Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Philanthropy in Other Countries

Permit me to put on my nerd hat here.  With a background in international studies and nonprofit management, this is the kind of thing that I love.  Our world is so interesting.

I've blogged before about the wonderful generosity of Kansas Citians. Americans in general are a pretty generous bunch.  Much of the reason we have such a thriving nonprofit sector in this country is because we have a society set up to support it.  The nonprofit sector in this country provides services - health care, assistance with basic needs, animal welfare, support of the arts, etc. - that in other nations are provided for solely by government or for-profit businesses. We Americans feel that the nonprofit sector, in all its transparent diversity, is the best way to deliver many of the things our culture values.  We have a tax system that supports individual donations to charity and we have trust in our nonprofit institutions. 

We are unique.  Not every country has what it takes to support a 'third sector.'  I recently heard about how Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, arguably two of the most famous American philanthropists, are reaching out to China to help them develop their own charitable sector. With China's rapid growth has come new wealth and  an opportunity for individuals to make a positive impact on their country through philanthropy. What I love about Gates and Buffet's approach is that they aren't aiming to spread the American model of philanthropy, but want to help China develop its own, culturally appropriate, philanthropic sector.  It's up to the Chinese to figure out how the nonprofit sector will work in their country.  Gates and Buffet just want to help move the conversation along.

As another example of philanthropy abroad, take a look at the website for Mexico City's Procura (there is a button on the site that will translate it into English).  I worked with this organization for a summer during graduate school.  What they are doing in Mexico, really trying to build a nonprofit sector from scratch, is amazing. 

If you know of other home-grown philanthropic movements abroad, I would love to hear about them in the comments section.  And if you have a question about nonprofit organizations close to home, send them my way. You can always find a current list of our BBB Charity Reports on the Kansas City BBB's Website.

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