A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Experience Informs Focus for Making International Grants

By Rachel Humphrey

Rachel HumphreyLong interested in issues of international development and aid, in 2003 I conducted a qualitative study on Barriers to International Giving by US-based Foundations. Nearly a decade later, the findings from this research are still relevant to funders engaged in or interested in international philanthropy.

One of the interesting findings from my research was that small foundations have a compelling opportunity for impact, and in fact a pivotal role to play, in international philanthropy.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Sasha Rabsey, philanthropist and founder of The HOW Fund, to learn more about how she and her family became engaged in making international grants.

Sasha shared her story with me, beginning with her and her daughter volunteering at a local Catholic mission every Saturday for years. When her daughter expressed an interest in going to Africa to volunteer, Sasha was not only supportive, but joined her daughter on a five-week volunteer experience in Ghana.

Sasha and her daughter found themselves “in the deep end” within their first week at an orphanage for HIV+ children when the people running the orphanage left without a word for more than a week. With no reference points or experience, let alone knowing if or when the staff would be returning, they employed their senses of humor and an enviable positive attitude to take care of 18 children to the best of their ability.

The following year, the entire family traveled to Kenya where they volunteered for two organizations while living in the bush. They saw the best and the worst of local grassroots organizations first hand.

After these experiences, Sasha threw herself into the work of starting a small fund to make international grants. Now, four years in, she and her family have developed a strong grantmaking program focused on supporting grassroots leaders and addressing issues that affect women. (See The HOW Fund website.)

I asked her what advice she has for other small foundations interested in starting to work internationally. She listed three actions that have worked really well for The How Fund:

  1. Creating Fair, Equitable Relationships (among funder, grantee, and beneficiaries)
  2. Conducting Site Visits
  3. Getting Help from Experts

In my next guest blog posts, we’ll explore how small funders can do each of these. We’ll hear not only about Sasha’s experience but from other experts doing this work well. If you have a point you want me to include in these posts, please email me at rachel@rachelhumphrey.com. If you have a story or comment about how you became interested in international philanthropy or the role the next generation is playing in internationally-focused work, please share them in the comments below.

Rachel Humphrey, MNA, PCC, facilitates personal, organizational, and social change through coaching and consulting services. In September 2012, she will join TCC Group as a consultant, focusing on program and grants management and capacity building. She earned a Master of Nonprofit Administration degree from the University of San Francisco in 2003 and is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation. Prior to working as a coach and consultant full-time, Rachel served as the Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at the Global Fund for Women.

Comments

    • I would love to highlight FRIDA’s approach in one of the next posts – please email me at rachel@rachelhumphrey.com so we can discuss. Thanks for your interest, and for your important work!

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