Trends and Comparative Analysis of Brazilian Private Social Investment

Heather Grady • 14 May 2018
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Brazil has always been both a leader, an originator, and a landing point for global trends and movements, whether political, economic, or social. A key country not only within the Americas but globally, the world watches Brazil to spot lessons, conundrums, and opportunities. This makes what happens in Brazil vis-à-vis the SDGs very important. Will the state allow non-state actors a place at the table? Will business and philanthropy find it important to engage with the SDGs? Will Brazilian civil society and social entrepreneurs, who have catalyzed global movements, take up the SDGs in addition to their own internal frameworks and theories of change? Will all these actors perceive and appreciate the differences between the SDGs compared to the previous MDG goals and processes?

The perspectives authors share in this publication, as well as the surveys and scanning done that feed into them, provide an encouraging ‘yes’ to the questions above. Brazilian philanthropy, business, and civil society are already making their stamp on how the SDGs are planned and implemented, and in turn, the country has a much greater chance of achieving most of these ambitious goals than it would otherwise.   

The results from the survey that GIFE conducted with their members provides updated statistical information on the sector. To those less directly involved in, or knowledgeable about, the landscape of private social investment in Brazil, the survey provides a wealth of information. There are some confirmations of what one might expect but also some surprises, and some data points indicate imperatives to be followed.

Private social investment of GIFE members was significant in 2016, at about $830 million. Yet given the wealth of many business and other leaders in the country, the generosity is not as great as needed or expected. Interestingly, investments through tax incentives were trending downward significantly. Both of these data points lead to the importance of reforming and improving the fiscal incentives for philanthropy in Brazil. Work in country and exchange between countries on what works is something the philanthropy sector might support in 2018.

Another point - that the amounts provided per GIFE member organization are significant by donor – is important. Almost half invested more than $1.7 million in 2016.This means that the resources per donor warrant a very strategic and high-impact approach, as well as the ability to include in these portfolios both grants to others and, if desired, operational programming. Here, the numbers indicate a trend toward funding oneself rather than others – but for foundations, the missed opportunity here is the high value in investing in others to do what they do best -- in other words, to support a set of organizations who each dive deeply into their own specialty, leaving the role of the funder to construct a complementary portfolio of different organizations and activities that is focused on a coherent goal.  

Related to this is addressing the surprising finding that just 24% of GIFE members provided general operating support for civil society organizations. This is a topic very actively under discussion in the US philanthropy community, and in fact, is one of the areas of study of a report my organization released recently called Scaling Solutions toward Shifting Systems. This analysis found that grantees and impact investees were far more likely to be able to scale their impact when their funders behaved differently – including providing more core support, less restrictions, and longer-term support. This was particularly relevant for trusted organizations who’ve been funded already, and particularly important for grantees who have the intent and interest to scale their work and engage in shifting the complex, adaptive systems in which problems sit – creating more sustained impact that the funders generally strive for. Encouragingly, the GIFE survey indicates that there is a lot of interest by funders in providing more and better support to their grantees, so this could be a fruitful avenue for learning and collaboration – and the 15-year SDG framework provides a jumping-off point for this.

Added to this, thinking through how there could be economies of scale – for example, philanthropic organizations sharing back-office or due diligence support while pushing more funding out to those organizations who understand and spend close to the problems being solved – could be an opportunity for the year ahead.

Not surprisingly, education was the priority issue area for the respondents, coming in at 84%. Youth development came next, with 60% of organizations funding this area. These are ‘turnkey’ sectors that enable broad-based development and growth. There was a cluster of themes that are funded by between 41 and 51% of respondents: arts and culture (51%), capacity building for CSOs (50%), community development (48%), environment (47%), employment (46%), sports and recreation (45%), human rights (43%), and social assistance (41%). This indicates as well that many organizations spread their efforts across a number of themes, so a question for further consideration is whether there is enough planning and collaboration between funders on the same thematic area, perhaps using the SDG framework and taxonomy (the goals and the targets) as a guide.

Only 37% of funders support work in health; for comparison purposes, in the US this number is 61%. Social assistance support is also much higher in the US, with 65% of foundations supporting this area. While one might assume this is because in Brazil people consider these sectors the government’s responsibility, it does not explain then why education is so popular. If it is because people see health and social assistance as government-led systems where interventions would be challenging, it begs the question of why education support provided by private resources is viewed differently, and whether those resources are often wasted because it is, ultimately, the system that needs to be shifted to better serve Brazilians.

A notable feature of giving in Brazil is that efforts are largely targeted to specific population groups and individuals, but unfortunately only a tiny proportion is focused on women and girls and/ or racial or ethnic minorities. 2016 figures are 4% to women and girls and 2% to racial and ethnic minorities. Brazil is not alone in this – in many countries, too little is focused on the groups who need it most. But in the SDG period, where reducing inequalities and promoting gender equality each have their own goals, and where inequality targets and indicators are spread throughout other goals, this level of attention is going to have to be revisited. On the racial and ethnic minorities issue, for instance, given Brazil’s educated professional class and the role that educational opportunities play in getting ahead in society, this dimension, and the persistence of discrimination, will need to be tackled as part of the SDG process. Private social investment can play an absolutely crucial role in piloting interventions to see what works and in pushing the government and business sectors to incorporate better policies based on race, ethnicity, and gender.   

In terms of the SDGs, it is encouraging that a growing number of GIFE members are aware of, and have begun to engage with, the 17 SDGs. Similar to the US and other countries, corporate philanthropy is the early adopter sector, while others lag behind somewhat. There is the chance to catch up and strongly embrace the SDGs to scale one’s own impact and leverage. Some more specific ideas on this are included in the final section of the report.  

Finally, in terms of leadership, given how prevalent women are in the philanthropy sector, there are too few women in foundation board positions, and though there is no data on diversity in other ways (e.g., racial), one can assume a tiny proportion come from diverse racial backgrounds. Given the important decision-making role of boards, adjusting board composition to be much more representative of society in general is something for Brazilian organizations to consider.

 

This article is written by Heather Grady, the Vice President of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.