Catherine Mwendwa, programs officer at EAAG, reports on the Global Philanthropy Data Charter Workshop, held in Cape Town, on November 16-17, 2015; the state of data collection in Kenya; new initiatives and research; and how the Charter can help advance these efforts.
Philanthropy networks and support groups are increasingly becoming frontiers in capturing, sharing and collective application of philanthropy data at the national, regional and international level. Today, there is a heightened demand locally and globally for accurate, relevant and comparable data on philanthropy. East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) in the recent past has been keen on building and sharing relevant knowledge on local philanthropy. Towards this end, EAAG has conducted a number of research projects in an effort bridge the knowledge gap local giving.
Despite these developments, EAAG still faces various challenges in designing a comprehensive and comparable data collection and sharing strategy. Some of the challenges experienced:
- Diverse and informal form of giving that characterizes the region. Making it difficult to design tools and methodologies that accurately quantify the value of local philanthropy.
- A Weak philanthropy data culture – the challenge with the East Africa region and my personal experience in data collection is that sources of information on philanthropy are largely disjointed, incoherent and not well organized. There is also no common approach to tracking and reporting on philanthropy among stakeholders and this has affected the accuracy and value of philanthropy data that the association collects.
- Organizations that have structured giving programmes do not necessarily have harmonized record keeping systems and this becomes a challenge when obtaining accurate financial records especially if the objective is to analyze giving trends. Because there are no reference points that specifically track contributions from local private donors/foundations, EAAG is at the mercy of philanthropy organizations that are most often reluctant and apprehensive in providing information especially on financial records.
For these reasons, EAAG has been keen on developing internal capacity to help the knowledge management team sufficiently to respond to the above challenges.
WINGS and the Foundation Centre, through multiple consultative forums, developed the Global Philanthropy Data charter – a framework for data collection and sharing to guide the philanthropic sector’s data-related work and instill a data culture. Appreciating the diversity in the practice, culture and legal environment in which philanthropy organizations operate in, the Charter outlines common values and standard principles for collecting and managing philanthropy data. EAAG views the Philanthropy Data Charter as an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other regions, and to share its experience to enrich and build the Charter.
EAAG was honored to participate in the Philanthropy Data Charter workshop on November 16th-17th in Cape Town, South Africa. This was a great opportunity for the network to relate the principles outlined in the charter to its knowledge management experience, share challenges, and learn from the experiences of peers.
The session facilitators diligently guided discussions allowing ample time for the workshop participants to make adequate contributions on various issues. EAAG had an opportunity to share its experience in conducting the Giving Report – an annual survey that seeks to quantify the contribution of local philanthropy towards national development. While expressing the successes and challenges it has faced, EAAG realized that, despite the geographical differences, other peers have experienced relatively similar challenges especially in developing valid tools for data collection, consolidating disjointed data sources, gaining trust from various data stakeholders and designing appropriate reporting formats.
In one of the group sessions, the Giving Report was adopted as a case study in an exercise that sought to apply the Data Charter framework in addressing some of the challenges highlighted earlier on in the sessions. This was also a way to evaluate the relevance of the Charter’s values & principles in various contexts. From the discussions with the team members, we were able to evaluate some weakness and strengths of the data colletion and sharing strategy applied when conducting the Giving Report.
Some of the points noted and lessons learnt included;
- The need to be more inclusive in designing the survey methodology – there is value in ensuring that the design, especially sampling, reflects the reality and local context of philanthropy.
- On acknowledging data providers, it was noted through the discussions that there are providers who wish to be anonymous. The questions posed were then – how do we reconcile these factors?
- It was also good to learn the value of ensuring quality data. However, the extent of this is limited by the operating context of various regions. Achieving accurate, reliable, timely, comparable and actionable data in some regions especially in the East African case where informal philanthropy is difficult to track and data sources difficult to consolidate. The value however was noted as a key component of good data practice and is a valid measurement scale.
- It was also noted that donors as stakeholder need to appreciate the Charter to avoid restrictive terms of grant agreements that might contravene the value of the charter.
- The Philanthropy Data Charter is a great guiding tool for collecting and managing philanthropy data and its fundamental components are relevant across contexts.
The workshop was not short of exemplary case studies from organizations that have adopted the Charter values and principles in their data collection and management strategies. Case studies helped participants visualize the charter’s application especially on the value of collaboration, data visualization and data access.
From the presentations, facilitation and peer discussions the following was key:
- The value of collaboration in philanthropy data collection and management as a strategy of dealing with some of the challenges characteristic of philanthropy data. Through transparent and constructive collaborations, a network is able to leverage on the strength of its partners to build a legitimate and inclusive data collection and sharing approach that produces credible philanthropy data reports. The process of building and managing partnerships too requires some form investment.
- The process of collecting, managing and sharing philanthropy data improves with time. Being objective and committed to consisted improvement should be a key value for knowledge management programmes.
- Data presentation is as important. By presenting finding in an interactive format various audiences will understand and digest. The presentation of data in pictorial and graphical format for example makes data easy and quick to understand, appreciate and adopt.
- If you produce data and no one can access it, the effort is as good as none. Networks and organizations producing philanthropy data should make an extra effort in ensuring that the data is accessible.
- There is value in coordination – the philanthropy movement at different levels (national/regional/global) should synchronize and compliment data processes.
In 2015, EAAG established National Philanthropy Forums (country level philanthropy platforms) in Kenya Uganda and Tanzania with an aim of strengthening the foundations of the regional philanthropy movement. One of the key objectives of the forums is strengthening the philanthropy data collection strategies to collect and share philanthropy data that informs policy advocacy, helps coordinate the sector and enhances awareness on the value of giving. In implementing the forums EAAG is working with country lead organizations within its membership (Tanzania- Foundation for Civil society, Kenya – KCDF, Uganda – Independent Development Fund)
In the new strategy 2016-2020, EAAG seeks to integrate the country Giving Reports as part of the National Philanthropy forum processes and forge partnership with other data stakeholders to develop a comprehensive data on local philanthropy. Key recommendations made by forum participants in regards to data include: establish the principles for data management for philanthropy; develop a standardized tool for data collection and collaborate with the philanthropy data stakeholders to establish data sets that effectively capture the contribution of philanthropy in national development.
EAAG seeks to apply the Philanthropy Data Charter in guiding this process. In implementing the Kenya National Philanthropy Forum, EAAG is closely working with the Partnership for Philanthropy Platform (SDG Funders Project) – UNDP Kenya and KCDF to engage and profile the contribution of local philanthropy in the implementation of SDG goals.’ At the workshop we were pleased to have 2 representatives from the National Philanthropy forum working groups in Kenya (KCDF) and Tanzania (Foundation for Civil Society) which was an opportunity for them to appreciate the principles and values of charter even as we develop the country philanthropy data strategy.
The workshop also provided an opportunity for EAAG to connect with other regions’ networks and deliberate on ways that the organizations can create synergies and initiative collaborations in relation to data and other philanthropy programmes.
We appreciate the efforts of WINGS and partners in creating these learning opportunities.
By Catherine Mwendwa
 SDGfunders is a global initiative and Kenya is one of five pilot countries. The project is based on an interactive website to track the contributions of philanthropy towards the implementation of the SDGs at the national and county level (leveraging on each dollar invested). One of the goals pursued is to foster partnerships between philanthropy, national governments and other development actors amid the implementation of the SDGs. www.sdgfunders.org