The rise, stumble, and probable rise again of global philanthropy

A new report from the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity (CGP) suggests that private philanthropy and remittances from the developed to the developing world were worth $233 billion in 2008. This is a huge sum in contrast to the estimate of development aid from governments, $121 billion.  My reader will note that this is a very different picture to the domestic role of philanthropy, which at less than £10 billion is insignificant in relation to (current!) government expenditure of about £520 billion. I’ve been reading about how philanthropy is being globalised for some time – and by that I mean we should expect more cross-border transactions across the board, not just for development – and this report illustrates some of that globalising trend.

There are a whole host of interesting factoids in the report that will fascinate fundraisers and philanthropy research anoraks like me. It includes a number of references to the UK too. A few that have caught my eye are:

  • A review of various reports found that global philanthropy dipped in 2009 (a finding echoed by the CAF/NCVO review of UK charitable giving). Early indicators are that philanthropic giving is recovering, as of late 2009…but as a comment on twitter from @nu2philanthropy highlights, some of this change reflects improvements in tracking such giving.
  • The Red Cross raised $32 million for the Haiti eathquake campaign in $10 donations sent via text message
  • In absolute terms and per capita terms, the UK is relatively generous when it comes to philanthropy for developing countries. (The estimate of $6.3 billion is higher than estimates published by NCVO from the same data source (GuideStar Data Services), but this highlights the difficulty of categorising charities and our narrow definition of the sector)
  • The number of marketplace style platforms (think ebay for donors) to facilitate giving and rating of charities is increasing

And here is an interesting quote:

“The differences between Americans and Europeans in philanthropy are “beginning to level out,” argues Wolfgang Hafenmeyer, Managing Partner at LGT Venture Philanthropy, the philanthropic fund of the Princely House of Liechtenstein. Hafenmeyer believes that the “high taxes-high services” argument for why European individuals have been less likely to give no longer applies to the younger generation.”

“There is more cultural relativity today. More Europeans go to the United States to study, and wealthy families really live a global life—they have their money all over. Younger Europeans also have less faith in government and see a reason to engage in philanthropy,” he says.

This is an excellent report, well worth a glance if you are interested in philanthropy.

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Karl Wilding Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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