It is surprising to read here that ‘a comprehensive review of trends in international grantmaking has never been undertaken’. This book seeks to fill that gap, at least in so far as US foundations are concerned. Its 258 pages include an analysis of grants made by some 39,000 foundations, and also of the over 50 per cent of foundation grant dollars given for international work by just over 1,000 of them. These are accompanied by results of interviews with representatives of 26 international grant-makers, several useful perspectives essays, and detailed profiles of more than 60 leading grant-makers.
US foundation giving overseas grew in the 1990s, but not as fast as foundation giving generally – and as foundations spent more overseas, the US government spent less. More overseas organizations are seeing the value of fundraising in the USA and establishing US registered offices, making it easier for the foundations to make them grants without the (sometimes messy) business of actually having to send money abroad. Nor is the traffic all one way – European funders have been known to make grants to US organizations, as one of the essayists notes. However, this appears to be limited to a few rather untypical foundations.
An interesting essay by Mary Lord focuses on grant-making in the areas of Peace, Security and International Relations. This demonstrates the fickleness of some US donors, apt to move in and out of fields of activity on what to this reviewer seems little more than a whim – with serious consequences for those actually doing the work, and dependent on foundations for their income. Over a ten-year period, just 19 of 108 foundations funding in this field stayed in for the full decade. To mix metaphors, there must be a halfway house between sticking in the mud and jumping on bandwagons. In illuminating this and many other issues, the editors of this volume have performed a significant service.
International Grantmaking: A report on US foundation trends
by Loren Renz, Josefina Samson-Atienza, Trinh C Tran, and Rikard R Treiber
The Foundation Center in cooperation with the Council on Foundations
To order phone the Foundation Center on +1 800 424 9836
Steven Burkeman is Trust Secretary at the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, York, UK. He is Hon Sec of Interfund (an international donor consortium working in South Africa) and a founder board member of Charity Know How, a UK consortium making grants for work in eastern and central Europe.