Feature January 2002
Global Philanthropy Forum opens doors -- and dialogue -- on international giving
A meeting on March 7-8 by the newly-formed Global Philanthropy Forum (www.philanthropyforum.org), to be held at Stanford University, has a clear goal: to highlight -- and increase -- international giving by individual donors. A partnership among four organizations -- the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the Stanford Business School, the TOSA Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation -- the forum will join leaders in global philanthropy with about 200 philanthropists from the San Francisco Bay area concerned with learning how to be more effective global givers. In addition, the program will include follow-through in print and other media to bring its message to a broader audience.
The idea for the forum began during a discussion among the four groups in November 2000. "We were concerned to know why, at a time of obvious global needs in education, health care and nutrition, environmental sustainability, housing, security and equity affecting communities in developing countries, overseas giving by US donors was so low," says Jane Wales, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council, especially since increasing globalization means that communities around the world are more interconnected than ever. According to Giving USA 2001, an annual review of philanthropy published by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, international giving for the year 2000 represented only 1.3%, or $2.7 billion, of total giving of $203.5 billion. (Individual giving represents a hefty 75% of this total.) The report also notes that while the $2.7 billion is a 2.6% increase over 1999 international giving, it's actually 0.8% less when adjusted for inflation. Moreover, much of this giving does not help communities directly, since it also includes research institutes and exchange programs.
The meeting will explore how philanthropic input can have specific impact in Central and Southern Asia. Although experts from these regions will speak at the conference, event organizers have invited non-profit leaders from other southern countries whose successes can be replicated. Representatives of diaspora philanthropies formed in the US to assist organizations in their home countries (such as the American India Foundation) will also take part. "We're persuaded the probably the best response is to build a strong and healthy transnational civil society," says Wales. The conference will include several plenary presentations, with a morning launch on March 7 by Gordon Conway, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, and Kavita Ramdas, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.
The invitation-only conference was originally organized when Bay area philanthropy, (particularly in Silicon Valley) was growing fast, but international giving was barely addressed. The urgency grew, says Wales, as "the recession was in sight, and we feared that international giving would be one of the first casualties." The events of September 11 added a further chilling effect on giving, she adds. However, says Wales, "The biggest surprise, to me, has been that in this economic climate, people keep coming to me asking if they can attend the conference. But I think people are more motivated by what they're learning about the world."
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