Top 25 global funders account for more than three quarters of direct giving


Shafi Musaddique


The top 25 global funders account for more than three quarters of direct giving between 2016 and 2019, according to a new report published by the Council on Foundations.  

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the largest share of direct giving for organisations in both the Global South and Global North.  

Then Gates support is excluded from figures, the remaining top 24 funders account for the vast majority of direct grant dollars for the Global South (83 per cent) and Global North (74 per cent) 

Findings also showed that direct funding to leaders working closely with major global issues has only marginally increased. 

Only 29 per cent of US foundations with a global focus made at least one direct grant during the 2016-2019 period.  

Just 13 per cent of the $33.4 billion in global foundation giving between 2016 and 2019 were grants to organisations headquartered in countries for work taking place exclusively in those countries.  

Included among organisations “headquartered” in a country are those that are locally established and led, for example, TrustAfrica. Local affiliates of multinational organisations are also included, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) affiliate in Pakistan. Key to this is that both organisations employ local people and use local experts. 

In the period between 2011-2015, this represented 12 per cent. 

Foundations made a median of five direct grants during the 2016-2019 period, or approximately one direct grant per year.   

“Directly funding leaders closest to issues supports equity, builds trust and leads to more durable results. However, while foundations have made some progress in shifting practices in the wake of COVID-19, momentum toward shifting power and resources has at best been incremental,” said Kathleen Enright, CEO and president of the Council of Foundations in the report. 

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, foundations have put increased focus on the ‘how’ of their giving, not just the ‘what’ or the “why.” Indeed, many of the principles and practices that more than 800 foundations pledged to adopt in the wake of the pandemic are very similar to the tenets of locally led development,” the report authors wrote.  

“While we will have to wait for new data reflecting grant making practices from 2020 onwards, we hope these shifts in grant making practices not only impacted domestic giving, but also led to more direct giving approaches for international grant makers.” 

Shafi Musaddique is a news editor at Alliance magazine.  

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