Private giving rises to new global challenges

Many of the world’s biggest donors will gather at the United Nations this month, a sign of how philanthropy has become more worldwide.

Two children attend a class for refugees from Ukraine put together by volunteers in Berlin, Germany.

Since the Russian invasion, Ukraine has been the recipient of global generosity perhaps on a par with the global aid given to fight the pandemic. One example of private support for Ukrainians came this week from FF Venture Capital, an investment firm that seeks out entrepreneurs who are “driven problem solvers.”

The New York-based firm set up a $30 million fund to invest in Ukrainian tech startups – despite the ongoing war. Beyond its plan to make a profit, the fund has a benevolent goal: to assist a global effort to attract investment to Ukraine and thus lift its economy.

So many more crises have worldwide implications – or are clearly global, such as climate change – that private assistance has also gone more global. For a majority of countries, cross-border assistance – from philanthropy to social investors – has increased in recent years, according to a March report by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“In times of crises, as well as in our everyday lives, philanthropy has played a significant role in addressing systemic problems and offering innovative solutions to local and global challenges,” the report states.

The most visible evidence of a greater global focus in formal giving will show up this month when world leaders gather in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly.

On the sidelines of the diplomatic talk-shop, dozens of philanthropic groups will hold events to discuss ways to address crises from refugee flows to diminishing forests. The Chronicle of Philanthropy called the gathering “the ultimate philanthropy networking event” involving “movie stars, corporate CEOs, and social-movement leaders.”

In working more globally, these professional givers must form more alliances, cut bureaucratic red tape, and work more collaboratively.

“We’re in a place of crisis where we can really learn from what other global actors have done to move so much further ahead than where we are,” Elizabeth Barajas-Román, president of the Women’s Funding Network, told the Chronicle. “There’s an opportunity now to really listen to where those other solutions might be.”

More and more global challenges are unprecedented, writes Ruth Richardson, the outgoing executive director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. This calls for aid groups to ensure they work by a set of guiding principles, such as resilience and renewability.

“Principles ... surface what really matters to the group, they shape collective vision, and they provide a tool to guide strategy and action,” she stated in a blog. “They create a container that holds everyone but provides enough space for each member to be themselves.”

Such advice helps explain why private giving still plays such a large role alongside government in responding to disasters. The war in Ukraine offers the latest example of how private assistance can be a force for good. And it is a good that has no boundaries.

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