Philanthropy still not understood by development community, says OECD report


Andrew Milner


Foundations have a potentially important role to play in achieving the SDGs, but there are two major obstacles to their doing so, says a new report released by the OECD on Friday. First, the shortage of reliable and publicly available data about philanthropic flows and, second, a limited understanding of foundations’ priorities and partnering behaviours on the part of governments, official aid agencies and civil society.

So what’s to be done? The report, Private Philanthropy for Development suggests that foundations could increase the sharing of knowledge with governments and the rest of the donor community in those areas, geographic and thematic, where they are most active (see below). They could also encourage the use of existing platforms, such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative, 360giving and OECD’s own DAC statistics, to make data on their development contribution more accessible and more transparent. For their part, developing country governments could provide a more conducive environment for philanthropy and the donor community at large could adopt a more systematic approach to cooperation with foundations.

Some of the statistics collected by the report’s compilers make interesting reading. While philanthropy’s contribution to international development funding is modest, say the authors (5 per cent of ODA in the period 2013-5), it is very significant in sectors like health and reproductive health. Fifty-three per cent of the $124 billion spent in the period by the 143 foundations surveyed in the report went on these areas, according to the OECD’s figures. It is also highly concentrated, not only in terms of provenance, but also in its destination. As far as the first is concerned, 81 per cent was provided by 20 foundations, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone accounting for a whopping 49 per cent of it. When it comes to recipients, 67 per cent went to middle-income countries like India (the largest single recipient with 7 per cent of the total), Nigeria, China and South Africa, and only 28 per cent went to least-developed countries. Nearly all of it – 97 per cent – was channelled through intermediary organisations.

For more information: OECD (2018), Private Philanthropy for Development, The Development Dimension, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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