All Philanthropy Is Local…Or, Is It?

By: Jerry W. Henry, Partner

A highly-respected head of a fundraising firm spoke up at a recent national gathering of consultants and said, “all philanthropy is local.” (He was making a twist on the phrase “all politics is local” that is attributed to former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill from decades ago.)  His comment came at the end of a presentation to The Giving Institute about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious list of goals adopted by the United Nations to create global change.

Over the years, primarily through some work I had done with some national faith-based organizations, I had been familiar with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, but had not realized that an entirely new set of goals had been approved by 193 countries at the end of 2015.

While I agree that the primary focus of our fundraising efforts is to support the mission of the organizations with which we work – and, that means, often, local focus and relationship-building – I am coming to realize more and more that everything we do in our nonprofit work is tied in someway to the larger issues with which our entire world community is dealing.

The SDGs are 17 visionary global goals such as “ending poverty” and “ensuring universal access to water and sanitation” by 2030, just to mention two. In doing some additional research, I found that the Council on Foundations is encouraging all funders to help promote greater focus on the goals. As they write, “These broad global goals address the same problems that our field is tackling…and provide a framework for foundations to lead together with governments, civil society, and the private sector for the next 15 years to create a better world, in the US and around the globe.”

In a previous post, I wrote about the basic meaning of the word “philanthropy” being “the love/caring for humankind.”  Philanthropy in our world today is evolving.  Just as we see a connection with economies globally, so, too, are we coming to see the spread of philanthropy globally.  I am grateful for this information on the SDGs and believe that all of our organizations can link every part of our missions to at least one of the goals.

While “all philanthropy is local” may be true for most of us, understanding that the role we play locally relates to a much bigger picture globally can inspire us.