The power of data and networks

In the difficult economic times the world faces, it is important to build a case for and show the importance of organisations supporting philanthropy as key players in collaboration efforts that can maximise impact while reducing costs. By working collaboratively and using all available information we can help develop a strategic and united philanthropic sector.

By Ana Pinho

As the philanthropic sector grows and gains visibility worldwide, the pressure to achieve greater impact also increases, fueling a continuous search for approaches that deliver the best outcomes. As an association of organisations supporting philanthropy, WINGS recognises two distinct yet complimentary factors that when combined can drive great developments in the field: knowledge and collaboration through networks. This kind of collaboration is in WINGS’ DNA – it was created as a response to the need of associations and other support organisations serving philanthropy to have a forum where they could connect and learn from their peers around the world.

Networks have an important role in the philanthropic sector, as they can convene dialogue that enables members to build and renew relationships; provide representation to organisations and their interests in the public arena; communicate the value of philanthropy to the general public and policy makers; encourage collaboration with other sectors in society; strengthen leadership; and promote philanthropy, citizen engagement and a culture of giving. Another key way in which networks can support their members is by gathering knowledge, about themselves and the sector as a whole, which can then be used to maximise their impact.

As part of its commitment to knowledge generation and dissemination, WINGS has been carrying out surveys to draw a picture of its network, and therefore of global philanthropy infrastructure.  The first survey (2012) had 52 respondents and resulted in an infographic. The work was continued and improved in 2013 and the second round of data collection had an amazing response rate—95 organisations, representing more than two thirds of WINGS network, answered the questionnaire by updating their profiles on our website.

The information collected resulted in the report “Infrastructure in Focus: a Global Picture of Organisations Serving Philanthropy”, to be launched at WINGSForum 2014. The report represents an important first step in the efforts to systematise information on philanthropy infrastructure. By analysing information on the year organisations were created, for instance, we were able to see different growth trends in different regions, and establish a timeline with three phases in the development of global philanthropy infrastructure.

We also enquired with WINGS network participants on the services they provide their members, and found that all of the respondents offer conferences and seminars. Other services offered by most organisations are training, information services and affinity groups.  Going a step forward, we surveyed 61 foundations in every region on the usefulness of the services provided by philanthropy infrastructure organisations. The resulting analysis can be used by these organisations to improve the services they provide and focus on the needs of their constituencies.

By collecting and analysing solid information on philanthropy infrastructure, WINGS is bringing together the power of data and networks. The more we know about ourselves as organisations supporting philanthropy, the better we can serve our constituencies. Moreover, in the difficult economic times the world faces, it is important to build a case for and show the importance of organisations supporting philanthropy as key players in collaboration efforts that can maximise impact while reducing costs. By working collaboratively and using all available information we can help develop a strategic and united philanthropic sector.


pinho_150Ana Borges Pinho is the Knowledge Management Coordinator for WINGS. Infrastructure of Philanthropy is one of six plenaries for WINGSForum 2014: The Power of Networks. Follow on Twitter with #WFnetworks.

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