All funders, big and small, are interested in the impact of their investments. This can be particularly tricky in the realm of international philanthropy where investments are made within diverse cultural contexts.

Smaller funders don’t have the ability to wield the influence of a Gates Foundation, or a Ford Foundation so, they wonder, what kind of impact does a small investment have?

Individual philanthropists–especially smaller family foundations–are relatively new actors in the field of international development. it was not until around the year 2000 that significant philanthropists, like Bill and Melinda Gates, emerged in the battle to end global poverty. Their involvement increased the use of science and data-driven evaluation strategies at a time when the global community was, once again, adopting common goals for progress. The combination made it easier to show that positive change was underway, opening the door for more collaboration with national governments and additional investment.

The involvement of individuals (through donor-advised funds) and family foundations has only increased in recent years. Between 1998 and 2015, internationally-focused U.S. giving more than doubled from $6.7 billion to nearly $16 billion.

The individual’s role in supporting international development efforts is hugely important for two reasons. First, there is strength in numbers. Pooled or collaborative investments (even smaller donations of $5,000) can significantly empower leaders and communities to introduce previously unimagined changes.

Second, these investments are often more nimble and flexible. Donors that give internationally are more willing to take risks, providing seed funds to enable experimentation for new but often much needed and important initiatives in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Grantees are often community players – women or local leaders – who have taken it upon themselves to tackle long standing challenges or missing resources affecting their families and neighbors.

Read the full article about international philanthropy by Ina Breuer and Maggi Alexander at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.