Even funders with the very best of intentions hit common pitfalls that can contribute more harm than good when viewed with a wider lens – and many of these challenges are further exacerbated in the context of international giving. The recent healthy and important critique* of philanthropy has led to more open and honest discussion about what hasn’t worked and why. At the same time, there has been real progress among donors and organizations when it comes to addressing fundamental questions:
- How can we give effectively and responsibly in cultures and geographies not our own?
- How can our philanthropy or foundation make a difference on some of the most pressing issues facing the world?
- What are some promising entry points and strategies to tackle complex issues?
- How are other funders approaching such issues and what are the opportunities to collaborate?
- What are the most effective and authentic ways to partner with grantees to reduce the power imbalance and be as successful as possible in achieving our shared goals?
- How can we leverage our philanthropic resources to catalyze significant and sustainable change?
These questions were uppermost in our minds as we set out to create TPI’s newest resource for global philanthropy: The Thoughtful Funder’s Guide to Global Giving. While future blog posts will address specifics of what was distilled from quantitative data and qualitative interviews with inspiring leaders, a key takeaway is that urgent challenges – basic human rights, climate change, peace and security, to name a few – are complex, multifaceted, and require taking the long view.
While the best approach for any situation tends to be more art than science, we have identified what we call Powerful Practices cutting across issues, geographies, and populations. Within them, the guide underscores deeper possibilities when a funder strives to listen and learn first, ask good questions, identify key stakeholders, and truly engage intended beneficiaries, all to better define the scope and nature of the challenge. The Practices are addressed individually as:
- Build Authentic Funder-Grantee Relations
- Fund Grassroots Organizations and Social Movements
- Provide Flexibility in Funding and Reporting
- Foster Collaboration
- Balance Scale, Sustainability, and Impact
- Deploy Every Available Asset
From there, the guide outlines what is possible when funders take time and resources to map the landscape of an issue. In particular, we unpack three key global issues where philanthropy can play a critical role: increasing access to clean, safe water; addressing the global refugee response crisis; and improving conditions for women and girls. We then demonstrate how the practices above can increase the impact of philanthropy in addressing each issue. We share strategies, lessons learned, and calls to action involving philanthropy, and also describe how philanthropy fits into the broader landscape of local laws, culture, and civil society.
Ultimately, the most thoughtful funders recognize that trust and human relationships are at the heart of philanthropy, rooted as it is in the Greek term, philanthropia, or love of humanity. Among the most effective funders, we are witnessing greater humility and openness to learning from others in devising and co-creating philanthropic strategies and approaches. Funders today may have many motivations for their giving, but most share an innate desire to improve the world in which we live for generations to come – and more and more recognize the importance of building networks and listening deeply, intentionally, and continuously.
In that spirit, my colleagues and I invite you to download the report for free, thanks to generous support from the C.S. Mott Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We welcome your insights and we encourage you to look for opportunities to engage in larger discussions within your communities and circles of influence. We look forward to talking with you, and to coalescing a new, stronger, interconnected community of funders with greater knowledge, more creative and informed goals, and the power to effect true and truly needed systemic and sustainable change.
Click here to learn more about TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy and our work supporting funders of all kinds who wish to effectively give around the world. The Center supports individuals, families, foundations, and companies to have an impact through their giving. We help funders and companies do more and better giving worldwide.