The Alliance roundtable – What would it take to really get global philanthropy going?

Alliance magazine

If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, global giving is on the increase, but much more is needed if it is to contribute to solving some of the world’s most urgent problems. We asked a number of people involved in the philanthropy world what they thought it would take to really get global philanthropy going. How could more individuals be induced to give more substantially? How could the trickle be made into a flood?

The discussion ranged over a wide area, taking in topics such as tax incentives, diaspora philanthropy and measurement. It considered both motivation for, and means of, giving. Among the things that emerged clearly was the feeling that givers, both institutional and individual, have to be brought into more direct and personal contact with the countries where aid is needed and with the problems philanthropy should be helping to solve.

The resulting mass of ideas and opinions defies easy arrangement. What we have done is to divide what participants said into four broad areas. First, we look at the current state of giving. Second, we present people’s views on major topics in the general philanthropy debate, such as diaspora giving, tax incentives and the public perception of NGOs. Third, we draw out what they had to say about mechanisms, both existing and proposed, which might stimulate giving by making it easier, such as internet portals or better sources of information. Fourth and last, and perhaps most importantly, we look at how to motivate people to give in the first place – how to create the thirst in the horse, so that it will clamour to be led to the water – by such means as use of the media and peer influence.

A word on definition

So what is global giving anyway? For the purposes of this discussion, we have taken it to mean rich countries giving to poor countries and, within poorer countries, the wealthier sections of the population giving to support development. Within this definition, Barry Gaberman of the Ford Foundation suggested a narrower focus: ‘You might think of the roughly 190 or so countries in the world as broken up into three clusters. One reasonably well off and more or less the donor countries. A second cluster which are the middle-income countries and a third which are those that are really low-income and quite poor … I think within this middle sphere there is probably some interesting and in some places quite exciting news. Once again, we get left with that lower, bottom third, which to me seems increasingly desperate.’ Generally, it was to the poorer countries that participants looked to see international giving increase, and in the middle-income countries where a rise in in-country giving can be looked for.

THE CURRENT STATE OF GIVING

Giving going up?

Has there been an increase in giving? It depends who you ask. Marcos Kisil says of Brazil: ‘We are seeing more and more active participation of individuals in trying to give to our society … a new understanding of how private money can be an important contributor …’ Similarly, Peggy Dulany feels that ‘… in terms of what I’ve seen in the countries where Synergos works, there does seem to be increasing interest on the part of southern potential philanthropists to get involved, and to get involved more strategically.’ Shankar Venkateswaran of the American India Foundation feels that giving has increased, but admits that this is an impression based on anecdotal evidence and small sample studies rather than hard numbers. There is also an increasing incidence of people, especially young people, wanting to volunteer. However, there are also indications that giving for religious purposes is increasing faster than giving for secular purposes.

Most, however, say that if there has been an increase, it has not been significant. As Barry Gaberman puts it: ‘If you look at individual giving [to international causes] in the US, it is still, as far as I can tell, around 3 per cent, 4 per cent, and it’s been there all along, and since individual giving is 85 per cent of private giving in the United States, it strikes me that overall there’s been only a modest and quite incremental increase.’

Public giving

As far as giving by government goes, there seems no doubt that there has been a decrease. According to Rien van Gendt: ‘In the Netherlands there was always a high target for public giving to the developing world, but that figure has come down because part of that money is being diverted to other purposes … such as peacekeeping forces in Yugoslavia and integration of asylum seekers and migrants in the Netherlands itself.’

Corporate giving

Corporate giving seems to be on the rise, at least in developing countries. Vicky Garchitorena (Philippines) reports ‘an increase in the number of corporate foundations, family foundations and community foundations that have been established around the country’. In Brazil, Marcos Kisil says, ‘… business people have understood that the money should come from their own pockets if they want to make things happen, not expecting that public money will come’. David Bonbright reports a similar feeling on the part of the business community in Pakistan. Hylton Appelbaum also admits an increase in South Africa, ‘fuelled by the political and economic necessity for corporate social spending’.

Individual giving

On the other hand, says Appelbaum, ‘In internal private philanthropy there is absolutely no increase at all. The figures that have been put out over the years have been completely nonsensical – a lot of the numbers have been church giving, people who have tithes, or give to a certain pastor who owns a fleet of Rolls Royces. I don’t believe that can be considered giving, that is sort of a “god decision”.’

Both he and Andrew Kingman, based in Kenya, feel that most giving tends to be within specific communities. In South Africa, this seems to be partly because of the apartheid past, but broadly the same holds true of Kenya, according to Kingman: ‘Those in a specific faith community, the Ismaili population, for instance, tend to look after their own, and within that community there tends to be a lot of giving.’ Most giving, he says, tends to run along the lines of kinship, and the idea of giving to strangers is not well developed. As to regional giving, both are agreed that this is scarcely even an idea at the back of anyone’s mind.

From the UK, Peter Wheeler admits: ‘I think the feeling broadly in the UK at the moment is that levels of philanthropy are staying stubbornly low’ but he also talks of ‘some green shoots’ – of which more later.

Foundation giving

Barry Gaberman notes a slight increase in international giving by US foundations, but only slight – from around 6 or 8 per cent to something like 11 per cent. He concedes, though, that the money from the Gates Foundations has skewed these figures to a certain extent. ‘In fact,’ he argues, ‘if you were to factor the Gates money out, it would probably look flat as opposed to a modest increase in the last half decade or so.’[1] He has the impression, however, that there is a ‘more robust dialogue taking place among foundations in Europe about giving beyond their own borders’.

Most of this, as participants admitted, is anecdotal. David Bonbright made an interesting comment in this connection. ‘We don’t have good data … by getting good empirical descriptions of what’s happening, you can increase the phenomenon itself. So the empirical exercise is really valuable, that was the key to the success of the philanthropy initiative in Pakistan. We showed Pakistan just how much they were already doing, and it surprised everyone, they said wow, that’s a lot of money.’[2]

He also introduced another idea, which it’s worth mentioning at this point: the symbolic, as well as the actual, character of giving. ‘My underlying theory of change probably has to do with mobilizing social energy, with the whole notion that if people stop becoming victims, they take responsibility to organize and solve problems, that’s how we can get problems solved. So we must look at philanthropy in the context of really liberating that social mobilization force. In a sense it’s not how much people are giving, it’s the fact that they’re getting involved, not just giving money but also themselves.’

But even where people feel that giving has increased, all are agreed that it needs to increase much more. As Shankar Venkateswaran puts it: ‘People are asking for a tenfold increase in giving, but we need a hundredfold increase.’ How can this be achieved?

MAJOR TOPICS IN THE RECENT PHILANTHROPY DEBATE

Tax incentives – a straw man?

Tax concessions are often touted as a means of boosting philanthropy. Does the participants’ experience bear this out? In almost every case, the answer is no. Vicky Garchitorena says that most givers in the Philippines ‘don’t even bother to deduct donations from their income tax’ – though the situation is different with their work in the US to try and encourage Americans to give to social development projects in the Philippines, where ‘we do see the tax deduction that we [Ayala Foundation USA] offer as a 501(c)(3) as a very important incentive’. David Bonbright agrees that in Pakistan ‘tax incentives are largely irrelevant to people’s giving’ and Peter Wheeler echoes this with regard to the UK: ‘There’s been a tremendous effort on the part of this government to raise the tax incentives for philanthropy, to bring them much closer in line with the US than they were … And I think probably the government and the population at large have been surprised by how little difference that seems to have made.’

Even in the US, Barry Gaberman thinks that tax incentives only weigh ‘with people that have more significant income’, and that for the vast majority of givers, ‘whether that money is going to be deductible or not isn’t going to make any difference whatsoever’. Adele Simmons, also from the US, believes ‘that taxes are less of an incentive than what I call kind of fashion’.

In fact, several roundtable participants questioned whether the state should offer tax incentives. Why should the South African government let rich people off contributing to the public purse, wonders Hylton Appelbaum, so that they might or might not dip into their pocket for a cause that appeals to them? Cash-strapped governments, argues Andrew Kingman, will be unwilling to grant tax concessions if it means that much less money for them in revenues. He also points out that in many low-income countries few people pay tax so the issue is in any case not a burning one.

David Bonbright also points to another possible downside of creating incentives for giving: ‘The more incentives you create, the more likely that they’re going to get abused by the chancers. In a society that is characterized by high levels of corruption generally, you want to minimize the opportunities for corruption, in other words let virtue be virtue. You don’t have to reward it directly by some self-serving benefit.’ On the other hand, he points out, a favourable fiscal regime with regard to NGOs shows that government is well-disposed to the sector and that it is creating a favourable environment for ‘citizen initiative for public benefit’.

Diaspora giving

This is often considered to be a growing area. With regard to the American India Foundation, Shankar Venkateswaran feels the chief and most obvious reason is that the American Indian community is now much wealthier, so their ability to give is naturally that much greater. ‘As people become successful, their ability to give enables them to fulfil their desire to give. Finally,’ he says, ‘there’s this tradition: when you’re a big man, a rich man, you are expected to give more, and you get a couple more notches on your halo.’ There is another prime reason, too. The AIF has formalized a process which was already beginning to happen. As he says, ‘it’s a combination of the fact that we’re asking and the fact that we can offer some credibility.’

But if the existence of AIF has helped to stimulate diaspora giving, the lack of such mechanisms has hindered it in Africa. As Andrew Kingman remarks: ‘One of the big problems, in East Africa certainly but I think in Africa more generally, is that there aren’t the equivalents of Give Foundation India or the various foundations that have now been established for internet giving from non-resident Indians based in the US and elsewhere. There’s very little established in terms of infrastructure to tap the diaspora.’

In South Africa, Hylton Appelbaum believes, ‘there is very, very little money that comes into this country from the South African diaspora – for a whole host of very good reasons, but I think primary among them has been exchange control. The people who have got out of the country and have battled to get that money out – when it comes to sending it back, they have got something of a difficulty …’ Then there are, he says, South Africans who have made good abroad, but are not disposed to donate money to South African projects or organizations. ‘Approaching them,’ in his experience, ‘tends to be a complete and total joke … most of them have turned their backs on the country.’

Still, most participants feel that diaspora philanthropy is likely to be of growing significance. Barry Gaberman thinks that diaspora communities can also help spark indigenous giving if they form links with groups in the home country, ‘so that they become an impetus within the country to an elite, who in the past either didn’t give very much, or gave it in a rather parochial or charity sort of way, to give in a much more strategic and developmental way.’ Rien van Gendt says of the Surinamese community in the Netherlands: ‘what were remittances in the past are being transformed into grantmaking.’ He also feels there is some mileage in trying to match diaspora funding with indigenous philanthropy, and Adele Simmons cites the example of Mexico where ‘sometimes both the federal government and the state government match money that is given by the hometown association in the US to Mexico’.

Public perception of NGOs

Another factor which has potential either to promote or to stifle global giving is the way in which NGOs are perceived. Here again, the picture is a complicated one. Andrew Kingman describes the situation in Kenya: ‘The current perception is that NGOs are far more concerned with their own operations, their nice cars, their nice offices, their conferences etc, etc. And why should I give to that when I’ve got a hundred other people asking me for money, including my local school? I might now live in Nairobi but I have a home village and that needs my support too.’ So, while there is a lot of giving going on, ‘the problem is that the organizations that are trying to encourage philanthropy are very often the last ones that are likely to be supported by the people who give – irrespective of the accuracy of the perception’.

In Peru, relates Adele Simmons, ‘people with property are not giving because they have no confidence that what they give will be used for purposes other than for corruption’. Even in India, says Shankar Venkateswaran, where NGOs are coming to be much better regarded on the whole, thanks partly to their prompt response to the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, there are still questions about the financial credibility and efficiency of NGOs. In his opinion, increasing the general perception that they are professional and efficient is ‘what’s really going to increase the amounts people are willing to give’.

Elsewhere, the picture is rosier. ‘The Philippines,’ says Vicky Garchitorena, ‘has probably one of the most dynamic NGO communities in the world, and I think by and large most businesses and government accept the civil society sector as a full partner in undertaking development projects.’ There are historical reasons for this, stemming from the era of ‘people power’, but another factor is NGO self-regulation, where the Philippine Council for NGO Certification is a global leader.

MECHANISMS TO PROMOTE GIVING

More information and measurement

Mistrust of NGOs is only part of the problem of ensuring that what people give goes to the right places. Participants spoke of the problems of giving at a remove, of the feeling that it’s difficult. ‘People feel overwhelmed by not knowing: where could I give my money effectively,’ remarks Peggy Dulany. This is echoed by Rien van Gendt: ‘There is a kind of popular thinking that it’s complicated … And they would like to not just write a cheque but be engaged themselves.’ What kinds of mechanisms might help bridge the gap between would-be givers in the rich world and organizations in the developing world?

Using the internet
Barry Gaberman makes the point that organizations like GlobalGiving are ‘getting more sophisticated and better all the time. And they’re beginning to answer questions about how do I know that what I give will be used right, or that it won’t be diverted because people are corrupt, or that it won’t be eaten up in administrative expenses, or things like that.’ But Shankar Venkateswaran has reservations about how many people give online. ‘For example,’ he says, ‘I personally hesitate to do it because I don’t feel sure I can trust it will be done properly.’

The merits or demerits of online giving notwithstanding, the internet has great potential to advertise needs in a cost-effective and immediate way. Vicky Garchitorena explains: ‘One of our Ayala companies has decided to build classrooms, and we’re thinking of putting information about this on some kind of website. So people can say OK, I want to help solve the problem of classroom shortage, and I want to use the Coca Cola model and fund a little red schoolhouse somewhere.’ She thinks this is a good way to mobilize what David Bonbright calls the ‘social energy of the country’ and sees it as a model that could be adapted to other initiatives, including a longer-term Ayala project to put computer labs in public high schools in the Philippines.

Performance measurement
Also mooted as a possible means of overcoming the information deficit is the ACCESS programme. What ACCESS will do, says David Bonbright, is ‘make visible to givers … the good work that is being done on the ground, in a way that includes the judgements of those in whose name the funds are raised’. It will be ‘Everyman’s Ford Foundation’, aiming to create a system which ‘enables everybody to know what the Ford Foundation knew about the 120 human rights groups in South Africa in the 1980s’.

Yes, but…

Both of these initiatives are certainly moves in the right direction. But, as Peter Wheeler points out, ‘they do not provide a service tailored to an individual donor or would-be donor that helps them develop their own strategy for giving’ – though ACCESS will have what Bonbright calls a ‘customized front end’ that will provide an online (rather than ‘in person’) tailored service to help social investors develop their giving strategy on their own. Shankar Venkateswaran agrees that while NGO credibility is a necessary condition for increased giving, it is not a sufficient one and won’t, for instance, address the question of how you can make it easier for people to give.

Social bonds, social investment

One method might be the use of investment bonds and market instruments. Andrew Kingman referred to efforts by the Nairobi Stock Exchange to introduce social bonds and encourage major charities to issue them. ‘We may be putting too much emphasis on a very narrow model of philanthropy rather than actually broadening our thinking and looking at aspects of social investment models, of using the markets creatively.’

Hylton Appelbaum agrees that they do work, but only as part of a wider armoury of techniques. The problem, he says, is that ‘too many people want to see them as an excuse for not giving. They can make an investment where they see something for their money rather than just passing it on and saying that’s gone and that’s goodbye.’

Another downside of the ‘social investment’ approach, says Adele Simmons, ‘is the extent to which some people now want instant responses, or instant returns. They used to be business leaders, they’re used to quarterly returns, and they’re used to measuring things in very short time spans. And these kinds of social investments take a lot longer time, and I think that’s where there’s a real tension.’

Partnerships with local organizations

Rien van Gendt feels that partnership with, or incubation of, a local organization could act as a motor to local giving: ‘If you start with a community foundation, like Ford and Aga Khan Foundation did in Kenya, then this will act as a catalyst in stimulating local indigenous philanthropy, whether this is coming from the corporate world or not.’ Grantmakers’ associations like GIFE (Group of Foundations, Institutes and Enterprises) or the Ethos Institute in Brazil ‘will again act as a stimulus to further indigenous philanthropy’.

Andrew Kingman suggests that working with local grantmakers could also be a way to provide a link between giver and recipient: ‘One way we should be trying harder to get more global giving is to make use of domestic grantmakers … [External donors could] then form true partnerships with the likes of the Kenya Community Development Foundation or foundations in South Africa, and provide the opportunity for people to have that more direct relationship.’

Endorsing this, Hylton Appelbaum raises the possibility of local organizations matching external donor funds: ‘I think there are also opportunities in this part of the world for foundations, or anybody who wants to make a serious-ish grant, to partner with local organizations who will also put money in. I think it’s really important to know that there are local people who are not just taking but are perhaps to some extent matching with you.’

Foundation advocacy

As well as making grants, foundations can play other less direct but significant roles in stimulating giving. One such role is described by Tim Wirth of the UN Foundation: ‘I think there’s a real opportunity for people to make a difference politically, small “p”. I think philanthropic advocacy is extremely important. [Conservative foundations in the US] have done that very, very well. They have targeted their money on various causes that relate to the leverage that comes from government, and that’s an extremely important way of getting business done. I happen to think that the opportunities that are available through political advocacy give people enormous leverage and help to get issues to scale.’

Foundations may also be able to play a part in stimulating individual giving. David Bonbright feels that there are individual givers who are ‘ready to be influenced, if you will, by the smart money’. Foundations, he feels ‘can do much more … to really leverage individual giving, and really focus on the problem of how we create the enabling conditions for individual giving to be every bit as strategic and impactful as Ford or Rockefeller or Carnegie or Ayala …’ Individual giving, he points out, comprises 87 per cent of giving in the US, institutional giving 13 per cent: ‘the 13 per cent should really be smarter in terms of leveraging the 87 per cent.’

CHANGING HEARTS AND MINDS

Creating a culture of giving

While things like enhancing NGO credibility, tax incentives and partnerships with local grantmakers might promote giving to this or that organization or make giving easier, how do you bring people to the idea of giving in the first place? Adele Simmons talks about a growing sense that ‘people feel that this is the right thing to do. It is talked about at cocktail parties.’ How do you encourage this ‘growing sense’? Or, as Peter Wheeler puts it: ‘How do you make the impulses behind the groups that get behind broad-reaching organizations like Comic Relief, or focused organizations targeting very small groups of ultra-high-net-worth individuals like ARK [Absolute Returns for Kids], how do you turn that into a movement, and a changing culture?’

Peer influence

One way is through peer influence. Shankar Venkateswaran feels it is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of this: ‘I think there are huge family influences that play a role, and huge peer group influences, especially when you’re younger. I honestly think that the starting point for encouraging this kind of sensitization is in the school.’

Nor is peer influence confined to the young. As Peggy Dulany says, ‘We’ve been finding, through the Global Philanthropists Circle, that people respond a lot to what their peers do, so part of the purpose of the Circle is to create a space where peers can relate to each other. And what we’re finding … is that those who thought longer and more strategically about what they’re doing and can articulate it very clearly, their arguments are very appealing to those who are just getting started. So we’re talking here both about an increase in the quantity of dollars and also about an improvement in the strategic nature of the application of those dollars.’

Not only is peer influence important in providing a motive for giving, it can also help smooth out some of the perplexities of giving. As Peter Wheeler points out: ‘The benefit of peer groups and places like The Philanthropy Workshop … is that people are beginning to realize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Indeed, it may be better not to create too many wheels.’

The power of the media

As in all aspects of life, the media is an important shaper of opinion. As Hylton Appelbaum says: ‘The media plays an incredibly important role. Depending on the sexiness of a project or organization or institution, depending on the interest the media takes in something, money can be raised.’ Shankar Venkateswaran echoes this: ‘The other change [fuelling increased diaspora giving] I think is communication. People know more about development, more about NGOs. The TV news and the media have been covering development issues more. That has been a big factor in sensitizing people.’

Clearly, media attention can be a major factor in overcoming the ‘philanthropic remove’, but it is a two-edged weapon, believes Rien van Gendt. While the media is ‘very important in picturing the compelling nature of global threats’, it concentrates too much on ‘the deficit’, showing ‘misery that stays misery and furthermore that stays far away. In the Netherlands popular lotteries collecting millions for international development always show how children suffer instead of the resilience of children.’ But Venkateswaran insists: ‘The greater challenge is to get the media to cover something rather than ignore the issues.’

Awareness of global threats

If people are made more aware that global threats such as climate change, migration and HIV/AIDS are likely to affect them personally, will they be more likely to give in order to counter them? Rien van Gendt talks of making people aware of ‘the compelling nature’ of those threats and showing that, by addressing them at their source, you can prevent their effects nearer home. Hylton Appelbaum sees poverty at the root of terrorism. For him, it’s simply one more thing arising ‘out of the alienation and disaffection created by these unbelievable chasms that exist between the rich and poor, North and South. When people are poor, they are angry … Maybe if people in the North could see an investment in alleviating poverty as an investment in their own security …’ Van Gendt agrees: ‘The whole thing about poverty being the deeper cause is so important. The question is how do you present it in a way that it is compelling?’ For him, as we have seen, the media can help to do that.

But roundtable participants were not all happy with this approach. One who was not was Peggy Dulany. ‘You have to be cautious because a lot of people use scare tactics and I’m not sure that’s productive,’ she warns. ‘If we don’t address these ills they’ll be on us in no time. Asian bird flu is going to kill 90 per cent of the human population. People sometimes retreat inside themselves and feel overwhelmed if you try to scare them.’ Adele Simmons suggests that if you present problems as too overwhelming, people won’t feel they can do anything to help: ‘You forget that with $10,000 you can turn around an AIDS clinic in South Africa. A lot of people want to feel really connected with what they’re helping in a positive way.’

Peter Wheeler feels that true compassion as much as fear, being willing to ‘treat any human being as a brother or sister’, will be a crucial factor in enlisting support. He makes a ‘potentially controversial’ distinction between philanthropy that is seen as part of our civic duty, which ultimately involves our enlightened self-interest in underpinning the community we live in, and the ‘very distinct impulse that might drive somebody to care about the AIDS orphan in southern Africa, even though helping them will do nothing for your own well-being’.

In fact, as Barry Gaberman points out, ‘the whole rhetoric around this global war on terrorism’ has acted as an impediment to overseas giving (‘a chilling effect’) rather than as a stimulus. Tim Wirth reiterates this in respect of the Patriot Act, which he feels has ‘muffled people’s desires to get involved, particularly in some areas of the world’. Hylton Appelbaum mentions that the ‘Patriot Act has been causing quite a lot of trouble for South African organizations that receive money from abroad’.

Personal connectedness

Almost all the participants, in one form or another, expressed the sentiment that what’s needed is to find ways of bringing givers or would-be givers into intimate, personal contact with problems which are generally remote from their experience. This is perhaps the strongest message to emerge from the discussion. (It should be stressed that givers themselves often want this in some form or other. As Marcos Kisil remarks: ‘They are looking always, the donors, to become part of the process of change.’)

According to Peggy Dulany: ‘It has a lot to do with the way we’re educated. In the US we probably have the most parochial education of any country that I know, in terms of awareness of the rest of the world and engagement with the rest of the world … If there were one single innovation that we could make that would increase first of all awareness in order to increase global philanthropy, it would be to get young people, as part of the school or high school or college programme, or as a requirement on the side, to spend time in another country, preferably a developing country.’ Barry Gaberman says almost exactly the same thing: ‘If only we could somehow mobilize and energize the whole set of exchange efforts that existed, and that still exist, for American young people, to get them overseas, in high school years and times like that, so that they have a kind of knowledge and connection and vested interest in those places.’

And, Peter Wheeler feels: ‘It’s not just American children, it’s children from European backgrounds as well. There is just a divide that can last a lifetime between those who have had that experience and those that haven’t.’ Also from a European perspective, Rien van Gendt comments that, while in the 1960s, ‘the trend was to go to India, there is now unfortunately a trend to go to Australia’.

Shankar Venkateswaran points to this absence of connection in India, too. ‘If you can get people to really look at people who are disadvantaged,’ he says, ‘this will automatically lead to wanting to do something. The reason why it becomes harder [to connect]… is because exposure is very limited. A person in the corporate sector rarely meets anyone who’s not in the corporate sector. You tend to be always talking to people who are clones of yourself. I’d like to see people exposed to other sectors or working in communities so as to get that exposure and understanding.’ Returning to the point he made about the process of exposure beginning early, he adds: ‘I think that’s the starting point, to get people younger and to get people connected with each other. Once that starts happening, the urge to give will come and then it’s just a matter of how much to give, of capacity.’

The most significant innovation?

If you could introduce a single innovation to foster more and better global giving, what would you do? All roundtable participants were asked this question. So was encouraging people to form a direct connection with the places and communities where philanthropic dollars or euros or pounds need to go the single most important step in promoting what might be called a culture of giving? There was an interesting unanimity about this from participants from the US. All felt that, as Adele Simmons put it, ‘getting young people out and working overseas, particularly in developing countries’, is crucial, especially in the longer term. At some point, all participants alluded to the need to bridge the gap in experience and in human sympathy between those who have and those who are in need.

But inevitably, given the international character and varied perspectives of participants, views on the ‘single innovation’ reflected the range of preoccupations that came up in the discussion. For some, like Vicky Garchitorena and David Bonbright, it was ‘more information more easily available’, whether through an intermediary such as GlobalGiving or in the form of something like ACCESS. For Tim Wirth, it was ‘more creative advocacy’ and the ‘opportunity to create new financial instruments through which people can give and ways through which they can leverage their money’.

But Shankar Venkateswaran feels that what is needed is not innovation so much as to do the basic things right. Although people are being asked to give, ‘I still don’t think there are enough people asking. And if more people are to give to secular causes, NGOs will need to do more to demonstrate credibility.’

More giving

One point of agreement, though – no matter whether giving is going up or down or is static – was that it needs to increase much more.

And in spite of the greater visibility of organized philanthropy, the people who need to reach for their chequebooks are individuals. As we’ve seen, by far the greatest share of giving is done by individuals, yet according to Venkateswaran, ‘oddly enough, people are not asking individuals’. In the UK, as Andrew Kingman points out, it is a matter of people giving more: ‘Large numbers of people give to international causes but most of them give very little. What we need is more people giving large amounts.’

That there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of global giving, most agree, even if their evidence is largely anecdotal. And some of the necessary pieces are falling into place: internet portals which match donor with recipient are becoming, as Barry Gaberman points out, more sophisticated; diaspora philanthropy is a growing phenomenon; in many parts of the world, NGOs are setting their house in order by means of regulatory mechanisms and achieving a growing respect from both state and society. As Marcos Kisil observes: ‘The most important thing that is happening in Brazil today is the creation of councils – at local level or state level or regional level – that include civil society and business people and government. We are creating more committees in which decision-making is more participatory, involving these three different groups of society.’

It’s likely that, if global giving takes off, all these things will be contributory. Givers might have TV images to coax or threaten them, online giving to make giving easier, a whole host of checks to reassure them that their donation won’t be wasted, webcasts to show them the people and places their gift has benefited, giving circles to hold their hand through the whole process. It’s also likely that change will be progressive rather than sudden. The metaphor of the swelling stream might be more appropriate than that of the flash-flood.

1 The Gates factor complicates the picture in another respect, too. More and more international money has been going directly to institutions based overseas, and less to institutions in the US who then give it overseas. The Gates money goes largely through US institutions, so it looks like the trend has been reversed – which is not the case without the Gates money.

2 Aga Khan Development Network (2000) Philanthropy in Pakistan: A report of the Initiative on Indigenous Philanthropy Islamabad, Pakistan.

Alliance would like to thank the following for participating in this discussion:
Hylton Appelbaum Executive Director, Liberty Foundation and Donald Gordon Foundation, South Africa
David Bonbright CEO, ACCESS, UK
Peggy Dulany President, Synergos Institute, USA

Barry Gaberman Senior Vice President, Ford Foundation, USA

Vicky Garchitorena President, Ayala Foundation, Philippines

Andrew Kingman Chief Executive, Allavida, Kenya and UK

Marcos Kisil President, Institute for the Development of Social Investment, Brazil

Adele Simmons President of the Global Philanthropy Partnership and Senior Advisor of the World Economic Forum, USA

Rien van Gendt Executive Director, Van Leer Group Foundation, Netherlands

Shankar Venkateswaran Executive Director – India, American India Foundation

Peter Wheeler Trustee, New Philanthropy Capital, UK

Tim Wirth President, United Nations Foundation, USA


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