Community Foundations in Asia

Community foundations are well known in the U.S. for raising charitable funds from the community and distributing the money back to the area’s non-profit organizations. In the U.S., we have approximately 780 community foundations. Globally, there are 1,441 community foundations in 51 countries.  In Asia, community foundations exist in India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.

Community foundations exist in various forms but they are basically a charitable entity used to encourage philanthropy and build communities of giving and sharing.  The first community foundation was formed in the U.S. and since then the concept has been exported around the world.  In 2006, The Global Fund for Community Foundations was formed.  It is a joint initiative of the World Bank, Ford Foundation and Mott Foundation as a mechanism to broad the development of community foundations.  The Fund is a project of WINGS and it is hosted by the European Foundation Centre in Brussels.  Since their launch, the Fund has made grants amounting to almost US $1.5 million to 83 organizations in 33 countries.

The 2008 Community Foundation Global Status Report published by WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) tracks the growth of community foundations globally.  In reviewing the Global Status Report, I noticed several similarities of the community foundations in Asia. For example, outside organizations such as the Ford Foundation and Synergos Institute were instrumental in helping establish many of these community foundation.  Individuals and corporations do not always fully understand the value of an intermediary to promote, encourage and bring together philanthropic initiatives. In other words, they preferred to give directly to the beneficiary. Furthermore, most of these community foundations are relatively new, with the oldest one registered in 1991. Consequently, their grantmaking is relatively small but several do have endowments.

India.  The first community foundation in India, the Bombay Community Public Trust, was established in 1991 with the assistance of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy based in Mumbai. There are currently six formally established community foundations in India. Corporate donors are the largest source of income.

Japan.  There are two community foundations in Japan. Established in 1991, the Osaka Community Foundation (OCF) received 100 million yen to the original fund from the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The Citizens (Shimin) Fund Kobe was formed during the Great Hanshin/Awaji earthquake. OCF has three staff and derives 40% of their donations from individuals and 60% from corporations.

Singapore.  Singapore is in the process of establishing a community foundation targeting high-net worth individuals. Individuals are expected to give a minimum of $1,000,000 SGD (US$737,000) to establish donor-advised funds and $50,000,000 SGD (US$36,800,000) must be raised before grantmaking will begin. The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre is incubating the Community Foundation of Singapore.

South Korea.  The Beautiful Foundation was established in 2000 to create and promote philanthropy in all levels of Korean society. In addition to the traditional roles that community foundations play, the Beautiful Foundation has several new initiatives including the 1% sharing campaign for members who pledge 1% of their incomes. Most notable is that all of their budget, including operation expenses as well as fundraising incomes, are fully disclosed. The foundation is also trying to limit its overhead costs to two percent of the funds it receives.

Thailand.  There are four established community foundations in Thailand with two more being registered this year. The Synergos Institute introduced the concept of community foundations in Bangkok in a meeting of fourteen government/non-government organizations in 2005. Since then two community foundations were registered in 2006 (Lampang and Udonthani) and the Phuket Communtiy Foundation was registered in April 2007.

Philippines.  Pondong Batangan Community Foundation, the first community foundation in the Philippines, was created in 2000 by a Catholic Archbishop. Since then three other community foundations have been formed. What is interesting to note is that these three foundations were originally NGOs. Two of these community foundations were established in 2007.

See also: Transatlantic Community Foundation Network

Photo courtesy of ccdoh1, Maya Beach, Thailand