The Pioneer Network of Foundations
Networking was a concept virtually unheard of in the 1970s. It was particularly alien to non-government organizations in the Philippines, at least, until the Association of Foundations (AF) came to be.
Established in November 1972, AF is the country’s first network of non-government organizations (NGOs). Its mission is to enable its member foundations to develop sustainable programs that serve their communities.
Through the years, AF has become a bridge to grant opportunities, capacity builder, data bank, consultant, and an advocate of key issues. It is committed to the constant growth and professionalism of its member foundations in their efforts to improve the quality of human life.
AF is the most experienced federation of foundations in the country, and perhaps the most heterogeneous in membership. Its well over one hundred member foundations come from all over the Philippines—from highly urbanized Metro Manila to the northernmost province of Batanes to the southern island of Mindanao. These foundations are involved in education, science and technology, health, art and culture, governance, social development and other special interests such as environment and micro-finance. The AF membership includes leading non-profit institutions, corporate foundations, and even small organizations based in remote rural areas. Such diversity is a clear reflection of AF’s pluralism, its multi-cause orientation being one of its main strengths and constant challenge as well.
In its early years, AF operated primarily as a clearinghouse of information among foundations. It also initiated the accreditation of member foundations in order to maintain the highest standards of integrity at a time when foundations lacked the esteem they deserved.
AF became the venue where people and foundations with expertise in specific fields shared their knowledge and experiences with those who were smaller or newer. With this, the National Science Development Board looked at AF member foundations as the dedicated few aiming for credibility in the highest degree.
As a result, AF also operated as an advocacy body dedicated to fostering a deeper public understanding of foundations as institutions of nation-building. It published the first-ever Philippine Directory of Foundations in 1974, followed by a four-volume edition in 1979 and subsequent updates backed by an electronic databank in 1990 and 1996.
In the late 70s, the role of AF expanded to include fund sourcing to ensure the survival of its member foundations. It was also at this time that AF actively lobbied for issues such as tax incentives and other policies that threatened to stifle the growth of non-government organizations. AF was determined to establish itself as a partner of government in the task of national building.
In the decade following the EDSA Revolution in 1986, AF mobilized a total of P25 Million for 45 projects nationwide. It put together the Philippine-Canadian Human Resource Development Program which prioritized capability building among member foundations. In 1992, AF hosted and managed the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme. AF also became a founding member of the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), the National Coordinating Council on Local Government (NCC-LG), and the Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperatives. In the same year, the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), which advocates philanthropy among business corporations in the Philippines, began as a sub-sector of AF. Its international affiliations include involvement in the Asia-Pacific Advisory Forum of CIVICUS, a world alliance of civil society organizations. Today, AF is the only umbrella organization of Philippine foundations recognized by the Council on Foundations (USA).
As the new millennium began, AF has dedicated much of its efforts to professionalizing the non-profit sector and strengthening the capacity of members through activities geared toward improved board governance, institutional effectiveness and stability, and strategic partnerships.
Among its notable programs is Building Successful Boards and Managing for Effective Board Governance – a two-pronged governance training program which AF has been conducting for members and partner organizations since 2004.
Given the diversity and geographic spread of its membership, AF embarked on building regional alliances to provide a venue for members to network among themselves and enable them to work together for common development projects. These currently include the Batangas Alliance, SOCSARGEN Convergence, Davao Cluster, Negros Coalition, and Baguio Caucus. These alliances strive to provide a nurturing environment where members can count on each other for support and encouragement, and foster collaborations that improve program efficiency and multiply the impact of their respective development interventions.
In 2007, AF managed the small grants facility for capacity building known as the “NGO Strengthening Assistance Mechanism” with support from The Sasakawa Peace Foundation.
AF continuously promotes transparency and accountability among its members and encourages them to obtain certification from the Philippine Council on NGO Certification (PCNC). To help members prepare for the stringent certification process, AF conducts and facilitates one-on-one mentoring and consultations particularly on administrative and finance systems with the objective of ensuring good governance becoming intrinsic in their operations.
From 2011 to 2014, AF worked with a consortium of CSOs that implemented the USAID-funded “Strengthening the Capacity of CSOs Project” where AF was tasked to design and implement the modules on “Governance and Leadership” and “Strategic Planning and Management”.
RECENT MILESTONES (2015-Present)
AF has undertaken a Study on NGO Leadership Succession. AF aims to contribute to improved leadership succession planning in the Philippine NGO sector. As an initial step, in partnership with the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), AF conducted a study to better understand the challenges faced by NGOs in transitioning from existing to future leadership.
The study indicated that leadership transitions will happen at a wider scale. 65% of the respondent Executive Directors (EDs) are planning to leave in the next five years. However, it also indicated that 55% of the respondent NGOs have no existing transition plan mainly because they do not feel it is a priority. Given these data, there is an imminent concern in leadership transition within the sector. The full study may be downloaded from http://bit.ly/AFLeadershipStudy2018.
As a follow-through to the leadership transition study, AF is now implementing the LEAD to Serve Program. To address the issues identified in the NGO Leadership Succession Study, AF is now implementing the project “Leaders Empowered and Dedicated to Serve through NGO Work” or simply LEAD to Serve. The project aims to contribute in attracting and keeping a pool of highly competent and committed NGO talents who aspire to become NGO leaders primarily through capacity building. Batch 1 of LEAD to Serve enrollees completed the leadership module in February 2018. Batch 2 has started the program in November 2019 and is expected to complete the module in 2020.
AF participated in establishing the Doing Good Index (DGI). The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS), a non-stock and not-for-profit organization based in Hong Kong, led a research project in 2017 to create the Doing Good Index (DGI) across 15 Asian economies. The DGI examined the enabling environment for philanthropy and private social investment and served as indicator on how Asian economies were catalyzing philanthropic giving. In the Philippines, CAPS partnered with AF and the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Part of the research was a survey of local social development organizations (SDOs) preceded by a meeting with SDO experts both from the government and CSOs. The pilot DGI was launched in January 2018 (http://caps.org/our-research/doing-good-index-2018/).
CAPS continued working with AF in preparing the next DGI which was recently published (https://caps.org/our-research/doing-good-index-2020/).
AF has launched the NGO Transparency Initiative (NGO-TI). The Transparency Initiative is an online platform developed by AF as part of the collective efforts to promote the integrity, transparency and accountability of the NGO sector. Please visit http://afonline.org/transparency/. AF member organizations voluntarily made accessible to the public their compliance with the regulatory requirements as non-stock, not-for-profit organizations. Currently in its initial phase, NGO-TI shows the AF member’s compliance to reportorial requirements including the General Information Sheet (GIS), Audited Financial Statements, and Annual Report. It also indicated the NGO’s commitment to the Code of Ethics and details on PCNC certification. The next phase of the NGO-TI will see more NGOs included in the platform through an ongoing partnership with the PCNC.
AF is an active convenor of the Zero Extreme Poverty by the Year 2030 Movement (ZEP2030). ZEP2030 is composed of civil society organizations (CSOs) who came together in 2015 to consolidate poverty alleviation efforts at the national and local levels. Complementing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ZEP2030 has become a platform for collaborative action among CSOs to help uplift the lives of at least one million Filipino families from extreme poverty to self-sufficiency by the year 2030. Seven thematic clusters were formed, with Social Justice and Equity as the overarching theme: Education, Health, Livelihood, Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries, Housing and Shelter, and Partnership for Indigenous Peoples.
AF is the lead organization for the Education Cluster. Currently, there are 37 AF members who are actively involved in ZEP2030, 29 of them are in the Education Cluster.
|1972||The Association of Foundations is established as the first network of NGOs|
|1974||Publishes the first Philippine Directory of Foundations|
|1978||Influences shelving of a proposed taxation decree on foundations with an Open Letter to the President in the major newspapers|
|1980||Acts as the Philippine intermediary in the overseas grant making activities of the Japan Center for International Exchange|
|1986||Becomes a founding member of the Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP)|
|1987||Signs a Joint Declaration of Purposes and Principles of Development providing the framework for NGO-GO collaboration|
|1990||Collaborates with Phildhrra to conduct the first series of regional environment workshops for NGOs in the country|
|1991||Leads project “ Nationwide Mechanism for NGO/PO Selection and Representation in Local Special Bodies”, funded by the USAID- PBSP Local Development Assistance Programme (LDAP)|
|1992||Hosts and manages the United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (UNDP GEF-SGP)|
|1993||Facilitates creation of League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) as a sub-sector|
|1994||Launches a project “Promoting Local Initiatives for Democracy and Justice “ (PRODEM) with four other NGOs to strengthen public-private sector partnership in local governance and co-management of the development process|
|1997||With CODE-NGO publishes NGOs in a New Arena, a book providing reflections on managing fund mechanisms for development|
|1998||Together with 5 other networks, creates the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC)|
|2000||Publishes “Donor Trends: A Resource Book of Development Assistance in the Philippines”|
|2001||Publishes “Philippine NGOs: A Resource Book of Social Development NGOs”. Establishes website and electronic databank|
|2002||Publishes “Mga Kuwentong AF: Stories 30 Years After”|
|2002||Establishes the Philippine Foundation Center (PFC)|
|2004||Publishes “What You Should Know About a Community Foundation”|
|2005||Publishes “Good News for the Poor: Diaspora Philanthropy by Filipinos”|
|2005||Publishes “Philippine NGOs in the 21st Century: Searching for Renewed Relevance”|
|2006||Publishes “The Community Foundation Handbook”|
|2007||Manages the small grants facility NGO Strengthening Assistance Mechanism or NSAM|