Tell Us about a Really Smart International Grant

From the Winter 2012 symposium on international giving

Trusting the Grantee to Do What They Do Best

By Steven M. Hilton


In 1991, following Conrad Hilton’s mandate to support those who suffer in darkness, we reached out to the Perkins School for the Blind, a world leader in education for children who are blind or visually impaired, often with multiple disabilities. We did our research and then we trusted Perkins to do what they do best. After two decades, the Hilton Foundation has provided more than $65 million to the partnership. By improving the quality of education, expanding teacher training, empowering parents, and working closely with governments, the Hilton/Perkins program has reached more than 240,000 children, parents, and teachers in more than 65 countries.

“Charly and Lisa Kleissner Want to Change the World”

By Russ Hall


Charly and Lisa Kleissner want to change the world. They have backed social entrepreneurs in developing countries—for example, through Social-Impact International they helped a community of artisans in India gain better markets for their goods, share better practices, and tap into capital and guidance to scale their businesses. Not content to do this just one business at a time, they have built a network of impact investors (called Toniic), written and talked widely to potential investors around the world, and singlehandedly made a dramatic change in the adoption of impact investment in foundations eager to use their corpuses to dramatically scale their accomplishments.

Low-cost, For-profit Private Schools

By James Tooley

The John Templeton Foundation took a big risk in funding a relatively unknown researcher looking at a phenomenon that, it appeared, only the researcher believed existed. Now, six years after the research was published, few doubt that low-cost, for-profit private schools are crucial for the education of the poor in developing and emerging economies. In the fall of 2011, Pearson, the world’s largest education company, became the latest to make a commitment to this sector, announcing future investments of $20 million. Previously, Orient Global committed $100 million. The Omidyar Network, Gray Matters Capital, Opportunity International, Edify, and IDP Foundation are other private philanthropic organizations providing millions of dollars of capital to help nurture and advance low-cost private schools. Governmental aid agencies are also getting in on the act. By taking that initial risk, Templeton helped bring to light a huge untapped resource in developing countries—educational entrepreneurs serving the poor.

Archives of the Jewish People

By Tad Taube


I am particularly proud of multi-year support by more than 20 philanthropic partners for the Jewish Genealogy and Family Heritage Center, established in Warsaw in 2009. The center is creating an interactive website to increase global access to the world’s most extensive collection of historical archives of the Jewish people in Eastern Europe. The center’s website will provide unique, guided research and information to clients worldwide in direct, real-time consultations, and will also gather family photos and documentation.

Conservation among the First Nations

By Steven J. McCormick

Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy

Together with other grantmakers, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded the Great Bear Initiative, a First Nations–led organization in British Columbia dedicated to land and ocean stewardship and management. The work is multi-faceted but effective: a core team negotiates with the provincial and federal governments on behalf of the 12 member Nations. A coordinator in each community helps collect traditional ecological knowledge from elders and resource users. Experts determine what each household needs for food, social, and ceremonial resources, then map that information. And there is a process to sketch out each community’s vision for managing their territory. Collectively, these efforts will sustain and rebuild conservation economies in First Nations’ traditional territories.

“Community-based Philanthropy around the World”

By Maureen Smyth

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation believes that for a development investment to really take root, it must include building local institutions that will ensure the investment’s viability over the long term. For this reason, Mott has been supporting the development of community-based philanthropy around the world. In 2003 we made what I consider to be a smart grant to the Charities Aid Foundation’s office in Moscow, providing challenge grants to nascent community foundations around the country. Those foundations were required to raise funds from local donors to match funding from Mott and a few Russian national corporations—not only for re-granting, but for operations and institutional development. Eight years later, the number of Russian community foundations that rely mainly on local contributions has grown from about 10 to around 40.

Expanding the One Acre Fund

By David Weekley


The Center for Global Development

By Edward W. Scott Jr.

Over a decade ago, as I began looking at ways to try to get the rich countries of the world to forgive the odious debt accumulated by now-deposed despots in the developing world, I was persuaded by others that what was really needed was a think tank where great minds in the realm of development could work. The result was the Center for Global Development (CGD). I asked that it not just be a sandbox for economists, but that their research always include a “so what?” recommendation. CGD is now the go-to source of policy recommendations for rich countries around the world.

Economic Growth to Rebuild Haiti

By Bill Frist


Established after the devastating earthquake in January 2010, the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund adopted a sharp focus on job creation and long-term economic growth. Grant recipients are all contributing to the rebuilding of Haiti, with grants being used for microloans to craftsmen, training workers in new skills, aid to entrepreneurs, and micro-mortgages. I especially support training for health workers. One great example is a recent $1.8 million grant to Zamni Lasante, a Haitian health organization, to launch a modern residency program for family-practice physicians, and a certification program for auxiliary nurses.


Return to the Symposium


“Ambitious, Visionary, Game-changing”: Two Donors on Birthright Israel

By Jeffrey Solomon

Birthright Israel is by far one of the most ambitious, visionary, and game-changing philanthropic initiatives undertaken in the realm of global youth engagement and cross-cultural relationship building. While Birthright was a philanthropic risk, its successes have exceeded expectations. Since we launched in 1999, approximately 300,000 participants from 54 countries have participated, creating an entire cohort of alumni who are ambassadors for the program. Eighty-five percent of participants feel encouraged to be involved in their Jewish community following a Birthright trip. It is one of those rare projects that has had a multiplier effect—attracting more young people than we currently have resources to fund, and inspiring donors who want to be part of a program that has the power to change the Jewish future. More than 12,000 individual donors now support it.

By Lynn Schusterman

We have supported the Birthright Israel program since its inception in 1999 and, under its auspices, close to 300,000 young Jewish adults from 54 countries have been given a free, 10-day trip to Israel. The impact has been far greater than ever imagined, both in strengthening participants’ Jewish identities and in developing an overall sense of connection to the global Jewish community. Birthright has also forged closer bonds between young Israelis and their counterparts in the Jewish Diaspora, a program model other countries are seeking to replicate as they strive to ensure that young adults of their own diasporic communities remain tied to their heritage and ancestral homeland.

Mentioned on this page

Roundtable Roundup

Get the latest news and analysis from Philanthropy Roundtable. Sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Roundtable Roundup.

"*" indicates required fields


This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.