Global grantmakers stand at a crossroads, faced with a choice to embrace new ways of operating that center and directly support local organizations or rely on systems that reinforce unbalanced power structures. For U.S. foundations, this choice comes at a time when USAID has recommitted to new ways of working with local partners  – with the endorsement of 15 global grantmakers at the 2023 United Nations General Assembly.


Why Locally Led Development? Why Now?

A localized approach means committing to grantmaking directly to local partners and building trusted relationships that value local perspectives and viewpoints. When foundations invest directly in countries and communities around the world, we achieve more equitable and sustained outcomes in direct partnership with local communities and civil society.

As a sector with the unique ability to take risks, commit to long-term change, and act flexibly, US foundations have a unique window of opportunity in this global moment to rapidly advance localization, in partnership with bilateral and multilateral funders.

And now is the time to act. Data from foundations and bilateral donors show funders falling short of the 25% goal that is being increasingly adopted globally:

  • Recent data shows that US foundations made 13% of grants direct to local entities between 2016 and 2019.
  • USAID’s locally led development data shows that in FY2022, $1.6 billion of direct funding was given to local entities (around 10.2% of eligible funding) — the highest direct funding percentage by USAID in over a decade, but far short of their 25% goal.

The Council on Foundations and Locally Led Development

The Council on Foundations has supported foundations working internationally for decades, helping to streamline regulations and champion best practices to help funders more easily make global grants. Encouraging foundations to give more directly to locally led organizations is a key part of our strategic direction, and aligns with our beliefs that the more we let go of control and power, the more others can lead and the more we let others in, the better ideas and relationships become.

To deepen our collective understanding of the data, the Council produced Advancing Locally Led Development: An Overview of U.S. Foundations’ Direct Global Giving, a report analyzing how U.S.-based foundations make international grants directly to locally led organizations in countries where they are registered. This data is available now, for the first time, to support the field to move toward increased direct global grantmaking.

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