WINGS – Global philanthropy infrastructure: a spotlight on the unsung hero

The key role a good infrastructure plays in a country’s development and growth is hardly disputed. A functioning infrastructure – institutions as well as roads, energy and communications – forms the basis of strong economies, while a poor infrastructure can create sometimes insurmountable bottlenecks and hinder even the most promising attempts to attain sustained growth. Specific sectors within countries also need a solid basis to function well.

The philanthropic sector is no different: associations, networks, consultancies and think tanks, to mention but a few, together support and optimize philanthropic initiatives. In the 2010 WINGS Global Status Report on Community Foundations, the data analysis produced an interesting finding: the best predictor of in-country development of community foundations is the presence of support organizations to provide services to them. The 2012 update of the report was a first attempt to understand this dynamic by focusing on support organizations. It also showed the importance of a cross-fertilization of learning among support organizations from different parts of the world.

WINGS will now further analyse the role of support organizations in the philanthropic sector as a whole. For the past 18 months WINGS has been engaged in systematic data collection efforts. We now have information on over 90 organizations which are part of our network. Questions encompassed key areas such as mission, benefits provided, programmes and activities, financial characteristics, and geographic scope.

An initial analysis shows that though it is still hard to categorize the different types of support organization, most share an emphasis on the provision of services that enhance the field’s capacity to grow sustainably, offering training, peer learning, conferences and seminars, as well as interest or affinity groups, among other services.

All findings will be published in the Global Philanthropy Infrastructure Report, to be launched at the WINGSForum 2014 on 27-29 March in Istanbul, Turkey.
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