Boosting Domestic Philanthropy: Why and How

Natalya Pyagay • 3 October 2019

      Philanthropy has been long engaged at various high-level discussions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. Yet it is for the first time that the importance of supporting domestic philanthropy has been raised among key development players, including bilateral and multilateral agencies, donor governments, international NGOs and other philanthropic-support institutions. On September 26, 2019 the SDG Philanthropy Platform and WINGS in partnership with la “Caixa” Banking Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation and Charities Aid Foundation hosted a strategic round table discussion on “Boosting Domestic Philanthropy and Giving in and for the Global South”. The event aimed to highlight the potential role of development funders in empowering and enhancing local philanthropy as well as to showcase the innovative approaches implemented on the ground.

        As confirmed by multiple research papers and studies, domestic philanthropy has been on the rise for several years. Moreover, its composition has been largely transformed, unlocking new untapped sources such as growing middle class, diaspora-, community- and crowd-funding. Indeed, philanthropy is not something prone only to rich and developed states – people across nations and cultures have always been willing to give for social good. For example, both Myanmar and Indonesia – lower middle-income countries in East Asia - were topping the CAF Global Giving Index in 20181 and 20172. Pakistan, contributing over 1% of its GDP to charity, along with far wealthiest countries like the United Kingdom (1.3% of GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2% of GDP to charity), is named among the most generous nations3. Thus, domestic philanthropy in the Global South has much to offer.

      Furthermore, according to the CAF “Laying the Groundwork for Growing Giving” report4, if the world’s middle classes were to give over just 0.5% of their spending – less than the average UK household and about the same as people in the Republic of Korea – that could amount to $319 billion in resources for civil society organisations annually by 2030.


Round table discussion


      At the same time, the round-table participants actively voiced the existing barriers. Shrinking civic space, excessive regulations, corruption, money laundering, lack of transparency and trust – all these have a negative bearing on domestic funding. Most importantly, the widely-spread fallacy – why to invest in local philanthropy if they have money? – must be strongly challenged. Majority of development funders, including traditional donors and international foundations, seek to support the “causes” rather than coordinating infrastructures, whereas building ecosystems, platforms and networks for local philanthropy to thrive would be of equal or even greater importance.


So, what are the most important lessons learned from the field so far?


  • SDGs, though nowadays fully recognized as a common development language, still very much remain the language of the so-called “NYC crowd”. In this regard, more efforts should be directed towards the development of unified taxonomies, collecting and sharing compatible data which could be further translated into impact stories.
  • Local collaboration was unanimously mentioned as a key to success. The unwinding global governance crisis makes local foundations more eager to seek and pursue collaboration opportunities with the local governments. Local stakeholders are becoming keener on building trust and relying on each other, while sustaining more resilient and peaceful communities. Development priorities, enshrined in National Development Agendas, tend to get higher level of support from all actors, and thus could boast both greater ownership and impact.             
  • An important mind-shift in development thinking has been achieved on the ground. Stakeholders and beneficiaries have become more solution-oriented in designing and implementing their interventions rather than maintaining focus on the existing needs and problems. Also, even conservative development actors are gradually gaining their appetite for innovations and experimentation.

      This intensive two-hour conversation has spurred many reflections on WHY and HOW development funders could boost domestic philanthropy in and for the Global South. And while this was the very first multi-stakeholder dialogue of this type, more advocacy is needed at all levels and from all partners. Domestic philanthropy has a tremendous potential for development, however, it is up to us – the UN, national governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, international foundations, INGOs, intermediaries, academia, etc. – to transform them from receivers to givers. 

The Concept Note for the above event, including the Agenda, Speakers' Bios and List of Confirmed Invitees, is attached below.

Photo credit: SDG Philanthropy Platform


The views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the SDG Philanthropy Platform. The SDG Philanthropy Platform is a global initiative that connects philanthropy with knowledge and networks that can deepen collaboration, leverage resources and sustain impact, driving SDG delivery within national development planning. It is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), and supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Oak Foundation, Brach Family Charitable Foundation, and many others.