dienyuenSupporting Internationally-focused Families

By: Dien S. Yuen In: 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference| Family Philanthropy| Global Philanthropy

2 Feb 2010

The families I’ve spoken to at the conference support diverse projects overseas: from children and women to environmental issues. But many jump from project to project without clear long-term goals—for example, supporting initiatives around clean water in Bangladesh to micro-finance in Uganda. The financial support ranges from a $50 gift to buy a stove to a $100,000 grant for endowing a school.

A majority of the families do support U.S. based 501(c)(3) organizations that are doing work overseas. Some are using intermediaries to implement particular projects while others are running their own programs in specific countries. For instance, one family hired two local leaders to implement a micro-loan project in Haiti. But many families are just lurking on the periphery—still collecting information and unclear where to start.

Families venturing into international philanthropy have few and limited resources to turn to. There is only one website, USIG, and several handbooks that support families that want to fund projects overseas. And at this conference, there is only one session that addresses this topic.

As interest in global philanthropy increases, the field needs to be proactive and empower donors with useful information. If we want to encourage more strategic and efficient forms of giving, then one of my takeaways from this conference is a need for more resources. Resources can take the form of case studies, stories, research and most important, a safe space where families can connect with others doing similar work or using similar approaches.

Dien Yuen is director of Philanthropy at Give2Asia.

2 Responses to Supporting Internationally-focused Families

Leon Reinhart

February 11th, 2010 at 5:43 am

Our family foundation has worked in the international arena for about eight years. It took time to find our passion and something we could personally be involved in. Once we found it, we recognized it immediately and built a plan around it to fulfill our purpose and mission. In our case, we decided on helping the poor indigenous families and communities in Guatemala become economically self-sufficient. Half of Guatemala’s population are ancestors from the ancient Maya and these 6 million people are amongst the extremely poor (less than $2/day). We put together a small local non-profit to be our on-the-ground staff carrying out our projects 365 days a year. It was inexpensive to hire 4-5 people. We go to Guatemala every month to meet with community leaders and visit with the families to validate that their lives are improving. We settled on six components that would help a family become self-sufficient. An efficient wood burning stove which saves a family $20 per month in firewood. It lightens the woman’s burden, stops chronic lung disease of the whole family and children no longer fall in the traditional open fire. We install water filters as all water is contaminated. This saves the families another $13/month. Sustainable gardens are put in, local social workers are trained and micro-businesses established. Modern technology has helped us be even more involved. Skype allows us “free” communication several times a week with our local staff. In the past 2 years, even the poorest of families have cell phones, which allows local communication with our staff. We now function as an “operating” foundation, involving not only our family members but other volunteers who want the same personal experiences of “adopting a village”.

I agree with the comments above of Dien Yuen, that there are countless opportunities for overseas philanthropies, yet most private family foundations don’t know where to start except to write a check to a Public Foundation that has its work overseas (which is also good). But for those family foundations that want to closely know those people or focus areas overseas personally it takes a bit of work. But it’s achievable. As mentioned, find case studies that are published or on foundation websites. Our website (www.reinhartfoundation.com) lists projects completed, with photos, names, locations and what was accomplished. Our son is working on compiling a list of projects around the world which are likely candidates for family foundations to embrace. We’d make this available to private family foundations. The projects would be listed by geography, type of projects (empowering women, saving the environment, education, children’s health, family self-sufficiency, etc) and what local resources might be available. COF has available International Grantmaking IV book for rules, suggestions, etc. Phone calls to COF legal staff has also been help on the technical side.

At this point in time, we are willing to help foundations who might be interested in our self-sufficiency projects to the poor in Guatemala. This is subject to time limitations. So much needs to be done.

Leon Reinhart

John Harvey

February 19th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

As someone who has worked in the field of global philanthropy for some 25 years, I can assure you that there are MANY resources available to family foundations interested in global giving! None are geared exclusively to family foundations, but all warmly welcome family foundations and can be of enormous value to neophytes and experienced funders alike.

At a local level are several global grantmaker groups that offer fantastic networking and learning opportunities. Boston has New England International Donors (contact Amy Ellsworth at The Philanthropic Initiative for more on NEID; azellsworth@tpi.org), Chicago has the Chicago Global Donors Network (www.chicagoglobaldonors.org), and Seattle has Pangea, which this spring will convene a very special conference on global grantmaking (www.pangeagiving.org).

At the national level are several funder affinity groups that likewise offer great networking and learning opportunities. The Association of Small Foundations has just recently launched an international program (www.smallfoundations.org). Africa Grantmakers Affinity Group offers programming for funders interested in Africa, including an annual retreat (www.africagrantmakers.org). International Funders for Indigenous People’s offers programming for funders who work with Indigenous communities (www.internationalfunders). Also doing great work for international funders with more specialized interests are the International Human Rights Funders Group (www.hrfunders.org), the Peace and Security Funders Group (www.peaceandsecurity.org), and the Funders Network on Trade and Globalization (www.fntg.org).

And of course there is Grantmakers Without Borders (www.gwob.net), which offers the most extensive range of programs and services aimed at family foundations and other global grantmakers. Our annual conference, this year convening June 7-9 in San Francisco, provides three days of focused learning on international social change grantmaking. Our Gender and Global Grantmaking Workshop helps foundations strengthen their support for women’s rights globally. Our interest area groups convene funders around a common theme, with three groups now active: One focused on Central America, one on Africa and a third on Haiti. Our Knowledge Center is an on-line repository of resources on international grantmaking. Our e-newsletter, The Weekly Planet, provides general news and information for busy global grantmakers, while our China Philanthropy News has a more focused scope. And this spring we’ll release our next major publication, a grantmakers guide to microfinance, sure to become an important resource for family foundations interested in this development strategy.

So there ARE a great many resources for family foundations interested in international grantmaking. Grantmakers Without Borders and my colleagues at the other organizations noted above send a warm invitation to family foundations out there to become involved in our organizations. We’re here to help!

John Harvey
Executive Director
Grantmakers Without Borders

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