The Global Philanthropy Environment Index 2018 – A storm front ahead in Europe?


Michael Alberg-Seberich


In Bob Dylan’s song Subterranean Homesick Blues it says “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…” Well, in philanthropy we at least need a weatherperson to map the environment overall a bit better. The 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index of the Lily Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University is such a data guide. The interpretation of the data brings us in part back to Bob Dylan, because in Europe there is a common sense about the direction of the wind.

The Index is a report that provides an overview of the philanthropic environment in 79 countries. It examines the incentives and barriers facing individuals and organisations when donating. It is based on five standardized indicators, like the ease of operating a philanthropic organization or the political environment that are assessed by country-based experts around the world.

Last Friday the 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index was presented at the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt in Berlin. This was the index’s European premiere. It already has been discussed in events in Washington D.C. and Indianapolis in the last weeks. The findings of the index were explained by Professor Una Osili, who is a professor of economics and associate dean for research and international programs at the Lily Family School of Philanthropy. One of these findings is that around two-fifths of the countries included in the report have a restrictive philanthropic environment. The index also points towards migration and natural disasters as key influences of philanthropy in the surveyed time period from 2015 to 2018. Another finding of the report is that cross-border giving is becoming more restricted because of new regulations.

It should be added that the country reports of the index really could turn into a go to source for understanding the philanthropic environment of the surveyed countries. These reports are worth reading as an introductions to a countries giving culture and current trends.

After the presentation the results were reflected in a panel discussion, that I also had the pleasure of being a part of, facilitated by Max von Abendroth from the Donors and Foundations Networks of Europe. Together with Dr Carol Adelman from the Hudson Institute and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Prof. Helmut Anheier from the Hertie School of Governance, Alessia Gianoncelli from the European Venture Philanthropy Association and Charles Sellen from Agence Française de Développement we dived into a lively reflection of the results of the index.

The discussion demonstrated the value of the index but also showed the longing for more qualitative data. The later seemed for the panelists especially important to better understand the motivations, values for giving in different country contexts but also its overall meaning for a society, impact.

Back to weather and wind it became very clear in the discussion, also through questions from the audience, that in Europe many people are concerned with effects of the changing political climate all over Europe but especially in Eastern Europe for philanthropy. This is the kind of wind that you do not need the “weatherman” for. Still, the 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index confirms this storm front.

Michael Alberg-Seberich is a managing partner at Active Philanthropy and Beyond Philanthropy.

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