Maggi Alexander, who has spent her career in the national and international philanthropic sectors, joined The Philanthropic Initiative in September to head up its Center for Global Philanthropy. A unit of the Boston Foundation, TPI advises companies, foundations, families and individuals interested in charitable giving.
Alexander recently spoke with ThinkAdvisor about changes she has seen in international philanthropy, trends that are emerging and demands on advisors to wealthy donors.
“Americans will continue to play a key leadership role [in global philanthropy], but as more and more wealth accumulates around the world, we’ll see philanthropy moving in different directions,” Alexander said.
A wide spectrum of donors is active in overseas philanthropy, she said. “As we age and accumulate more disposable wealth, we’re able to give more philanthropically. Particularly in the international arena, age is the factor you see.”
But what’s not in the statistics, Alexander said, is that young philanthropists are playing an important role. “We’ll see them contributing more and more as they have more means to do so. They’re starting trends that will go into the future, such as online giving and the use of social media. And many very large donors have families, and are engaging the next generation along with them.”
As well, philanthropists are becoming more female, she said. “Certainly for the U.S. that’s true, with women giving on average 26% more than men in the major donor category.” Women also have a different quality to their philanthropy. “They’re very relational in their giving. The way people are partnering globally is taking on a different feel.”
Alexander said the face of global philanthropy has changed over the past 30 years. People are much more globally aware. Today, most international donors have traveled outside the U.S., and most have spent time volunteering or working in a community.
In addition, the increasing visibility of what lives are like even in the remotest parts of the world is increasing donors’ sophistication, she said, “a movement away from a welfare kind of charitable approach to much more sophisticated types of giving that are very much rooted in long-term development strategies.” Important Causes
Alexander works with donors who have the capacity to give a few million dollars a year. Although the dollar amount they can give may be limited compared with the deep pockets of mega donors, oftentimes they are a valuable contribution by giving their time and expertise to causes.
Among the mid-level international donors she works with, she said, there is a great interest in education, global health and children’s issues. Women and girls is also a huge area of interest. “That seems to be increasing in its sophistication. People really understand the importance of investing in girls and women, and they’re doing it in much more sophisticated ways than even 10 years ago.”
Alexander said the environment was an interesting issue because donors in this category often did not know how to make a difference. “Donors who are interested in the environment are making a contribution, but that tends not to rank as high as the other areas.”
That has to do in part with emotion, she said. “It’s clear and easy to connect with issues such as education. So many of the donors themselves have benefited from education and see the power of that.”
Where environmental issues are connected with human lives, donors are able to engage more with the environment: water and sanitation, for example, or related livelihoods in the rain forests. “If it’s related to community, people see a way in,” she said.