Community Foundations – between local development and international perspectives

The interview with Daniele Giudici provides the necessary tools to understand the current evolution of community philanthropy in Italy

Community Foundations – between local development and international perspectives

First the experience within the Allianz Foundation, then the leadership of Fondazione Lambriana (in the Milanese Diocese) with a constant activity to launch and consolidate community foundations. Daniele Giudici is one of the few Italian Fellows at the Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society in New York, Councillor of Assifero since 2013 and, most recently, Global Fellow at the prestigious China Philanthrophy Institute in Beijing.

Thanks to this background and deep experience, the interview with Daniele Giudici provides the necessary tools to understand the current evolution of community philanthropy in Italy.


Community foundations are among the philanthropy phenomena that are experiencing a particularly relevant evolution in Italy. Which are the main trends in your opinion?

Thanks to the practice during the New York Fellowship, my vision on community foundations took a new broader scope: if once you used to concentrate only on grant-making and on how to set up calls for proposals, now you look long-term, focusing in particular on a far-sighted governance that must be careful about investments, and on beneficiaries – trying to understand how to effectively answer to social needs.

Community foundations have now a key role in collecting and answering the needs of organizations, individuals and families to donate and act transparently. I was the only Italian in 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio, attenting the Centenary of the birth of community foundations and I had the chance to look closely at the juridical and contextual differences among our continents – but a clear point emerged as the pivotal one for all: the ability to interact with the community.

Among the most interesting trends in the community foundations arena in Italy, the experimentation of Vital Signs (VS), developed by Fondazione Comunitaria Nord Milano, need to be mentioned. It consists in a method facilitating the achievement of the overall goals of a community foundation, starting from those related to grant-making and assessment, by taking into consideration statistics and clear indicators. We often take for granted we know all the features of the community we live in, but it is necessary to leverage on robust and objective data when dealing with complex themes such as welfare, employment, immigration, education, financial literacy, microcredit, social entrepreneurship, etc. Based on targeted data in these sectors, a community foundation can empower its strategy by sharing with structures and actors at a local level the collection and development of evidence-based indicators in an objective rather than theoretical way.


Vital Signs (VS) could represent an innovation for the whole Italian philanthropic sector, especially if taken as a support to build social impact assessment processes. How is the Fondazione Comunitaria Nord Milano (FNM) applying this methodology and which goals did it achieve?

VS are based on the engagement of all subject and organizations in the community, public and private ones, to assess the most crucial needs. From this framework, you start collecting quantitative and qualitative data and defining specific indicators that will be used to understand how to improve grant-making and assess impact. Foundations that have applied VS have implemented a strategic multi-disciplinary tool, periodically updated and shared as info-graphics that also allows “to hand-over” the necessities of local territory. It works as a virtuous cycle that makes the grant-making strategy more effective, by assessing needs and helping to develop multi-year projects on specific themes – implementing relationships with local subject (donors included) and thus empowering to strategy and results of fund-raising. You also can improve the Foundation’s reputation as a catalytic actor of local resources, not only economic ones.

Therefore you end up touching all vital points that are important to develop economic sustainability: dialogue and community engagement, professional development of the team, constant attention of managers towards shifting socio-economic contexts that need a suitable answer. FNM signed a partnership with the Sociology Department of Bicocca University, becoming officially the first Italian foundation to embark on this path within the community.


In your approach to develop community foundations in Italy the international imprinting is clear as well as the attention to best practices at a global level. Why do you think it is important today to design local strategies in a perspective of exchange and constant learning within an international network?

As Vice President of Fondazione Comunitaria Nord Milano, I was able to meet in May more than 750 representatives of 200 foundations meeting at the 25th Conference on Canadian Community Foundations in Ottawa. As the only Italian there, I was invited to present our case and the first steps with VS to different personalities of Canadian philanthropy. This led to the birth of a close and continuative dialogue with Greater Montreal Foundation and with the Canadian Department of International Vital Signs. If learning on-field is truly essential, then we should ask ourselves why the 2016 Community Foundations Summit in Johannesburg and the European Summit in Cardiff last September where so overlooked by media and the press…

Even in China all these themes were dealt with thanks to the compelling program promoted by the European Foundation Centre and the German Mercator Stiftung. The China Philanthrophy Institute, promoted by the main entrepreneurs of the country and by Bill Gates, asked me to share the experience on themes as “Effective Grantmaking” and “How to maintain investor and donor relationship” – a chance to highlight good practices by community foundations.

In Johannesburg the word was “shift the power”, in New York “inspiring and sharing”, in Ottawa “belong”, in Beijing “co-sharing, co-partnership”: everywhere I had a confirmation of how important it is to engage with the community (all actors and “community leaders”) to deploy an effective grant-making system able to attract new investors/donors.

The possibility of confronting within international contexts allow you to better understand the value of what you are promoting at a local level and to draw on interesting best practices, even if you than have to assess the peculiarity of each territory when you are reasoning in an implementing perspective.

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