Philanthropic Freedom: If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It

cgpHudson Institute’s Center for Global Prosperity (CGP) has released Philanthropic Freedom: A Pilot Study, the first time ease of giving has been fully measured and compared across countries.

The 13-country study fills a major gap in development policy and philanthropic research by surveying barriers and incentives to philanthropy in three main areas: the ease of registering and operating civil society organizations (CSOs); domestic tax policies for individual and corporate deductions, credits, and exemptions; and the ease of sending and receiving cash and in-kind goods across borders.

India, South Africa, and Mexico have regulations and tax incentives conducive to philanthropy, yet the laws on the books are met with bureaucratic obstacles. While Brazil and Egypt have similar domestic tax incentives, barriers to CSO operations and cross-border flows are significantly greater in Egypt. Egypt is joined by Russia and China with the most restrictions on philanthropic activity due to each government’s interference in civil society activities, cross-border flows, and few tax incentives.

Of particular interest to some eJP readers is the Russia Country Report. An excerpt:

“Since the early 20th century, Russian philanthropy has been mainly an act of the Russian aristocracy whose main support was for the arts and the poor. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian oligarchs grew in wealth and philanthropy reappeared when foundations started to form in the late 1990s. Most of the foundations were formed by high net worth individuals that ran successful corporations. Due to a few corruptions cases in the early 90’s, trust in philanthropy in Russia was low.

However, a few key leaders surfaced, including Vladimir Potanin, who founded the Potanin Foundation. While the philanthropic sector grew significantly since the 1990s, comparatively speaking, the Russian philanthropy is a relatively new phenomenon. Today, there are approximately 220,000 non-commercial organizations (NCOs) in Russia, about half of which
are public associations.

Currently, regulations regarding Russian civil society are changing. On July 20, 2012, the Russian President signed the Federal Law on Introducing Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Regarding the Regulation of Activities of Non-commercial Organizations Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents (hereinafter referred to as “the Law”). This new law came into effect on November 21, 2012. The law’s provisions have the potential to significantly affect both Russian and foreign organizations carrying out activities in Russia. Many organizations are concerned that the ramifications of the law will be most damaging for Russian NCOs actively working in the areas of advocacy and human rights. The law includes a number of ambiguous provisions that may require elaboration in regulations yet to be promulgated. It is difficult to forecast at this time all of the possible ramifications of the Law, as much will depend on how its provisions are implemented.”

The pilot study and all of the detailed country reports can be downloaded from