Derek Ray-Hill

Director of International Strategy and Corporate Services

Charities Aid Foundation

Mind the gap: the role we can play in bridging the gap in funding for UN SDGs

11 October 2022

Record numbers of people gave to charity last year worldwide but the world’s framework for humanitarian improvement remains behind schedule and underfunded.

CAF’s World Giving Index 2022 was launched at a side-event at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly event in New York City on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using data from Gallup’s World Poll, the World Giving Index 2022 analyses generosity and giving habits and contains significant findings for the international community about who is giving and how, around the world.

I was delighted to chair the launch event with a discussion between five leaders from the non-profit and public sector: Marcos Neto (Director, Finance Sector Hub, United Nations Development Programme); Madlin Sadler (Chief Operating Officer, International Rescue Committee); Neil Heslop OBE (Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation); Ted Hart (President and Chief Executive, CAF America and CAF Canada); and Ilana Ron Levey (Managing Director, Public Sector Consulting at Gallup).

The World Giving Index proves that the spirit of giving, volunteering and helping people is embedded in nations of all sizes, income levels and global power. The top 10 countries this year range from the United States to Sierra Leone. The results give us a clear indication that we can work with delivery partners in delivering the SDGs, even at very micro levels, with the right engagement and an adaptable approach.

The World Giving Index offers hope against a stark global backdrop with rays of hope

Marcos Neto of the UNDP observed that this year’s findings offer hope in an otherwise sobering landscape. The UNDP’s latest annual Human Development Report found that scores across the Human Development Index declined for the first time in the report’s history of over 30 years. This indicates a regression in terms of human progress – and without progress, it will be impossible to achieve the SDGs.

However, against the backdrop of a global pandemic and economic hardship experienced by many communities worldwide, many people remain willing to donate money, volunteer time, and help one another. More than 3 billion people helped someone they didn’t know in 2021, and more people than ever (62%) reported that they helped a stranger last year - the highest score recorded since 2009. Furthermore, more people than ever donated in 2021, and in high-income countries, the rate of donations sharply increased by 10%.

The World Giving Index highlights how resources can be employed and developed to work towards the SDGs and advance global wellbeing more broadly. As Ted Hart of CAF America pointed out, the Index ultimately shows that generosity and giving cultures are strong worldwide – and that these can serve as structures to leverage to deliver humanitarian aid and progress the SDGs.

The financing gap has grown but is manageable with action

Madlin Sadler of the IRC noted that the financing gap between the SDGs and where progress stands almost doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic. In terms of meeting the SDGs, however, Madlin pointed out the challenge is that money isn’t moving around in a way that enables the global community to meet these targets by 2030.

Indeed, as Marcos highlighted, while the financing gap seems huge at an estimated US$4.2trn, it is still less than 1% of global wealth (US$430tr). Or in the context of global interest rates, it is fundable on an ongoing basis. Much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in countries where there is less humanitarian need, so this wealth must be distributed more effectively across borders to progress towards the SDGs.

Madlin also noted that impactful social and political change has three components: government leadership, public mobilisation, and innovation by business or non-profit organisations. Therefore, to leverage the wealth that exists in the world and funnel it towards achieving the SDGs, these different sectors and bodies need to work together in meaningful ways. 

The potential of the private sector in working towards the SDGs

CAF’s Chief Executive, Neil Heslop, pointed out the large and promising role that philanthropy can play alongside governments and businesses to meet these goals.  The consistently high performance of Indonesia (1st over the last 5 years), the US (3rd this year) and significant rise in Brazil’s ranking (54th to 18th) are examples where countries can come from any starting point to increase donations, volunteering and spontaneously helping strangers.

Despite global challenges, this year’s Index shows that there is evidence of more individual giving worldwide, indicating the potential for increased engagement with initiatives designed to help people and communities in need.

Giving boosts mental health and wellbeing

Ilana Ron Levey from Gallup, our research partners for the World Giving Index, made several thought-provoking observations during our discussion. She noted the significance that more people helped a stranger in 2021 than ever before. According to additional work they produce, giving directly boosts your own sense of health and well-being.

There are positive foundations among individuals worldwide in terms of giving habits and practices. It would be sensible for governments, businesses, and charities to leverage these foundations to support their projects that address the SDGs.

A practical way forward is to encourage more – and more successful – partnerships between corporates and charities. A powerful element of non-profit/corporate partnerships is that they can have scale and impact over the long term: charities and corporates can grow together, test different strategies, and eventually get them right, in a way that may not always be possible for more risk-averse bodies such as governments.

Ilana also made an important point that trust in governments, political leaders and the transnational organisations they endorse is low. Whereas belief in the community and well-known local actors is high. Perhaps this helps to explain the contradiction that we are all becoming more generous and yet delivery of the SDGs lags behind. 

What donors can take away from the World Giving Index 2022

Findings from the World Giving Index 2022 indicate that philanthropic structures and civil society are already quite strong in some countries. These structures can provide a firm foundation for donors to build on, or an existing framework through which to contribute.

These structures somewhat counter the top-down idea that philanthropists and organisations should or need to build such structures themselves in countries to channel donations into.

For example, other than the US, the countries ranked among the top 10 for helping a stranger are all located in Africa and South and Central America. Informal networks in these and other countries are based around giving among individuals and communities at a local level and show examples of structures that can be effectively reinforced or grown through international philanthropy, rather than being reinvented altogether.

Donors might therefore wish to donate to organisations working at a local level or seek larger charities that emphasise funnelling donations to existing on-the-ground networks.

Indeed, the challenges and demands presently facing governments and the non-profit sector indicate that for the global community to progress towards the SDGs, the private sector – including individuals and businesses – will need to play a larger role in international global development.

The corporate sector can place pressure on governments to act in alignment with humanitarian aid initiatives. Moreover, businesses also have something to gain from working towards SDGs: when initiatives align with corporate values, businesses have the potential to strengthen their purpose, identity, and even their bottom line. And in some circumstances, philanthropists can be better placed to take on the financial risks of funding a particular project in a target country. They do not have constituents or investors to please with every gift or investment and can be bolder and less traditional in their approach.

The World Giving Index is published annually in the Autumn of every year. We are grateful to Gallup, our panellists and the tens of thousands of participants for making it possible.

Read the World Giving Index 2022 and find further details of the event here Alliance Magazine.