The Sustainable Development Goals

What is the role for philanthropy?

On September 25th at the United Nations, 193 countries ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global targets that will serve as a new global framework for how governments, philanthropy, non-profits, and the private sector can work together to address challenges all of us and the communities we serve face on a local and global scale. Council staff have been participating in conversations about achieving these goals and philanthropy’s critical role in this endeavor. A recent op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy last week underscored this point.

As a national philanthropy association with a diverse philanthropic membership, the Council works to ensure that this diversity of philanthropic institutions is represented in cross-sector endeavors such as the Sustainable Development Goals. For the past year, the Council has worked with key funders and partners to ensure that philanthropy has had a voice in development of these new global goals. We believe that all Council members can find their work within them – regardless of what type of foundation you are and whether you fund initiatives domestically or abroad.

We hope that Council members will take a few moments to learn more about this important framework. Please see below for more information on the SDGs and how you might consider becoming more involved. We look forward to working with you as fellow citizens of our global community as we collectively begin taking steps towards these goals during the next 15 years.

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are the successors to the Millennium Development Goals. They consist of 17 ambitious global goals such as ending poverty in all its forms and ensuring universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs apply to all countries, including the United States. Given the 47 million Americans living in poverty today, the SDGs ask all funders, including those focused entirely on domestic issues, to work together to create change.

Why do they matter to philanthropy?

These broad goals address the same problems that our field is tackling: reducing poverty, improving livelihoods and quality of life, and creating a more equitable global society.

Assistance from philanthropic organizations and the private sector is necessary for the SDGs to succeed. The goals provide a framework for foundations to lead together with governments, civil society, and the private sector in creating a better world over the next 15 years.

Philanthropy can provide more than just financing for these goals. We are able to act dynamically and take risks in the short-term, but also make long-term commitments towards complex issues like inequality and climate change. We also have important technical expertise, strong grantee relationships, and links between governments, civil society, and the private sector.

How can I learn more and get involved?

Take a look at our initiative on the SDGs & Philanthropy and read our report on how U.S. philanthropy can use the goals domestically. 

The Council is excited to partner with the Foundation Center and others in the launch of a new resource at, which will track philanthropy’s investments against each of the 17 SDGs. The U.N. also launched a website fully outlining the SDGs, which I strongly encourage you to visit.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Natalie Ross, our Global Philanthropy Director. We want to connect you with resources on the SDGs, including a new resource page here, where you can read more about how Council members see the SDGs as relevant to their work.

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Sustainable Development Goals


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Natalie Ross

Vice President, Membership, Development and Finance