Be the Host with the Most…Knowledge on Global Giving

Being in the know about global philanthropy and international development is like being in the know about the wine in your glass at a dinner party—you don’t need to be an expert, but you want to know a little so you can decide if you actually like the wine, speak to your opinion, and learn a little more from others. This sort of engagement is what we love to call “knowledge sharing” at Foundation Center.  


Though we might not be able to give you a “Wine 101”, we can give you something to talk about at your next dinner party: The State of Global Grantmaking by U.S Foundations 2011-1015. This report is the latest in a decades-long collaboration between Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations and provides funders and civil society organizations with insight into grantmaking and its relationship to global development issues, enabling them to make strategic decisions and effect positive change.


Whether you’re headed to a dinner party or getting coffee with a philanthrofriend, here are three pieces of shared knowledge (and a few conversational tips) to keep you in the know about global grantmaking:

  • U.S. foundations granted over $35.4 billion internationally from 2011-2015 and just over half of that ($17.9 billion) was from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They also accounted for 80 percent of all funding for health-related initiatives and 72 percent of funding to Sub-Saharan Africa. You likely already know how large the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is, but these data points provide context about their relative impact. We’ve even broken down charts in the report to depict funding that includes and excludes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because of their significance — check them out!
    • Conversation tip: Ask fellow party guests how the presence of a single, large funder might influence the development agendas in particular countries.
  • Giving to migrants and refugees dropped 13.4 percent from 2011 to 2015 despite the fact that 68 million people, roughly the same population as the United Kingdom, are now displaced because of conflict or persecution. While on the topic of conflict, peace and security received the least amount of funding with only 0.8 percent of all giving. 
    • Conversation tip: Ask your dinner mates why they think this funding has decreased, given that we continue to see migration and displacement of people and protracted crises.
  • One data point that surprised us was that funding for reproductive health nearly tripled after the global gag rule was reversed—a rule that restricted foreign NGOs from using any of their own, non-U.S. government funds to provide, counsel, or refer for abortions if they were also receiving funds from the U.S. government for other activities. International giving grew dramatically from $362 million in 2011 to $1 billion in 2015, a shift that directly followed the Obama administration’s reversal of the rule in 2009.
    • Conversation tip: Ask your fellow party guests what they think about the relationship between policy and non-government funding flows. 

This information can spark valuable conversation but it’s not just meant to set you up to be the host/ess with the most/est—this is actually knowledge sharing with a purpose. Without data that provides insight, without analysis, and without facts to guide conversation, we wouldn’t think critically enough to solve the world’s complex issues.

To continue building a global picture of philanthropy, we need your leadership. We encourage you all to build the capacity of your organization to collect data, share knowledge, and partner with us so we can keep bringing you timely information.

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