Global Giving Round-Up
Overviews of best-practices around the world and links to learn more about them
"Computer on Wheels" aims to bring the Internet -- and hope -- to rural areas
A pilot project to bring the Internet to rural communities is under way in Andhra Pradesh, India, to explore if mobile technology can bring economic benefit to farmers. Instigated by Pingali Rajeswari, a development professional based in Hyderabad, the project entails sending an "information retailer" to visit communities at a pre-announced time and place, arriving on a motorcycle fitted with a laptop, mini-printer, solar-powered battery charger, a communication device, and a tent. During the visit, this individual collects queries from farmers that often involve problems in growing and marketing their products; one goal of this project is to link buyers and sellers. Since farmers work during the day, meetings take place during the evening. The retailer tries to have answers by the following evening before leaving. If answers aren't found on this visit, they will be provided at the next. According to Rajeswari, the farmers should be able to use the information to attract higher prices for their produce because they will have a larger base of buyers with whom to negotiate sales. Rajeswari was a Fellow at Stanford University in 2001-02 through the Reuters Foundation Digital Vision program; Stanford is now providing technical support to the project, and a range of funders and NGOs are also involved. (ProPoor, September 9, 2002)
Corporate philanthropy growing in Singapore
Singapore's Acting Minister for Community Development and Sports reports that, despite the global economic downturn, corporate giving in Singapore grew 17 percent from 2000 to 2001 -- reaching S$381 million (US$216 million). Some observers claim that increased publicity and transparency have contributed to this growth, including the President of the National Council of Social Service who states "They begin to understand more about [the Community Chest], they have the confidence that every dollar they give, every single cent of it goes to the beneficiaries." (Channel NewsAsia, October 18, 2002)
Pictures speak more than 1,000 words -- especially one in Afghanistan
Here's a story of how individual philanthropy has become a mass effort. Many people recall a remarkable photo of a young Afghan girl -- her bright green eyes penetrating through an otherwise sorrowful look -- that appeared in 1985 on the cover of National Geographic Magazine. Following the end of the war in Afghanistan, the photographer, Steve McCurry, made it a mission to find his subject, Sharbat Gula, see what had become of her and her community, and explore how he could help. He found her -- and photographed her for the cover of the April 2002 issue. Gula is married now and has three daughters. As a result of his initiative, National Geographic joined The Asia Foundation to set up The National Geographic Afghan Girls Fund with the particular goal of assisting the "lost generation" of destitute girls aged 12 to 17 who lost out on educational opportunities during the rule of the Taliban. The fund has raised more than $500,000 from over 5,000 donors; the largest donation, $18,000, came from a Muslim women's group in Canada. (National Geographic News, September 9, 2002)
Concern about investigations reducing donations to Muslim charities in the US
The Associated Press reports that Muslim charities in the US, including some raising funding for international causes, report reduced donations due to concerns by their contributors that donations "will inadvertently make them suspects of law enforcement." To raise confidence among potential donors about its work, one nonprofit organization founded by American Muslims has noted in its marketing material that it works with the US Department of Agriculture. At the same time, some US Muslim leaders are pushing for a government auditing system for Islamic charities so potential donors can be confident that gifts neither support terrorism nor bring suspicion upon themselves. (Boston Globe, November 2, 2002)
Changes in Jewish philanthropy in the US
Against a backdrop of no growth in annual giving to Jewish organizations in the US, fundraising expert Naomi Levine has raised warnings about trends in Jewish philanthropy. She pointed out changes in attitudes among American Jews, with much less sense of optimism about the future of Israel and increasing donations to secular organizations among younger Jews. Among her suggestions, made during a speech at New York University, were that Jewish philanthropic institutions look more to women as leaders and sources of revenue, given high levels of educations attainment and the fact that they do not give as much as men of comparable wealth. (onPhilanthropy.com, November 1, 2002)
Polish philanthropy institute announces photography competition
The Academy for the Development of Philanthropy (www.filantropia.org.pl) in Poland has announced a photography exhibition with the theme "What would the world be without philanthropy, from the perspective of the young?" Targeting photographers aged 12 to 25, the contest suggests each participant submit a minimum of five to eight photos describing one project. The deadline for submission of photos to participating nonprofit organizations is December 31; winners will be announced in April 2003. The photos will then be used in publications and an exhibit to promote philanthropy for and by youth.
Two "virtual" initiatives match donors with projects
Efforts are growing to use the internet to link donors with development projects seeking funding. One example is the Virtual Foundation (www.virtualfoundation.org), founded in 1996, which aims to be a "mechanism through which individuals, groups and organizations, and family foundations can securely engage in international philanthropy." Working through a network of grantmaking organizations operating around the world and a global review committee, the Virtual Foundation enables community groups in 20 countries to place their proposals before an international audience on its website. One innovative aspect of the process is that comments from reviewers are made public on the site, allowing applicants and others to benefit from critiques of the proposals. The organization emphasizes that its approach can and should not be completely "virtual" -- its partners and staff often work directly with applicants to improve proposals and projects. The Virtual Foundation model has been replicated by a group in Sichuan, China.
A second, more recent initiative to match funders with projects seeking funding is Development Space (www.developmentspace.com), created by Dennis Whittle and Mari Kuraishi, who were formerly with the World Bank. Development Space enables nonprofits to post their proposals online and hopefully find funders interested in the work they're doing. Examples of projects funded so far through this service include an eye clinic in Nepal, a solar energy project in Tibet, and a Cameroonian program to bring web access to women. Development Space earns income from transaction fees and services. Development Space also provides some pro bono consulting to improve the quality of the proposals. (Red Herring, July 2002)
Musicians and journalists in Zimbabwe team up to address food crisis
As drought combined with mismanagement of agrarian reform exacerbate the hunger crisis in Zimbabwe, a coalition of musicians and journalists have formed the Music for Food Collective (MFC) to highlight the food emergency, raise funds and form a food sourcing operation. The Zimbabwean government had until recently rejected food grants from outside donors. Launched in September, with music star Oliver Mtukudzi among the trustees, MFC hopes to enlist corporate support in its effort to increase food aid and distribution to starving Zimbabweans nationwide. (The Daily News (Harare), October 7, 2002)
Nelson Mandela, artist
Nelson Mandela has found his inner artist -- and is using it to promote philanthropy. Five of his pastel and charcoal drawings of life on Robben Island, where he served most of his 27 years in prison, were recently exhibited in London's Belgravia Gallery and are for sale. The proceeds will benefit children and HIV victims through the Nelson Mandela Trust. (BBC On-line, September 26, 2002)
Public-private project brings potable water to Ghana, Mali and Niger
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has embarked on a $41 million project to provide water and sanitation services to rural villages in Ghana, Mali and Niger. Known as the Hilton Foundation West Africa Water Initiative, the project was announced in conjunction with the World Summit on Sustainable Development that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, this past summer as a way to highlight the urgency of clean water delivery in rural areas of Africa. The Hilton Foundation will spend almost $18 million over seven years for the project; USAID has committed $4.4 million and nonprofit partner World Vision will spend over $16 million. Other partners include UNICEF, WaterAid, the Lions Clubs International Foundation; Desert Research Institute; Winrock International; Cornell University's International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development; and the World Chlorine Council. The project is modeled on a 12-year Ghana rural water project that was managed by World Vision and partly financed by the Hilton Foundation. (Philanthropy News Network On-Line)
Slain journalist's family creates foundation to promote world peace
The family of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter slain by Islamic militants in Pakistan while covering the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, has formed The Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearlfoundation.org) with the goal of promoting understanding between cultures, especially in the Middle East. One of its projects is an exchange program to bring young journalists from throughout the Middle East to study journalism together at Stanford University, Mr. Pearl's alma mater. Another is to create an Internet-based program to draw in young people from different cultures to "meet" one another, exchange ideas, and learn to be more tolerant. The Flora Family Foundation provided a $50,000 operating grant. (Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 5, 2002)
Hard times on Wall Street bring hard times to charities
Recent plunges in the stock market have had major impact on nonprofit organizations, The New York Times reports, as the assets of major foundations and individual donors have shrunk. For example, the Turner Foundation, founded by Ted Turner, recently announced a 50 percent staff layoff and that it will not accept grant proposals in 2003. The Ford Foundation's endowment, which reached a high of $14.5 billion in September of 1999, was $9.2 billion at the end of this past September, resulting in layoffs and the closing of its office in the Philippines. While the article notes the impact on major nonprofit and cultural institutions, it also quotes a fundraising professional's observation that while tremendous wealth remains, he had "heard some wealthy, influential people say that the sky is falling
that concern can be self-fulfilling." And a number of institutions expressed confidence that philanthropic generosity will return to previous levels when the stock market recovers. (The New York Times, October 11, 2002)
Simputer creates broad-based access to computer technology
Claiming it has found a solution to the digital divide, the Simputer Trust (simputer.org) is promoting the use of a simple portable computer that it says can be used even by people who are illiterate. Developed by Encore Technology in Bangalore, India, the Simputer is a hand-held device fueled by penlight batteries that uses pictures, touch and audio. While the cost of each Simputer is too expensive for many poor people, its use of "Smart Card" technology will enable them to share one device, which would be made available in post offices, schools, community centers or shops. Applications would include micro-finance, medical diagnostics, agricultural tracking, data collection and education. The Simputer, which uses the free operating system Linux, is being field-tested and awaits licensing. (Slate, March 25, 2002)
British Bank deposits clients' interest into their favorite charities
Triodos Bank (www.triodos.co.uk) in Bristol, England, has offered a "Charity Saver" account to enable clients to designate a portion of the interest from their accounts to be given to charity. Triodos, which promotes itself as a socially responsible bank, developed this account in conjunction with a campaign called Take Control, which encourages consumers to invest their money to make a "positive difference to society. Amnesty International and Oxfam are part of the campaign. (The Guardian, September 17, 2002)
Ford Foundation reports on philanthropic response to September 11
The Ford Foundation has released an independent report that examines the philanthropic response to 9/11, with a focus on relief and recovery efforts in New York City. Entitled The Philanthropic Response to 9/11 and available at www.fordfound.org, the report examines the actions of philanthropic, nonprofit and corporate institutions and analyzes lessons learned from this experience in the event of future emergencies. Prepared by Tom Seesel, an expert on New York's nonprofit sector, the report credits the sector for performing well amidst a crisis unprecedented in size and urgency. The information is based on more than 90 interviews with chief executives of major independent and corporate foundations, the largest relief charities and uniformed rescue workers' funds, leading nonprofit service providers and intermediary organizations, government officials, and individuals and businesses affected by the disaster.
Philanthropy Ink: Venture philanthropy in Argentina -- can it work?
In an article in the June, 2002 issue of Alliance (www.allavida.org/alliance.htm), Juan Pablo Iribarne describes a failed attempt to create a community investment fund in Argentina, and analyzes why it didn't work and what the implications might be for Argentine philanthropists. The fund, called Compartir, combined features of endowment funds with mutual funds. Institutional and individual investors were invited to support several social projects during the life of the fund. Investors would recover their capital at the end of this period, thus making the fund closer in structure to a socially responsible investment rather than philanthropy.
As efforts were launched to raise $2 million, the organizers of Compartir realized they would not make it; Argentina's unstable political situation and then its economic crisis kept investors away. Iribarne, who co-founded Compartir, believes that greater public awareness of the institutions involved in creating the fund, along with more understanding and support from established organizations in the nonprofit sector, would have provided critical credibility. In addition, he feels that supporting better-known organizations at the outset might have made it easier to market the fund.
On a positive (but ironic) note, Iribarne observes that the economic crisis has made most Argentines aware of the high degree of social inequality and poverty in the country. At the same time, as foreign funding is decreasing, Argentines need to be more creative with their own social entrepreneurship rather than rely exclusively on grants or subsidies. Further, he adds, any new social investment or philanthropy model would have to be utterly transparent and accountable in order to draw in investors or donors; corruption won't be tolerated.
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