January 23, 2024

International Grantmaking: Important Things to Know When Giving Globally

Author National Philanthropic Trust

International crises—whether natural disasters, wars or disease outbreaks—are often an impetus for donors to give. These pivotal moments motivate many donors to look closer at the issues affecting communities in a particular country and evaluate where and how philanthropic support may have the greatest impact.

Philanthropy in the United States (U.S.) has long included international grantmaking. While the percentage of giving internationally usually hovers around six percent of total U.S. giving, in recent years, the pandemic and crises like the war in Ukraine spurred an increase in giving abroad. In 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 global pandemic, NPT’s donors gave more than $250 million to organizations across 40 countries. For donors interested in expanding their philanthropic portfolio to include international grantmaking, here are a few factors to consider when giving.

Recognize the Requirements of International Granting

When giving to a charitable organization without a presence or intermediary connection in the U.S., it’s essential to remember that additional steps, legal requirements and due diligence are required. Thankfully, utilizing certain types of giving vehicles often makes international grantmaking simpler. NPT provides international grantmaking services, which can streamline this process. For specifics on international grantmaking from your DAF, our Donor Relations team is here to help.

Find Reputable U.S. Charitable Organizations Working Abroad

When a crisis occurs, local organizations are best positioned to respond. They know the community well and can rapidly assess needs. However, quickly identifying and funding these organizations can be difficult. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, it can be more efficient to support a U.S.-based organization that has a strong track record in disaster response—and ideally, a track record of working in the impacted country.

Due diligence and proper vetting are critical, and resources like Guidestar and CharityNavigator can help donors learn about organizational information, financial health and programmatic achievements. After researching and confirming IRS-approved U.S.-based charitable organizations with expertise in disaster response, donors may want to cross-check selected organizations’ websites to see if the organization is actively responding to a given disaster.

As more information emerges about the crisis and the organizations responding, donors may then want to pivot to or add locally-based organizations to their giving portfolio. Local organizations are there for long-term recovery efforts and need ongoing support.

Consider the Benefits of Unrestricted Grantmaking and Recurring Gifts

Especially in the wake of natural disasters, individuals may feel compelled to donate critical supplies to areas hit hardest. However, sending unrestricted funds is the best way to allow organizations working on the frontlines to coordinate supplies with expert emergency response organizations. Unrestricted grantmaking provides flexibility to organizations.

Donors may also consider making recurring grants. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy found that only two percent of U.S. households gave to disasters that happened in previous years. But communities often grapple with recovery for years, if not decades. Making a giving plan that includes future gifts to areas facing ongoing crises or that are in phases of recovery can have a particularly powerful impact as funds from other donors shift elsewhere.

For donors interested in reviewing their grantmaking strategies to include international giving in their philanthropic portfolio or simply wish to learn more, NPT is ready to help you help others. Contact us at 888-878-7900 or npt@nptrust.org with any questions or inquiries.

About the Author

Joan Allmaras is a Philanthropic Solutions Specialist at NPT. She produces tailored, in-depth research on specific issues and geographic areas of interest to NPT’s donors. Ms. Allmaras holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.