Going Global with Giving

Are you traveling internationally this summer? The dollar is strong and buying power is greater than it has been in a long time.

A honeymoon with secluded beaches? A long awaited trip for birding? A cityscape? Museums? A trek to new heights? Fabulous food? A service learning or mission trip?

Travel awakens our senses…and can also awaken our sensibilities. We see remarkable diversity, from new (or very old) cultures and ecosystems to stunning architecture and ancient artifacts.

When we get outside our comfort zones and leave behind the familiar, our attitudes change.

We may be explorers and adventurers. We might take excursions into caves or immerse ourselves in history and art. Maybe we even try something new, like bungee jumping or eating haggis. We even think about packing lightly, taking (mostly) only what we consider to be essential.

And if we are able, we engage by looking differently, hearing nuanced sounds, experiencing unfamiliar or heightened emotions through the acts of leaving behind the routine and familiar.

When we are open, aware and observant, we witness wonders and puzzles.

We feel the rawness and predator-prey reality of the wilderness. The juxtaposition of opulence and abject poverty. Health disparity. Environmental degradation. An explosion of expression through visual or performance art.
And we may come to realize that no matter where we go we find people who teach their children to share.

We as Americans pride ourselves on how generous we are. We even give to international causes.

Did you ever wonder about what philanthropy is like around the world?

You might be surprised to know that, while individual US philanthropists have consistently ranked highest on the BNP Parbas Individual Philanthropist Index, it seems European givers have caught up with American philanthropists and the largest Asian donors are not far behind. The index measures multiple factors beyond the amount of giving like innovative approaches to giving.

The British newspaper, The Guardian, recently reported on philanthropy’s worldwide ascendancy and noted that healthcare is the top cause supported globally, followed by the environment and education. Diversity and inclusion was ranked fourth. Ironically, the biggest challenge cited by the philanthropists interviewed was choosing the cause then choosing the best recipient organizations to assure the best outcomes. Sound familiar?

One of the interview questions addressed whether philanthropists seek counsel when making philanthropic decisions. More than half indicated they consulted with relatives and more than two thirds believe advisors are necessary to assist in the complexities of effective giving.

While there are still those who firmly believe in the historical concept of charitable giving (as in “alms for the poor,”} it is noteworthy that the desire for large scale social impact is a major consideration for the most generous givers.

In fact many are choosing what they call mission or impact investing. They say that for them the financial returns are second to the desire to solve social problems by providing capital and enhancing market solutions.
According to the report, another common characteristic of the top international philanthropists is that they often want to fund innovative ideas, then leverage their philanthropic investments by partnering or collaborating with governments for scalability. They also look for collaborations including the sharing of best practices, data and shared resources with other non-profits.

There are regional differences in some philanthropic approaches. For example, many philanthropists look for measurable results and find it difficult to take the longer view needed for systemic change. In Middle Eastern countries, however, a majority of those surveyed felt that tackling root causes rather than symptoms could be more promising.

As the world seemingly gets smaller through the instant communication of the Information Age, it will be interesting to see how philanthropy might change.

Will there be a supra-mega-multi-national conglomerate nonprofit trying to address major global challenges?

Will Facebook become the ultimate “centralized-decentralized” global philanthropic facilitator”?

Will the rising clarion call to address inequality bring together the wealthiest from across the globe?

Can public and private money work together to build a sustainable future as so many philanthropists would say they want to do?

Will travelers (physical and virtual) choose to embark on the voyages of discovery to see with new eyes as Proust challenged us to do?

And if we visit Africa, or India, or for that matter, the other side of town:

Will we help make things better?

Will we do what we teach our children and grandchildren to do?

Will we share?

Enid M. Ablowitz, CFRE, CSPG, is a veteran advancement professional, author and consultant who is dedicated to educating and guiding donors and non-profit organizations on the art and science of strategic philanthropy.

Originally published by the Boulder Daily Camera on May 3, 2015

‘Til next time — Give Well, Give for Good.