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Global wealth has increased over the past two decades, and this has had an impact on philanthropy in the 21st century as more countries give back to communities through charitable organizations. A case in point is that 44% of the 260,000 foundations identified in 38 countries and Hong Kong were established recently, and reflect the impact of increased prosperity in this century.

The Harvard Kennedy School in conjunction with the UBS Global recently released the Philanthropy Report: Perspectives on the global foundation sector, analyzing the recent impact from global markets on philanthropic enterprises. A senior researcher and an author of the report, Paula Johnson said, “We knew philanthropy was growing in many countries, but we didn’t realize that trend would be so clear and so global.”

The report demonstrates the healthy influence of emerging markets on philanthropy, and while the report documents trends, it is not a complete assessment. While impressive and inclusive, the two-and-a-half year Harvard study does not cover every charitable foundation and every country, so that philanthropic giving is higher even than the report shows because while data collection the US and Western Europe is relatively good, not every country and every charity is documented.

The statistics show the impact of changes in the policy and legal milieu in many countries towards philanthropic giving, recent worldwide economic growth, and the desires of newly prosperous countries and communities to give back to those in need. One example of this growth in giving is China, which in the past ten years implemented a law allowing individuals to establish private foundations.

While the focus of charities shows the imprint of boards, foundations, and national priorities there remain trends in philanthropic giving, with an emphasis on education, human services, social welfare, healthcare, culture and the arts, and work towards the alleviation of poverty.

One issue that the report noted is that some foundations duplicated giving towards similar aims and populations, but they did not work together. Therefore the foundations were perhaps not as effective as they could be, observed the head of UBS Wealth Management USA, John Mathews. Thanks to the information gathered by the Harvard report, there is now a focus on facilitating communication between foundations with a goal towards working together to maximize positive outcomes. Another result of the report is that it brought attention to the benefits to all countries in establishing more comprehensive reporting on philanthropy.