Global giving is growing, gaining visibility, and creating much-needed change around the world, locally, regionally and nationally. Recent years, have seen a promising change in charitable giving – wealthy individuals, families, and corporations are looking to give more, to give more strategically, and to increase the impact of their social investments.

A growing number of philanthropists are establishing foundations and other giving structures to focus, practice, and amplify their social investments. There appears to be a growing belief that institutional philanthropy can encourage more strategic investment approaches; facilitate collaboration; serve as a role model for others; and, in sum, have greater impact on the economic and social challenges being addressed.

Philanthropy Ireland in association with Dr Gemma Donnelly-Cox in Trinity College Dublin, is delighted to have contributed to the recently published inaugural Global Philanthropy Report, a report authored by researchers at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University and funded by UBS. Despite the growing significance and scale of institutionally-based philanthropy, little is yet known about the related resources and their deployment at the national, regional, and global levels.

The Global Philanthropy Report: Perspectives on the Global Foundation Sector, authored at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, addresses this knowledge gap by taking a closer look at worldwide philanthropic practices and trends. which thus also includes information on the foundation sector in Switzerland.

By investigating the foundation sector in 39 countries, the report provides interesting insights and perspectives on trends in philanthropy globally.

Some key highlights from the report include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of all identified foundations were established in the last 25 years, indicating a relatively young sector, a feature very much reflected in Ireland
  • 60% of the total number of foundations identified are in Europe, indicating a growing trend in the establishment of foundations and formal structures for giving
  • 87% of foundations in Europe are independent whereas, for example, in Latin America 50% of foundations are corporate
  • While foundation assets exceed USD 1.5 trillion, 90% of foundations reported assets of less than USD 10m and almost 50% less than USD 1m, indicating an increasing number of smaller organisations, a trend in line with the situation in Ireland
  • Education is the top priority of foundations around the globe, followed by human services and social care; in Ireland health is the top priority closely followed by education
  • The report shows an increasing shift towards multi-donor and public fundraising models, moving away from the more conventional models where there is a principal source of funds; this feature is reflective of the emerging Irish space
  • While collaboration and partnership with peer organisations and government are recognised as important, they are difficult to achieve
  • The report further shows that foundations are increasingly employing a range of social investment strategies to maximize their impact and that there is a growing interest in evaluating and measuring program outcomes.

Looking to the future, if the trajectory of growth continues, philanthropy will have an increasingly significant social and economic impact. As we work to grow and develop philanthropy in Ireland this report provides solid insights on some of the potential challenges for such development while also providing an opportunity for us to benchmark our development in the global sphere. Looking at the findings in this report, while we can point to many common experiences, there is also opportunity to reflect on the application of those insights for the future development of the sector here.