As part of Philanthropy Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue on global giving, 13 of America’s leading international donors and development experts responded to a series questions:
- “What have you learned that changed the way you give internationally?”
- “Tell us about a really smart international grant.”
- “What’s an unsung organization doing great work in the field?”
I am excited to be featured alongside Jean Case of the Case Foundation, former Sen. Bill Frist, Russ Hall of Legacy Venture, Steven M. Hilton of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Steven J. McCormick of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Maureen Smyth of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Jeffrey Solomon of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Tad Taube of the Taube Philanthropies, among others.
Herewith, my responses …
1) What have you learned that changed the way you give internationally?
Funding effectively outside of the United States requires more than working diligently, strategically, and efficiently. It is also about working collaboratively and cooperatively with local partners who can enhance your chances of achieving substantive change. Respecting and appreciating the local culture is important; patience is essential. Perhaps my most important discovery from working internationally is just how much you can learn, about yourself and the issues you care about, from your overseas partners. The flow of knowledge and inspiration goes both ways, and you sometimes have as much to gain as to give when funding overseas.
2) Tell us about a really smart international grant.
We have supported the Birthright Israel program since its inception in 1999 and, under its auspices, close to 300,000 young Jewish adults from 54 countries have been given a free, 10-day trip to Israel. The impact has been far greater than ever imagined, both in strengthening participants’ Jewish identities and in developing an overall sense of connection to the global Jewish community. Birthright has also forged closer bonds between young Israelis and their counterparts in the Jewish Diaspora, a program model other countries are seeking to replicate as they strive to ensure that young adults of their own diasporic communities remain tied to their heritage and ancestral homeland.
3) What’s an unsung organization doing great work in the field?
There are so many inspiring and largely unknown organizations creating change in the world. While the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is well known for its work within the Jewish community, many people are unaware of the non-sectarian disaster relief and long-term development assistance it offers worldwide. JDC was among the first on the ground delivering clean water, shelter, and medical aid when the earthquake hit Haiti, and it is still working with victims of the 2004 tsunami in south Asia. Another organization is Teach For All, which is doing the noble work of building a worldwide movement toward educational equality. Education is the key to a better future, and every child should have the opportunity to learn in a safe, secure, and supportive environment.