The Role Of Philanthropy In National Development

Philanthropy as an expression of human generosity exists in every culture, and is reflected in most of the world’s cultures and religions. It is not dependent on wealth or institutional structures, but greater wealth has inevitably led to expanding levels and types of philanthropy. Jenny Hodgson of The Global Fund for Community Foundations has noted […]

By Peter N. Boos

June 15, 2015

role of philanthropy

Philanthropy as an expression of human generosity exists in every culture, and is reflected in most of the world’s cultures and religions. It is not dependent on wealth or institutional structures, but greater wealth has inevitably led to expanding levels and types of philanthropy. Jenny Hodgson of The Global Fund for Community Foundations has noted that the growth of local philanthropy is not just a response to tighter North-South aid flows, but also a recognition of the shortcomings of mainstream development, with its issue-based silos, short-term project horizons, and upward accountability to external donors. She notes that locally funded initiatives can “take more holistic, long-term and flexible approaches that can develop community resilience and social cohesion.”

Source: UNDP-Philanthropy as an Emerging Contributor to Development Cooperation

Key Philanthropic Institutional Actors

In many developing countries, including Barbados, the existence of an organized charitable sector, not just philanthropy, is relatively new. The fast-paced growth of wealth across the developing world has enabled accumulation by individuals and corporations who are now giving back through organized philanthropy, moving from what was very common personalized giving (to family, religious institutions or the local poor) to more formalized structures of giving.

The most common form, as in high-GDP countries, is Foundations. The term foundations generally refers to not-for-profit organizations that are asset-based and have a stated purpose, with an established income source, usually either endowed with a corpus which is used for grant-making or operational programs, or income that combines public fundraising with some level of endowment or earned income.

Foundations can be private, public, family-run, corporate, or community foundations; and other philanthropy vehicles include donor-advised funds, direct giving, impact investing, giving circles, family governed operating organizations and social enterprises, planned giving instruments, and corporate giving by a family business.

One category is corporate foundations, generally established by the corporate entity or the corporation’s founder, often with a blurred line between the institution and the individual or family.

A second category is private foundations, which may have endowments or raise and spend funds by replenishing their assets over time. In some cases, while technically separate from the founder’s corporation, corporate employees close to the founder and the founder’s family govern some.

A third category is community foundations. Arguably community foundations have been overlooked as development partners even though they are a compelling phenomenon as institutions of the local community, and for the local community, through which a wide swath of community members can work together to create long-term strategies and solutions to develop vibrant, sustainable communities.

Community Foundations as Development Partners

Community foundations can play a growing role in leveraging official development resources to address local or national challenges. One important example of its infrastructure growing in size and capacity is the Global Fund for Community Foundations. Designed to support the development of community foundations in transitioning and developing countries.

Notable as well is the broader field of community philanthropy, of which community foundations are one part, defined as organized and structured, self-directed, functioning as open architecture, using local money and assets, building civil society, and seeking an inclusive and equitable society. The field of community philanthropy is receiving support from other parts of the philanthropic community; nevertheless it will take time to assess how this sector can best engage with official development cooperation processes.

High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) and their expressions of giving

A substantial and burgeoning source of wealth for development comes from high-net worth individuals. Some give informally, while more and more are channeling private wealth transparently, on public record, which will make it easier to collaborate with official development cooperation partners. Their giving is most often addressing social needs like poverty, education and health rather than challenging the status quo in terms of economic or political structures.

The Barbados Philanthropic Sector

  • International philanthropists-Barbados is a second home to many HNWI, mostly from the UK and Ireland but also the USA and Canada. A number of these have and continue to make major contributions to the local Social Infrastructure. Notable examples are Hans Rausing (Verdun House Addiction Treatment Centre), Derrick Smith (School and Vocational Centre for persons with special needs), The Maria Holder Memorial Trust (primary schools, community centres, various charities in education and health including Marina House), Sandy Lane Charitable Trust (Children’s causes), The Barbados Community Foundation (supports various needy social causes).
  • Domestic Individual Philanthropists-there are many local HNWI who provide unpublicized donations to carious social causes. Some have established their own domestic Donor Foundations.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility. Many private companies make significant donations (of money or in kind) to domestic charities and needy causes. Some have established Foundations (e.g. CIBC First Caribbean) others are planning to do so (e.g. Massy, Sagicor). Many international companies operating in Barbados have been generous supporters and sponsors of charitable fund raising events.


A study conducted in October 2014 by Ms. Amanda D. Haynes for the writer to inform a project being established to support Barbados Social Enterprises (Charities and NFPs) indicates that there are well over 1,000 registered charities in Barbados. Most of these address social issues such as Family Children & Youth, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Special Needs Persons, Social Welfare and Development, Education and Training, Health, Environmental Sustainability.

The report concluded that Charities and NFPs are very active addressing these issues in Barbados however the many players act independently and need significant sustainable help to affect wide social change.

With the current inability of Government to increase its financial investments in many areas of social infrastructure it becomes more important for NGOs to play a greater role in Social Investing in partnership with Government Agencies as appropriate. Government policy development for The Third Sector and use of under-utilized Government buildings are two areas that afford immediate opportunity for collaboration.

Existing corporate and tax laws and regulations governing Charities and NFPs need urgent review and improvement for the current environment to attract new donors.

There is little doubt that Philanthropy is playing a significant role in Barbados’ National Development already and can do much more in the future.

Peter N. Boos

Chairman Emeritus Ernst & Young Caribbean (since 2004); Founding partner Business Barbados publication (1999) and the Barbados business web portal (2009); Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Substance Abuse Foundation Inc. (1996 to date); Founding Sponsor (2009) and First Chairman (2009-2014) Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc.; Founder of the Peter Boos Foundation (2004), (supporting youth development, entrepreneurship, education, addiction treatment, environmental protection, arts & culture development, relief of poverty and support of various community and charitable causes); Founder, Patron and first chairman ASPIRE Foundation (Barbados) Inc. - 'helping charities help' to strengthen and expand the Barbados Third Sector (2014 to date).