“I think what we’ve seen over the last ten years is a greater range of types of community philanthropy—women’s funds, youth philanthropy, philanthropy dealing within particular societal context, be it political change or peace building. So I think that what we have is a much more open and responsive view of community philanthropy now.”
Dr. Avila Kilmurrary is Director of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (previously the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust), a position she has held since 1994. The Foundation is an independent charitable grant-making organization whose mission is ‘to drive social change.’
Kilmurray is part of a strong lineup of confirmed speakers for WINGSForum 2014, The Power of Networks, which will be held in Istanbul in March. During a recent Skype chat we asked Kilmurray to give us an idea of what her experience in community philanthropy might bring to the conference.
WINGS: What’s your initial reaction to getting involved with WINGSForum 2014, and what might “the power of networks” mean to you and to the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland?
Avila Kilmurray: I’m excited to be involved with the Forum. I was at the 2004 WINGS Colloquium in Berlin when they were reflecting on the stage of community foundations around the world, so it will be very interesting to be part of the ten year update—to see how far things have come along and what changes have been experienced.
WINGS: The Forum is four months away. Can you tell us the types of ideas you’ll bring to Istanbul?
AK: One of the things I’ll be keen to explore is the diversity of community philanthropy. In 2004 there was much more of an idea that community philanthropy really was coterminous with community foundations, and I think what we’ve seen over the last ten years is a greater range of types of community philanthropy—women’s funds, youth philanthropy, philanthropy dealing within particular societal context, be it political change or peace building. So I think that what we have is a much more open and responsive view of community philanthropy now.
I think the “networking” title is also important because, as we have a diversity for funds of community philanthropy, I think it is important that they do talk to each other, rather than becoming caught in separate silos. For example the [learning potential between] women’s funds in Central America and community foundations perhaps in Eastern Europe. Or work that might be carried out in philanthropy around young people. I just came back from Egypt, from Cairo, where I was talking to a community foundation investing in youth philanthropy, [thinking about] what that can say perhaps to a community foundation that’s coming from a more structured background in Chicago or San Francisco.
WINGS: The Cleveland Foundation is collaborating with the Global Fund for Community Foundations, the Foundation Center and WINGS to publish the Community Foundation Atlas, the world’s first comprehensive atlas of the community foundation movement. Any plans to contribute?
AK: Not currently but we obviously are interested in the Atlas, and I’m sure it will be [a good time] to reach out when it’s a bit more developed.
WINGS: Anything to add?
AK: The only thing I would add is I think it’s important that we value and explore the contribution of community philanthropy in respect of the levels of endowment and financial resources, because I think one of the things that we have seen over the last decade or so is a greater recognition of the added value that community philanthropy can bring, whether it’s through convening local groups or acting as a conduit between disadvantaged communities and perhaps decision makers who are indeed shining a light into corners where people and groups are marginalised in society. So that whole area is important to look at as well—the non-financial assets of community philanthropy.