Report Calls on Funders to Support Global Goals at Home and Abroad

U.S. philanthropy has a critical role to play in supporting and advancing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, both domestically and internationally, a report from the Council on Foundations argues.

The report, From Global Goals to Local Impact: How Philanthropy Can Help Achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in the U.S. (26 pages, PDF), examines how the new global development framework is applicable to the work of U.S. foundations and looks at how U.S. funders can integrate the SDGs into their domestic grantmaking. Among other things, the report urges funders to go beyond acknowledging that the SDGs are embedded in their missions and seek, instead, to change embedded systems and structures, support interventions that can advance multiple goals, and advocate for changes in existing power dynamics. The report further argues that developments in crowdsourcing, non-traditional funding cycles, and impact investing  present opportunities to support large-scale change.

The report includes case studies of work at the intersection of domestic programs and global goals, as well as a "checklist" of actions for the philanthropic sector and grantmaking institutions to take. The report's recommendations for U.S. philanthropy include prioritizing collaborations and partnerships; leveraging the power of data and technology; raising awareness of the SDGs among staff, grantees, peers, and the public; tracking progress toward the goals and identifying new ways to measure that progress; engaging local leaders and grassroots organizations; and seeking new ways to catalyze long-term projects and funding toward the SDGs. In addition, the report calls on foundations to be transparent about how the goals are being integrated into their program areas, partnerships, and organizational cultures.

An analysis by Foundation Center estimates that grantmaking in support of the SDGs could total as much as $360 billion through 2030 — far surpassing foundation funding between 2000 and 2015 for the Millennium Development Goals. The SDG Philanthropy Platform is tracking that funding, which totaled $97.3 billion between 2010 and 2013, with funding for health and education accounting for more than half of the grant dollars awarded.

"In an increasingly fractured world, the SDGs call us to see our work as part of humanity's larger story," said COF chief executive Vikki Spruill. "By providing a framework that allows all people to contribute, the SDGs have the potential to transform our planet by building alignment about the challenges that all people face. The SDGs mark an unprecedented global commitment to the shared responsibilities of building a better world. U.S. philanthropy must seize this historic moment and contribute meaningfully to the success of this effort because foundations that work domestically have just as much reason to care about the welfare of others as those who make grants overseas."