How use of a ‘Ripple Effects Framework‘ can be used for property purchases


Ise Bosch


Civic spaces for marginalised communities keep shrinking. From LGBTQIA* free zones in Poland to Uganda’s anti-LGBTQIA* laws and Florida’s “don’t say gay” legislation, the global landscape of anti-human rights and anti-gender developments become increasingly concerning. As individuals invested in human rights and as funders, we bear the responsibility to confront such attacks and ensure the most vulnerable can protect themselves. 

Europa, Deutschland, 10.10.2017. Porträt von Ise Bosch. © 2017 Lucas Wahl

Dreilinden looked at the effects of property purchases and found that the need to have spaces to call “home” was a shared ambition among civil society organisations (“CSOs”), encompassing a sense of safety on physical, psychological and spiritual planes. However, we see many CSOs holding back on such initiatives because they are not sure if donors are ready to put this amount of trust in them.

Donations for property purchase are, in their nature, trust based gifts, since they are oriented at the long term and increase the recipients’ own capital. Philanthropic real estate is by no means new. Consider Andrew Carnegie’s libraries. However, the intent, and the method, of what we now call “property purchase for community empowerment” definitely is new. It is not “my-name-on-it” funding. On the contrary; planning, decision making, and results all come from the recipients. Still, I would argue that the method appeals not only to foundations, but also to high-net-worth individuals (like myself) who want to see longevity and sustainability for the organizations they support.

We use a “Ripple Effects Framework” which gives donors as well as CSOs a practical tool to develop a strategy and evaluate potential property purchases. The framework moves away from the often-flawed causality chain of a log frame. It looks at a multitude of short- and long-term “ripple effects” that a single action can have on individuals, organisations, and the ecosystems at large. For instance, if an organization acquires a community space, it can eliminate rental costs in the short term and might attract new staff in the medium term. The community space could then be used to house an archive and strengthen the community over the long term.

While the process of property purchasing is long-term (among the 20 projects found in the study, the timeline ranges from two to over ten years), the results are overwhelmingly positive for the groups who have dared to go that route. Among many others, we found the following key effects:

  • Resilience in times of increased material insecurity
  • More safety for organizations faced with legal and social discrimination, including better standing within the community at large
  • Ability to plan and develop, independent from donors’ strategies and behavior
  • Opportunities to create organisational income and network

How do we do it? As a small organisation, based in the global North, we partner with donors who sit in the global South and East. We have a designated due diligence questionnaire and engage in an active dialogue with the CSO to understand at what point our money is needed. Grants from our side are usually below $100. Where needed, we give small support ahead of the main grant for the planning process. If we can (from a legal and regulatory perspective) we give directly. If not, we will work with local re-grantors. To date, we have funded nine projects across eight countries in the global South and East.

We are far from done. We are in the middle of launching a participatory process to evaluate what a global South-based funding mechanism, focused on supporting community-owned infrastructure, could look like. We do this all in the spirit of shifting capital and power to recipients.

Let me end with an invitation: it seems that the Ripple Effects Framework (see below) might be suitable to plan and evaluate trust-based giving (larger sums, core funding, reparations) far beyond property purchase grants.

Ise Bosch is CEO of Dreilinden gGmbH in Germany, a private not for profit LLC. She has been a donor activist since the 1990s.

202304-Ripple-Effects-of-Property-Purchase-Grants-on-LGBTQIA-Communities (8)

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