Giving Compass' Take:

• Michael Mapstone examines a GrantCraft paper about how high-impact donors can support more domestic and community philanthropy for the sake of civic society.

• What can you do to become more civically engaged? This piece discusses the power dynamics at play, but it's up to all of us to take action.

• Learn why an ongoing dialogue is needed for civic engagement to have an impact.

Over the past couple of years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time in meetings and conferences about the role of philanthropy in _______ (fill the blank with "global development", "SDGs", "closing space", "climate solutions" etc.).  Usually, the conversation focuses on big foundations, family offices, high-net-worth-individuals…big philanthropy.

So, reading this new GrantCraft paper, How Community Philanthropy Shifts Power: What Donors Can Do to Help Make That Happen, produced in partnership with the Global Alliance of Community Philanthropy and the Global Fund for Community Foundations was certainly refreshing and much aligned with what we do at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

For many years, CAF has worked internationally to grow effective giving, working with donors and civil society organizations to build the practices that underpin philanthropy and cement giving and civil society engagement both as part of the national culture, and as the foundation for social cohesion and stable democracies.  For CAF, philanthropy is not just an input of resources into society, it is also an output and an outcome.

It goes without saying that this paper is very much needed. It not only adds to the need for us to redefine what philanthropy is, but also provides good examples and case studies of how donors can support the growth of domestic giving and community philanthropy. However, we need to do more to highlight the context we are working in to truly appreciate the significance and impact philanthropy (community or otherwise) can have as part of a broader strategy to counter some of the greatest challenges facing civil society today.

There are four key aspects here:

  • The phenomenon of shrinking civic space is getting worse and the global clampdown on civil society has deepened and accelerated in recent years.
  • The global distribution of funds presents a real problem for global southern-based CSOs.  According to CIVICUS, out of the $166 billion spent on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) by OECD-DAC countries in 2013, only 13%, or $21 billion, went to civil society, with Southern CSOs receiving only 1% of this directly.
  • The global decline in institutional trust which, combined with a growing perception that civil society is ineffective, poorly governed and not reflective of local values, is undermining the credibility of CSOs.
  • Increasing legislation and regulation of financial transactions to counter anti-money laundering and terrorist financing are placing enormous burdens on civil society, contributing to the lack of funds being directly sent to or accessed by Southern CSOs.

Often, we look at these things in isolation which, given how complex they are, is understandable! However, taken collectively, we can better understand the role and impact domestic philanthropy can have not only in the context of global development and the SDGs, but as part of the sustainability of civil society as a whole and the preservation of civic space.

Read the full article about unleashing the true potential of philanthropy by Michael Mapstone at GrantCraft.