When research goes global: 4+1 tips for promoting global philanthropy and international giving through academic research

By Kinga Zsofia Horvath, visiting research associate at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University (USA) & visiting research associate at the Geneva Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Geneva (Switzerland).


Philanthropy plays a vital role globally, addressing pressing social and economic challenges, providing resources for innovation, and building communities across diverse populations. In 2015, the United Nations adapted the Sustainable Development Goals, which serve as an “urgent call for action by all countries in a global partnership.” To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, international collaboration is necessary through bringing governments, corporations, NGOs, and civil societies together. Research institutions have a crucial role in this equation too, providing nonprofits, corporations, and governments with up-to-date resources, best practices, and policy recommendations on various subjects on philanthropy from fundraising regulations to the use of cryptocurrencies.

The questions is how we scholars, pracademics, and researchers across the globe can support such global partnerships and strengthen the work of international nonprofit organizations through our academic research.

Here are my tips for young professionals:

1) Be a part of global research initiatives

As a Fulbright scholar, the desire to promote international understanding and global collaborations has always been in my veins. In January 2017, I joined the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s research department, working on one of the school’s biggest international projects. After 16 months of research—working with more than 100 country, regional, and global experts, studying more than 70 countries’ philanthropic environments, and preparing several dissemination pieces—we published the Global Philanthropy Environment Index in April 2018.

The 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index offers country- and regional-level narratives on the incentives and barriers for philanthropy and uses scores (1 to 5) to classify and measure the regulatory, political, and socio-cultural environments as enabling conditions for philanthropy. The data in the Global Philanthropy Environment Index provides timely resources for policymakers and nonprofit practitioners to better understand the diversity of global philanthropy and to advocate for more enabling environments for philanthropy at the local, national, and global levels.

2) Build international partnerships

The excitement to work with experts across the world and create something new together is invaluable.

I have been part of several international partnerships as a visiting research associate, including a joint collaboration with the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE). Preparing the European Edition of the 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index helped us researchers better understand the similarities and differences between Western and Eastern Europe. Simultaneously, the report helped practitioners and policymakers better learn about and understand the European context of philanthropy and identify areas for collaboration and improvement.

3) Inform public policy and advise organizational strategy building

Philanthropy is global. Philanthropy is gaining momentum. But the environment for philanthropy is rapidly changing. Researchers have the responsibility and opportunity to provide valuable information about global philanthropy and help navigate government agencies, corporations, foundations, and civil society organizations in the current philanthropic environment. I feel honored that I can lead and contribute to research projects that inform public policy and advise organizational strategy both in the United States and in Europe.

Through a collaboration with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, An Annotated Bibliography of Recent Literature on Current Developments in Philanthropy covers emerging themes on global philanthropy, such as giving across borders and the redefinition of community, changing vehicles and opportunities, new and hybrid institutions forms, normative framework for philanthropy, and the changing landscape of internationally active funding institutions. This report provides a summary of more than 130 books, reports, and articles and lists more than 110 additional resources published in the last decade.

The Changing Landscape of U.S. Cross-border Philanthropy expands knowledge on U.S. cross-border philanthropy, provides information on how funding has changed across time and place, and identifies emerging trends in international partnerships and cross-border philanthropy. Working closely with the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, the research team was better able to understand the important role government agencies play in international partnerships and cross-border philanthropy.

4) Exchange ideas with experts across the globe

None of the activities mentioned above would have been possible if researchers and practitioners had not met one another. Whether I was in the audience or on stage at a conference, it was fascinating to exchange ideas and expertise and learn from each other over and over again. It is hard to pick my favorite workshop, but here are my top three from the last year:

  • Global Philanthropy Research Workshop in Berlin, Germany

More than 15 country experts across Europe, with whom I have worked online with for more than a year, convened and discussed the methodological challenges and opportunities for the Global Philanthropy Environment Index. The expertise and energy of the room showed me the power of global research collaborations., and I instantly fell in love with it.

  • USAID’s Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad Partners Meeting in Washington, D.C., USA

Almost 200 practitioners across the globe attended the two-day meeting to learn more about the opportunities for international partnerships. Our presentation and workshop on “The Changing Landscape of U.S. Cross-Border Philanthropy” provided timely and valuable knowledge on philanthropy and fundraising for international activities. And the feedback from the participants provided better understanding for my colleagues and I of how research can help improve practice.

  • The Changing Global Environment—Global Philanthropy Lecture and Workshop for the 2018 Washington Mandela Fellows in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

I was honored to present the key findings of the Global Philanthropy Environment Index to twenty young—and amazing—African leaders, and discuss with them how the research team can support and improve philanthropic research in Africa. It was a unique opportunity to get feedback and suggestions from practitioners to improve our research.

+1) Things you can do right now to join the global research community on philanthropy

This year, we are preparing the 2020 Global Philanthropy Resource Flows Index that will measure the sources and magnitude of cross-border flows and will track the contribution of private philanthropy to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to kindly invite you to be part of our global initiative and help us map cross-border philanthropic giving data globally by filling out our data availability questionnaire.

If you are interested in learning more about our global research project or joining our initiative, you can find us at the 48th Annual ARNOVA Conference or please contact my colleague here: cmcarrig@iupui.edu.


Kinga Zsofia Horvath a 2016-2019 Fulbright Scholar from Hungary, serves as a Visiting Researcher at Geneva Centre for Philanthropy, University of Geneva (Switzerland) and as a Visiting Research Associate at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University (USA). She specializes in international comparative research on philanthropy and civil society. A strong advocate for international collaborations and partnerships, Horvath has conducted research for leading philanthropic and government institutions around the world, such as USAID’s Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, and Robert Bosch Stiftung. She holds an M.A. in philanthropic studies from Indiana University and an M.Sc. in public policy and management from Corvinus University of Budapest and KU Leuven.

KZH Circle Picture


By Kinga Zsofia Horvath

Visiting research associate at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University (USA)




The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy increases the understanding of philanthropy and improves its practice worldwide through critical inquiry, interdisciplinary research, teaching, training, and civic engagement. Read more on their website: https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/

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