More than the Poor Cousin?

September 10, 2010

“More than the Poor Cousin” – now available in Spanish and Portuguese

Filed under: Uncategorized — globalfundcf @ 9:16 am

The “Poor Cousin” report is now available in Spanish (translated by Laura Muñoz, who is based in Mexicoa) and Portuguese (translation by GFCF partner, ICom, in Brazil). Swahili, Russian and Thai versions are also underway and we will post these as soon as they come available. Are there other languages we should be thinking about?

July 8, 2010

Moving Beyond the Poor Cousin… the conversation continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — globalfundcf @ 2:36 pm

Thanks to those of you who have responded to our invitation to engage in discussion! And also, to those of you who have shared and written about the report in your own circles, such as this one published by GFCF partner in Mexico, Alternativas y Capacidades A.C. A Spanish version of the report will be available very soon and we will post it on this site and on the GFCF homepage. Portuguese and Russian translations of the report will also follow – and we are exploring the possibility of a version in Thai (there is a growing and active cluster of community foundations in Thailand but there are few resources available in Thai and English is not always so widely spoken).

Some interesting points have been raised in the responses so far on this blog. To summarize a few:  

Further unpack the notion of trust One conclusion of the report is that many community foundations see one of their roles as that of building trust at the community level. In thinking about their responses, were community foundation respondents referring to organizational trust or community trust? Bheki Moyo reflects “This (community trust) it seems to me would be the greatest contribution that community foundations can make. It is only when communities have trust for themselves that they can begin to trust organisations and institutions. After all community foundations are supposed to be made up of community members.” Here in South Africa, with the end of the World Cup imminent, there are already concerns about a resurgence of xenophobic violence against non-South Africans (I recently wrote about this on the Mott Foundation’s World Cup blog): and yet only last week, it seemed the whole of Africa was united as one behind Ghana….

Writing from Vietnam, Dana Doan of the LIN Center puts it very succinctly: “building trust is a key requirement for success in terms of both community engagement programs and local fundraising. Here in Vietnam, gaining such trust depends on transparency, effective use of funds and, most importantly, the demonstration of impact.”

What are other thoughts from the field? What is your organization’s take on the question of building trust?

Exploring the role of government. In writing our report, Barry Knight and I did not go into a great deal of depth on community foundations’ interaction and engagement with government. Certainly, our data suggests that experiences differ from one community foundation to another. There does, however, seem to be a common concern regarding the importance of a community foundation’s ability to preserve some degree of independence – both in terms of governance (so in Russia, where it is common practice for government representatives to sit on the board of community foundations, they constitute no more than 1/3 of the board) and resources (in the UK, many community foundations have implemented government-funded programmes as described here by the East London Community Foundation: what have been the implications of this in terms of preserving their independence, I wonder?). In his comment, Vadim Georgienko is not convinced that states are always developmental in their orientation and methods:  “At the same time, let’s never forget totally different methods (taxes versus donations) to reach development: state has a legal monopoly for violence, coercion. Community foundations can work only with a good will.”

From a practitioner’s or even policymaker’s perspective, what would you be interested in finding out more on as far as examples and experiences of community foundations’ relationships with the state are concerned?

Engaging donor institutions Chris Mkhize from uThungulu Community Foundation in South Africa points to the current apparent disconnect between the community foundation / community philanthropy and international and national development agencies and urges greater collaboration across different development silos.

This is a key interest of the GFCF and one that we are very interested in pursuing. What are some of the steps that others are taking to raise the profile of community philanthropy institutions in international development circles? How can we, collectively, strengthen the case?

Next steps

Dana asked in her post about next steps: well, these will include making the report available in other languages and working with this current cohort of grantee partners – and others who are interested – to deepen our understanding of the different roles that community foundations with a particular view to the question of measurement and impact.

June 8, 2010

Moving beyond the Poor Cousin

Filed under: Uncategorized — globalfundcf @ 11:33 am


In launching ‘More than the Poor Cousin? The Emergence of Community Foundations as a New Development Paradigm’ yesterday, the moderator of the session, Caroline Hartnell, asked the 40 people in the audience to help us to craft the next stages of the study.

The conclusions of the study suggest that community foundations may be the missing piece in the jigsaw of international development, but the work by the Global Fund for Community Foundations is at an early stage. Caroline Hartnell asked the audience to consider questions such as:

  • Does this study make the case?
  • Does the central finding about the importance of ‘trust’ square with your experience?
  • What else do we need to know?

In a lively session, people both offered ideas that supported the findings of the study and asked sceptical questions. For the authors of the study, the session was immensely helpful in guiding us about how to take the work to the next stage.

The evidence base

People liked the methodology of the study. It is based on using the administrative process of the Global Fund for Community Foundations to generate evaluation data about the performance of the grantees. This does away with the need for an external evaluator and yields a combination of statistical and qualitative information relevant to the goals of the Global Fund.

People wanted to see this method extended, both by adding new cohorts of grantees into it and by using other data sets from related fields.  One person suggested that the Mexican experience of community foundations had yielded a cornucopia of data that could be used in a similar way.

The centrality of trust

There was much support for the idea that trust is a successful element in development. In the Carpathians, one person told a story of how a youth group gains much financial support because they are trusted. Several participants, from Latvia to Brazil, suggested how important it was to have an institution that was countering corruption in communities and showing a clean way to operate. In assessing the integrity of an organisation, a key component was who was on the board. In Africa, there was a different dimension to trust. When NGOs said to a funder ‘trust us’, this could mean ‘leave us alone’, but when this was probed deeper, it commonly meant an exhortation to funders to ensure that their requests for reporting on the grant add value to the work, rather than tie the organisation up in bureaucratic activity.

Despite this level of support for the idea of trust, some people thought that our analysis of trust was superficial and needed to go deeper into the relationships between individuals and families.  Staying at the institutional level told only part of the story.

Community foundations as a way forward

It was pointed out that community foundation professionals and development professionals tended to operate in different worlds. Community foundations could offer a sustainable exit strategy for development programmes, but the idea was rarely taken up.

Others were sceptical about the roles that community foundations could play.  Most people felt that community approaches were important but not sufficient on their own.  The role of the state was missing from the analysis in the report and this needed to be put right.  There was little reference to private corporations either. There was also the issue of scale, and the size of the organizations described in the report meant that they were too small to tackle the huge problems facing the world.  Small may be beautiful but size matters.

Next steps for the research

In devising the follow up to this initial study, we will address all of the points raised at the meeting.  Further information may be obtained from Jenny Hodgson, Director of the Global Fund, at

Barry Knight is an adviser to the Global Fund for Community Foundations

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