Tools for Executive Directors and Donors

The Horizontality Gauge

A tool and self assessment process that CPOs in Africa use to improve grantmaking practice

The Philanthropy Problem

There is a widespread problem – Community Foundations and CPOs continually strive to improve their practice. Doing good development work and being effective is their business.

The purpose of developing the HG responds to the value placed on “community” by Community Foundations and other CPOs. In fact building on what is local – the community’s own leadership, resources, priorities, ways of making decisions is regarded as a strategic advantage of these types of development vehicles compared to other NGOs. Yet, in reality placing community at the centre of grant making does not always happen. This pull downward (horizontally) to respond to and favour how the community helps itself can be compromised by the upward pull (vertically) experienced by a CPO given back donor demands and their own need for accountability. In short Lucy Bernholtz argues that there is a gap between “aspiration and practice” such that building the organisation takes precedence over building community.

The importance of addressing this gap lies in the potential for building on what is local for sustainable development. If development initiatives tap into what people in a community do organically to bring about change then the impact of these efforts and process are more likely to ensure after a development project closes down – because they are embedded in what people prioritise, are used to and do naturally.

The key to addressing this gap is first for a CPO to be able to assess what their grant making behaviour is and determine whether it leans toward what the aid industry wants or the needs of the community. Only when organisations can gauge the direction of their behaviour can they even begin to improve their practice for increasing development effectiveness in particular around sustainability ensuring that they change they help bring about will indeed endure by being embedded in community.

What is the Horizontality Gauge?

The Horizontality Gauge is a questionnaire that staff of CPOs complete individually before all scores are combined. The process is done in house, takes up to four hours and includes a staff discussion and interpretation of organisational behaviour in respect to community grantmaking.

This instrument is low cost. It is done in house and engages all staff involved in grantmaking.

The CPO can benefit but so can back donors. They can see the ways in which their own demands on the Community Foundation and CPO can actually pull them away from a focus on community and putting this first . The results of the gauge can in fact be part of donor education and the starting point for an honest discussion between Community Foundations / Community philanthropy organisations and back donors about how this relationship affects their practice and performance.

Do you need help implementing or measuring philanthropy? I’d love to help you.

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The Horizontality Gauge