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The distinctive features of the Fund

The Global Fund for Community Foundations

A key premise of our work is that local development processes are more effective when:

  • they are driven by the community
  • people are given the space, resources and opportunities to provide for their needs
  • the skills, strengths and resources that they bring to the table are recognized as assets

More than ever, the resilience of communities is being put to the test. It is at the local level that the worst effects of global climate change and economic crisis are being felt, threatening livelihoods and community cohesion. Development approaches that reinforce and strengthen communities are more important than ever.

The Global Fund for Community Foundations

Our approach places a firm emphasis on the role of local philanthropic resources, in the belief that these increase ownership and sustainability when they are gathered together within a single institution – normally a foundation, fund or trust. Our aim is to draw and build on existing trust-based systems and to support them within a framework of organized philanthropy – particularly when it comes to creating permanent assets. We also seek to change opinions about the role that local resources can play in enhancing ownership and creating a culture of peer accountability – and we hope to help people to understand that the notion of the ‘local donor’ is no longer a contradiction.

We also emphasize the powerful role local grantmaking has to play in bringing about community empowerment and participation: by disbursing small grants a community foundation can help address the issue of low-absorptive capacity among local groups in many developing contexts.

Local grantmakers also have much to offer international funders: they can make grantmaking more efficient, and they can provide local insight and outreach to grassroots community initiatives as well as a long-term and sustainable option to funders seeking an exit strategy from a particular country or region. In turn, where domestic philanthropy is still at an emergent stage, international funding can enable local foundations to tackle root causes or ‘difficult’ social issues.

The Global Fund for Community Foundations

Community foundations represent the most dynamic area of growth in organized community philanthropy across the world. Globally there are some 1,500 community foundations in around 50 countries. And in many low-income and middle-income countries where a shrinking public sector has led to the renegotiation of relations between the government, private sector and civil society, interest has been growing in the community foundation concept as a new model for redistribution. There are established community foundations across much of Central and Eastern Europe, in Mexico, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa; more recently, community foundations have emerged for the first time in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Thailand, and exploration activities have been undertaken in Kyrgyzstan, Chile and Colombia.

The global growth of community foundations can also been seen as part of a broader movement which seeks to drive local development processes through local institutions supported by local resources. Women’s funds, rural funds, environmental funds and other types of indigenous foundations – as well as those national and regional foundations originally established with international support and now seeking to strengthen their community roots and legitimacy by cultivating a local donor base – all form part of this rich landscape. Other external drivers for this work have included attempts by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank to seed community foundations as a sustainability strategy for community-driven development programmes, as well as the growing occurrence of local trusts and foundations being established around new configurations of community-owned assets (whether around cultural heritage, community-owned tourism initiatives or extractive industries).

The Global Fund for Community Foundations

We are the only institution dedicated to supporting the development of community foundations globally, at a time when local interest in the community foundation concept is increasing but donor interests are shifting elsewhere. Through small grants and hands-on technical assistance we can support start-up and institutional development processes at a very local level in a way that is beyond the capacities of large international funders.

The Global Fund for Community Foundations

As a global institution supporting grassroots philanthropy, we can provide a unique perspective on this emergent field. As a grantmaker, we can connect organizations and build networks regionally and internationally. As a knowledge hub, we can disseminate lessons we have learned and track regional and global trends (see More than the Poor Cousin: the emergence of community foundations as a new development paradigm, June 2010). As an advocate for community philanthropy we can demonstrate the impact of community foundations at the local level and serve as a ‘way in’ to the sector for other international donor institutions.

Dalia Association

Instituto Communitaro