Our History: The Pioneer Network of Foundations
Networking was a concept virtually unheard of in the 1970s. It was an unfamiliar concept to non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Philippines until the Association of Foundations (AF) came to be.
Established in November 1972, AF is the country’s first network of NGOs. Its mission is enabling its member foundations to develop sustainable programs that serve their communities. Through the years, AF has become a bridge to grant opportunities, a capacity builder, a data bank, a consultant, and an advocate of key issues relevant to the sector. It is committed to the constant growth and professionalism of its member foundations as they continue to improve the quality of human life.
AF has a diverse membership united in its desire to address various development challenges in the country. Member organizations come from all over the Philippines—from a highly urbanized Metro Manila to the northernmost province of Batanes down to the southern island of Mindanao. They include the experience-rich smaller organizations with a strong presence in remote rural areas to the bigger and resource-rich non-profit institutions and corporate foundations. They are involved in education, health and nutrition, capacity building, microfinance, children’s welfare, corporate social responsibility, social services, disaster risk reduction, climate change and other socio-cultural development initiatives.
AF is the only umbrella organization of Philippine foundations recognized by the Council on Foundations (USA)
Early Years: 70s
AF was primarily a clearinghouse of information among foundations. It published the first-ever Philippine Directory of Foundations in 1974, followed by a four-volume edition in 1979. Updates backed by an electronic databank were subsequently done in 1990 and 1996.
AF also initiated the accreditation of member foundations to maintain the highest standards of integrity at a time when foundations lacked the esteem they deserved. It became a venue for knowledge and skills sharing as well as peer learning and emerged as an advocacy body to foster a deeper public understanding of foundations as institutions of nation-building.
In the late 70s, the role of AF expanded to fund sourcing for the survival of its members. It was also at this time when AF actively lobbied for issues such as tax incentives and other policies that threatened to stifle the growth of NGOs.
Restored Democracy: 80s and 90s
After the EDSA Revolution in 1986 when democracy was restored, AF mobilized a total of P25 Million for 45 projects nationwide. Among the prominent projects implemented were the Philippine-Canadian Human Resource Development Program in (year) and the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme in 1992.
AF also became a founding member of the following organizations:
·Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), a non-stock, non-profit service organization that certifies non-profit organizations meeting established minimum criteria for financial management and accountability in the service to underprivileged Filipinos.
- Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE- NGO), the largest aggrupation of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Philippines
- National Coordinating Council on Local Government (NCC-LG),
- Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperatives, provides financial and non-financial services to empower marginalized sectors with considerations on the 4Ps (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace) of sustainable development.
The League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), which advocates philanthropy among business corporations in the Philippines, began as a sub-sector of AF.
Building Foundations: 2000s
At the turn of the millennium, AF has directed 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. AF promotes transparency and accountability among its members and encourages them to obtain PCNC certification. To help members prepare for the rigorous certification process, AF conducts and facilitates one-on-one mentoring and consultations.
Given the diversity and geographic spread of its membership, AF facilitated the creation of regional alliances as venue for members to work together for collective impact. These currently include the Batangas Alliance, SOCSARGEN Convergence, Davao Cluster, Negros Coalition, and Baguio Caucus.
In this decade, among its notable programs and projects were:
- Building Successful Boards and Managing for Effective Board Governance, a two- pronged governance training program
- NGO Strengthening Assistance Mechanism with support from The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
- Strengthening the Capacity of CSOs Project, a USAID-funded project implemented by a CSO consortium including AF. AF led in designing and delivering the modules on Governance and Leadership and Strategic Planning and Management.
Current Thrust: Co-leadership Towards a Responsive and Future-Ready Philippine NGO Community
Under a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) operating environment, with more development challenges while NGO resources are decreasing, AF membership determined to contribute in achieving four specific outcomes.
a. Nurtured pool of competent and committed NGO leaders and talents
To understand the leadership challenges of the Philippine NGO sector, AF conducted and published the Study on Leadership Transition in the Philippine NGO Sector in partnership with the Peace and Equity Foundation. The Study painted a serious leadership issue in the sector that required urgent and more comprehensive response.
Building on its strengths, AF will continue to provide support to NGOs – within and beyond its members – at the individual, institutional and sector levels. Its flagship program, the Leaders Empowered and Dedicated to Serve through the NGO Sector (LEAD to Serve Program), was informed by the Study. It is primed to become an Academy offering competency-based courses, learning sessions, mentoring and an innovative fund that supports innovations.
b. Enhanced engagements of AF members in collaborative work with different stakeholders to achieve development agenda
Achieving societal impact particularly under a “new normal” requires working together more and better. To this end, AF will enhance its capacity to serve as the collaboration platform for AF members and external partners to initiate, strengthen or scale-up collaboration towards a shared objective.
AF continues to engage in Zero Extreme Poverty 2030 Movement which is composed of civil society organizations (CSOs) who came together in 2015 to consolidate poverty alleviation efforts at the national and local levels. It complements the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 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 lead the Education Cluster.
c. Increased public awareness of AF as a trusted network to enhance and sustain public trust
Being the largest networks of NGOs and foundations, AF can consolidate date and produce relevant and timely information, education and communication materials that could represent the sector. It wants to establish itself as a Center that will disseminate resources aimed at rebuilding the public perception of the NGOs.
In partnership with Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS), a non-stock and not-for-profit organization based in Hong Kong, AF will regularly release the Doing Good Index (DGI) across 15 Asian economies including the Philippines. DGI examines the enabling environment for philanthropy and private social investment and serves as indicator on how Asian economies were catalyzing philanthropic giving.
d. Strengthened AF Secretariat to sustainably deliver member services
To pursue these more ambitious endeavor, AF Secretariat needs to grow and develop by increasing in number and enhancing competencies through continuing professional development and succession planning. These should be anchored on a sound performance management system and supported by a retirement fund and more endowment fund.