An enabling environment is critical for philanthropy to thrive. In East Africa, stable political climates and increasing economic partnerships between Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda created the necessary optimism and goodwill to bring philanthropic organizations together.
Rising poverty levels in each of these countries further inspired the need to strengthen and nurture local philanthropy in order to better serve communities and improve livelihoods. As a result, a steering committee whose members were representatives of local and international Foundations, established the East Africa Association of Grantmakers in 2003.
With offices in Nairobi, Kenya, the Association’s membership comprises of local and international grantmaking organizations working in the East African region. Since its inception, the membership has grown from a group of nine to a group of thirty-five foundations and trusts committed to using their resources for sustainable social good. The Association provides capacity building for its members on various topics including, board development, strategy, fundraising, grantmaking, and financial management. As a convener and thought leader, the Association also provides platforms to promote local philanthropy through conference activities, workshops, and publications.
In 2012, the Association researched and produced an “East Africa Giving Report” which provided comprehensive information on the contribution of local philanthropy towards social change in the region. In the same year, it also produced “The State and Nature of Philanthropy in East Africa,” analysing the issues, nature, patterns and trends of philanthropy, based on surveys administered to 140 East African foundations. Through these research activities and the support of its members, the Association has developed a credible and respected voice in the development sector.
As a driver and promoter of local philanthropy, the Association has supported the creation of national philanthropy forums in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and has worked hand in hand with member countries to advocate for improved tax laws for Foundations. In 2015, the Association popularised ‘Giving Tuesday,’ an international global day of giving. This movement to integrate philanthropy during the holiday season and inspire grass root participation to help those in need spread rapidly across the region. In 2015, 31 non-profit organizations and foundations participated in ‘Giving Tuesday’ and the campaign reached approximately 1.3 million people, raising enough money to benefit local communities and organizations.
Prior to the creation of the East Africa Association of Grantmakers, reports show that there were as many as 60 foundations and trusts in East Africa. However, the platform created by the Association provides a more organized and sustained approach towards local philanthropy in the region. Looking ahead, the continued growth of the Association and its role as an influencer is critical in promoting and maintaining indigenous giving in the region and indeed, Africa.