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Global Philanthropy Environment Index shows political uncertainty as greatest challenge

New baseline shows philanthropic landscape is improving but grew significantly more restrictive in key regions.

For Immediate Release Apr 30, 2018
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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI has released the 2018 Global Philanthropy Environment Index, the first such report since 2015. It is the world’s most comprehensive initiative to equip policymakers, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders, the business community, and the public with a clear understanding of the environment for global philanthropy.

The 2018 GPEI reveals that while the regulatory conditions for philanthropy showed improvements over 2015 in six of the 11 regions, the overall philanthropic environment in about 40 percent of the countries and economies evaluated remains restrictive.

The political environment presents significant challenges to philanthropic activity. The average score measuring the political environment – 3.41 out of 5.0 – was the lowest average score of all five factors studied. The Middle East and Northern Africa ranked lowest on political environment among the 11 regions studied, followed by sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. More positively, economies with favorable philanthropic environments are linked with higher economic indicators, such as per capita gross domestic product.

“At a time of significant challenges and political uncertainty around the globe, our ability to achieve development goals and respond to crises through philanthropy demands the type of insights included in this report,” said Una Osili, professor of economics and associate dean for research and international programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“With billions of dollars in philanthropic aid and other resources at stake, we need to understand the factors that enable philanthropy to thrive and those that restrict it,” she said. “This is the only report of its kind to capture each of them in a way that can be useful and informative to global leaders who can, ultimately, help channel resources to meet the world’s most pressing problems.”

Featuring the contributions of more than 100 country- and region-level experts, the index evaluates 79 economies on a five-point scale – 1.0 to 5.0 – across five key factors that measure the ease with which philanthropic organizations can operate, both within countries and across borders. The report is designed to facilitate collaborations across government, business and philanthropic sectors and help inform decisions about what can be done to strengthen the environment for philanthropy.

The five factors measured in the GPEI are: regulations about the formation and operation of philanthropic organizations, laws governing the giving and receiving of donations domestically, laws governing donations made across borders, the political and governance environment, and the sociocultural environment. This is the first year that the report has included a review of the political and sociocultural environments in the analysis. 

Below are eight of the 2018 index’s key findings:

  • While three-fifths of economies studied have a generally favorable philanthropic environment, about two out of five economies have a generally restrictive environment. The GPEI global average score is 3.64, on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0.
  • The political environment is a critical challenge facing the philanthropic sector. The political environment – even more than the regulatory environment – can greatly undermine the work of philanthropic organizations, especially in the Middle East and Northern Africa (scored 2.63), sub-Saharan Africa (scored 2.75), and Latin America (scored 2.88), where political uncertainty is particularly acute and scores fall below the global average (3.41).
  • Regions with favorable environments are linked with higher per capita gross domestic product. Economies known for enabling philanthropic activities tend to see correspondingly strong levels of per capita GDP and economic development. The United States and Canada (overall index score of 4.58), Northern and Western Europe (4.53), and Oceania (4.25) had the highest regional average score, all with high levels of GDP.
  • Migration and natural disasters had a major influence on the philanthropic landscape between 2015 and 2018. International migration crises such as the Syrian refugee crisis and natural disasters such as the Nepal and Mexico earthquakes; El Niño; and hurricanes Matthew, Harvey, Irma and Maria together substantially increased the number of people needing humanitarian assistance and the number of collaborative initiatives undertaken to address these needs, with donors contributing record levels of funding.
  • The effects of new regulatory changes have been mixed. The comparison of the 57 economies included in both the 2015 and 2018 reports on the three factors measuring regulatory environment show improvement in six of the 11 regions, with a modest increase of 1.7 percent on the global average score. Yet, nearly one-quarter of the 79 economies studied in the 2018 report introduced restrictive regulatory changes after January 2014.
  • Cross-border flows of donations are becoming more restricted. Legislation targeting illicit financial flows and laws penalizing foreign donations appear to be a growing trend. Since early 2010, several economies have introduced regulations to increase the scrutiny of organizations that accept foreign charitable contributions. In the last three years, China, Egypt, Hungary, India and Israel, among others, have created new laws, or amended existing laws, to regulate the inflow of foreign funds received by philanthropic organizations.
  • Giving is an important aspect of all cultures. The sociocultural environment refers to the space that a society creates and maintains to engage in philanthropic action through various channels. This was the factor that scored the highest, on average, among all 79 countries studied, demonstrating that the act of giving is embedded in all societies in unique ways, even if the formal philanthropic sector is not always trusted by the public.
  • Partnerships between philanthropic organizations, governments and businesses are expanding worldwide, aided by technology. Collaborations can allow organizations to address complex and growing social problems efficiently and effectively. For example, web-based crowdfunding also continues to grow and is becoming widely used in nearly all regions studied.

“We know that the public and private sectors need the help of philanthropy to solve the world’s problems,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “But our ability to maximize the impact of philanthropy in response to immediate crises and long-term challenges requires that we understand how laws, policies and cultural attitudes shape success or failure. With famine and refugees in need of immediate relief, and grave risks to peace and sustainability looming on the horizon, the stakes could not be higher.”

For over 10 years, the Hudson Institute provided in-depth research on philanthropy around the world with its Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, as well as research on the incentives and barriers to global giving through its Index of Philanthropic Freedom beginning in 2013. In 2017, these indices were formally transferred to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which is taking the initiative to the next level and will continue to publish them under new titles: the Global Philanthropy Resource Flows Index and the Global Philanthropy Environment Index. Under this new banner, the Global Philanthropy Indices will offer crucial insights to nongovernmental organizations, policymakers, and corporate and foundation leaders on the environment and state of global philanthropy.

About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

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Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

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