Community Solutions for Community Problems

The practice of communal giving to address people’s needs is an old tradition in many cultures across the world. In more modern times, this approach has influenced the desire to look within the community to share knowledge, resources, and strategies for tackling shared problems. Since the establishment of the first U.S. community foundation in 1914, Cleveland Foundation, community giving has become increasingly institutionalized around the world. Rather than helping one another as the need arises, community foundations pool together resources and in most cases, set-up endowment funds for grantmaking towards organizations delivering development programmes.

Today, there are at least 1,864 community foundations globally, 31 of which are in Africa. To further encourage and demonstrate this model of philanthropy, the Global Fund for Community Foundations  brought together community foundations from all over the world in the first ever Global Summit for Community Philanthropy in 2016. The Conference encouraged foundations to further develop assets, build local capacity and strengthen trust between local and external stakeholders and cemented the idea that in shifting power to communities, community foundations are providing a steady currency for sustainable development.

Solving Local Problems

At the core of community foundations is the intention to continuously solve problems affecting people in the locality. For example, after the end of the apartheid regime, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF) was established to provide support to children and youth whose lives and education had been disrupted as a result of the political unrest in the country.  Post-apartheid, the fund supported over 780 programmes focused on these vulnerable groups.  Over time, the Fund’s approach transitioned to more structured programme interventions based on the prevailing needs of children and youth in South Africa. Still in operation today, the NMCF focuses on child survival and development, child safety and protection, youth leadership, and sustainable livelihood projects, funded by contributions from individuals, businesses and nonprofits within the community.

Collaborative Approach

By definition, community foundations strengthen local groups through the use of local assets, its people and resources, in achieving results. In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the Uluntu Community Development Foundation (UCDF) encourages community members to initiate projects that address the issues of poverty, food insecurity, and illiteracy plaguing the community. This crowdsourcing of ideas and strategies builds accountability and ownership of projects, builds trust and imbibes a culture of giving within the community. With this partnership-based approach, foundations are able to do more with less.

Sustainable fundraising

According to the Global Community Development Foundation, 86 percent of community foundations create endowment funds to ensure the sustainability of programmes and projects. These endowments are pooled resources from contributions made primarily by individuals, businesses, and other organizations within the community. For instance, the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation, located in the mining region of Brong Ahafo, Ghana, is funded in part, by annual contributions from Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, a gold mining company with operations in the Brong Ahafo region. The company set an up an endowment fund to support the Foundation, which is earmarked over the life period the company plans to operate in the region.

Community foundations are making breakthroughs in philanthropy globally; as a sustainable model for delivering development programmes. For us in Africa, the leader of the pack is the Kenya Community Development Foundation, an organization that has spent over $ 17 million in grants impacting the lives of about 2 million people over the past two decades.

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