An increasing number of philanthropic resources are being commited to helping people in the developing world, where more than one billion people live in extreme poverty. The creation of the Millennium Development Goals—eight international development goals that range from ending poverty to combating HIV/AIDS—have focused the world's governments, development institutions, and philanthropists on achieving a measurable set of objectives. "When we see the greatest inequities in the world, children who grow up and whose lives could be saved for less than 10 dollars, you say, the value of the dollar you spend for a child in Bangladesh or in Africa or India, goes a very long way,” says Melinda Gates, speaking to the importance of giving globally.
The philanthropists we interviewed describe the challenges associated with giving globally as enormous and intertwined. A lack of clean water, inadequate nutrition, and the absence of other basic necessities, coupled with a lack of access to basic healthcare and education, all lead to disease, an inability to earn a living, and further poverty. These philanthropists also face differences in language and culture, distance from their beneficiaries, complex government systems and a lack of basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity, which also make operating in this space challenging.
Yet despite myriad obstacles, our interviewees are finding ways to anchor their strategies and make progress. Some find anchors by supporting specific groups of people, such as women and girls, whose advancement sets in motion a multiplier effect, benefiting their families, communities, and the overall economy. Others focus on a particular intervention in a particular place, such as building wells in West Africa. Still others concentrate their giving on low-cost, easy-to-implement solutions to a specific problem, such as eradicating malaria by providing lifesaving bed nets. Using their business experience, some of these philanthropists see an opportunity for the private sector to play a significant role in taking these basic yet highly effective interventions to scale.
Given the magnitude and complexity of the issues in global giving, our interviewees are also finding that collaboration—with government and other nonprofits—is essential in order to achieve results.
Through their targeted investments and collaborations, the philanthropists we interviewed are beginning to see an exciting and inspiring social return on their investments.