Why not support the world’s emerging community foundations?

Jenny Hodgson

As the amount of international grantmaking by US community foundations increases (‘Community foundations as international grantmakers?’, September issue of Alliance), it would be interesting to know how much is being channelled to or through their global brothers and sisters around the world. My sense is that it is very little. This is a shame: who else would be in a better position to promote the potential value of community philanthropy institutions in other parts of the world than community foundations themselves?

The global field is still small and young, led by brave individuals who have opted to take the difficult route of trying to convince local people to give to and through them (rather than resort to external donors). The fact that there are well-functioning, well-trusted community foundations in parts of the world where corruption is high and public trust in institutions is still low is a real testimony to their hard work and utter commitment. Community foundations always emphasize the value of ‘donor education’: it would be great to see far more of those who are involved in international grantmaking rise to the challenge and begin to introduce donors who want to give internationally to this dynamic but under-resourced set of institutional cousins around the world.

The article emphasizes one of the distinct values of the community foundation as deriving from the fact that it is grounded in its local community. This puts it in a good position to foster and demonstrate community leadership, to engage individuals as both ‘donors’ and ‘doers’, and to build trust between and across different parts of the community. Many of the community foundations and other community philanthropy institutions established in emerging markets and developing countries over the last 10 to 15 years have been founded around similar principles. A good number have also been established in response to the often detrimental effects of well-intentioned money from outside, which is often short-term and restrictive – and sometimes quite disempowering.

Jenny Hodgson
Executive director, Global Fund for Community Foundations


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