McKinsey gives GPF ‘success story’ nine out of ten

In 2003-04, McKinsey & Company conducted a study of the Global Philanthropy Forum (GPF), a network of over 500 individual donors, mostly with family foundations, who have made a significant commitment to advancing international causes. This qualitative study, when combined with a Gordon and Betty Moore foundation supported quantitative study, demonstrated the high impact of the three-year-old GPF.

A project of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the GPF brings together philanthropists from around the US and overseas, leaders of public and private foundations, and change agents from around the world at an annual Conference on Borderless Giving in California. The purpose of this ‘learning community’ is to inform and enable strategic giving to international causes. The Forum operates on the premise that when donors are brought together around a problem and given the information they need about it, the strategy for addressing it, potential partners with whom to collaborate, and vehicles for giving, they are more likely to give and to give strategically.

The three-strong McKinsey team, which conducted interviews with a cross-section of 23 Forum participants, found that donors placed a high value on the GPF and its annual conference. They saw it as the only conference which focuses exclusively on global philanthropy and their report described it as a ‘distinctive content-rich networking opportunity around issues in global philanthropy’. They found the conference to be exceptional for the high quality of its attendees and the breadth of topics covered. McKinsey’s brief had been to identify ways to improve upon the GPF model, but the team urged that the GPF stay the course, simply suggesting refinements to the existing model. In the words of one McKinsey partner, ‘On a scale of one to ten, I give this a nine. This is a real success story.’

In addition to these qualitative findings, surveys and questionnaires administered to the 380 conference participants revealed that:
· There are 522 regular donor participants in the Global Philanthropy Forum.
· 47 per cent of them have five years or less experience in international giving, while the remainder have long experience.
· 89 per cent credit the GPF with deepening their knowledge of issues, actors and strategies for giving.
· 40 per cent report an increase in their giving to international causes as a result, adding some $31 million to the field in a three-year period.
· 62 per cent regard both speakers and fellow philanthropists whom they meet at the annual Conference as ‘an ongoing brains trust’ as they develop their strategies for giving.

For the World Affairs Council of Northern California, this last finding is the most crucial, for its goal is to create an enduring learning community which is self-reinforcing and yields collaborations well into the future. The Conference on Borderless Giving is by invitation and adheres strictly to a ‘no fundraising’ rule, providing an opportunity for donors to teach, to learn and to form funding partnerships among themselves. The next conference is scheduled for 2-4 March in Palo Alto, California.

For more information on the GPF, see

Inquiries from grantmakers – including individual donors and foundation officers – should be directed to Stacey Fish at or +1 415-293-4657.

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