Global giving tracking could be key to reaching UN goals: Report | Devex

Gunnar Larson g at
Wed Apr 26 15:40:49 PDT 2023

There is no tracking of private UN funding worldwide. Can you imagine? aims to change that.


International standards for tracing global giving would allow both funders
and policymakers to see where private philanthropy dollars go and how they
might complement official development assistance. Photo by: Eloisa Lopez /
There should be international standards for tracking cross-border giving to
allow for a clearer picture of how philanthropists help achieve the United
Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, according to new research.

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“Common standards” for tracking and sharing data on charitable giving to
causes such as climate change, racial justice, and equality for women and
girls would allow governments to see where they can partner with the
philanthropic sector to achieve the SDGs, according to a global
philanthropy tracker report from Indiana University. The report was
released Thursday.

It specifically examines cross-border giving. The report found that $70
billion flowed out of 47 countries of “varying levels of economic
development” and from every world region in 2020, the most recent year for
which data was available. It also looked at other cross-border flows of
money, including official development assistance, private capital
investment, and remittances sent by individuals back to their home
countries or familial homelands.

When it comes to data on all of these outflows of money, private
philanthropy is probably the least understood, said Una Osili, the
associate dean for research and international programs at IU’s Lilly Family
School of Philanthropy.

One aim of the report is to show how international philanthropy data
standards might help civil societies, governments, businesses, and
individual funders better collaborate to address societal issues worldwide.

“Better data will inform better policy- and decision-making,” a press
release for the report reads.

The development of standards for tracing global giving would allow both
funders and policymakers to see where private philanthropy dollars go and
how they might complement official development assistance, the research

Improved international tracking standards also could reveal funding “gaps”
and help philanthropists interested in supporting the SDGs to better target
their giving to help accomplish those goals, Osili told Devex in an
interview. But the challenge is figuring out how those tracking standards
might be broadly adopted, she said.

When it comes to foreign direct investment or official development aid
there are rules in place for countries to report that spending to central
bodies either at the national or international level, she noted.

“The challenge for the private philanthropy sector more broadly is that
there isn’t any one group that is tasked with doing this,” Osili said.

South Korea “stands out” as an example of how philanthropy data tracking
might be done internationally, she said. The country has created standards
for foundations giving cross-border donations to report and identify where
those funds are going. As a result, it has been easier to see whether areas
such as climate or global health are receiving lots of funding and also to
see where private philanthropy dollars are not going, Osili said.

“This becomes really important because there are some funders who want to
know how much money is going to something,” she said. That information
allows them to make decisions about how they can give in a way that might
“move the needle” for certain causes, she added.

As philanthropy grows, so do limits on cross-border giving: Report

Findings from a new Indiana University report on global philanthropy show
an increase in restrictions on cross-border donations across dozens of
countries, which tracks with a global decline in democracy.

Global development funding has evolved quite a lot in the past few decades,
Osili said. It used to be that “ODA was pretty much the name of the game,”
but now there is a “much more complex reality” that involves private
remittances and private philanthropy from funders such as the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation playing a bigger role in funding global
development causes, she said.

The $70 billion in philanthropic contributions identified in the report
represented 8% of all the financial resources flowing across borders in
2020, which included ODA, private capital investment, and remittances.

“I think especially when you think about SDGs and funding gaps and all of
the resources that can be brought to bear, that involves putting
philanthropy on the radar and also bringing private philanthropy to the
table,” Osili said.

In places such as the United States, agencies such as USAID and the State
Department are thinking about how they can work with local, national, and
international funders “on certain challenges” and better data will help
them determine how best to do that, she said.

The report’s other tips for ensuring global philanthropy can better meet
current and future challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, included a
recommendation for global and regional funders to provide more support for
local grassroots organizations that can respond to crises quickly on the

It also encouraged philanthropists to engage with nontraditional vehicles
for giving, such as online crowdfunding platforms and global funds such as
the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to help
their money reach local communities more efficiently.
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