people to give (assessing the impact of policies designed to encourage and facilitate charitable giving).

In order to make the Future World Giving project a success, CAF needs to engage with philanthropy experts, donors and civil society practitioners around the world. We will be able to take advantage of the fact that we are an international organisation by engaging our offices in Brazil, the USA, South Africa, Bulgaria, Russia, Singapore, Australia and India, but we are also keen to engage in wider international networks to ensure our work is as representative as possible.

Over the coming year we will hold three thematic events in the UK (and in some of our international office locations) and publish three reports, which will establish clear recommendations for governments to facilitate sustainable philanthropic growth. These recommendations will form the content for the Future World Giving Framework, which will accompany the World Giving Index 2013. Alliance magazine has kindly offered to share information about these events so I hope to be able to engage with you in person. But failing that, I would welcome readers’ views and am happy to engage via email. If you would like to contribute to the first thematic report on building trust in philanthropy please contact me at apickering@cafonline.org or on Twitter – @A_L_Pickering.

This is an exciting and ambitious project. The prize is the prospect that rapid economic development could lead to a new golden age in global philanthropy.

Adam Pickering is international policy officer for Charities Aid Foundation

The March 2013 issue of Alliance magazine has a special feature on philanthropy in emerging economies. Click here to read more.

Tagged in: CAF Emerging economies global development Middle class donors

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