Many donors are motivated to grant internationally, but they don’t know where to start. Fortunately, there are an ever-increasing variety of opportunities for global giving. Of course, these opportunities come with legal and tax implications.
While some foreign nonprofits are as easy to grant to as any in the United States, some organizations present a logistical challenge:
Options for International Grantmaking
To help you overcome any potential barriers, here are a variety of different options to consider:
Foreign charities recognized as 501(c)3 public charities
Any foreign charitable organization may apply to the IRS for recognition as a United States-based public charity by filing Form 1023. In addition, a foreign government or governmental subdivision automatically is treated as though it were a U.S.-based public charity.
Certain other organizations have been designated by executive order as public international organizations entitled to be treated as though they were 501(c)(3) public charities (e.g., the United Nations). As with grants to a unit of a foreign government, grants made to these international organizations must be used exclusively for charitable purposes. And grants to these entities must be made for a specific purpose; general and unrestricted grants are not allowed.
U.S.-based nonprofit organizations with established international programs
One of the most straightforward ways to give internationally is to grant to a U.S.-based charity that operates its own programs in other countries (e.g., CARE, Save the Children, Partners in Health, and The Nature Conservancy). These are often well-established organizations with strong track records for addressing a range of issues, such as poverty alleviation or disaster relief. This type of giving is appropriate if you want to fund a particular issue or cause yet have U.S.-based personnel oversee the work. This can be the easiest way to start exploring international opportunities while building your understanding of the issues and potential solutions.
Making grants to recognized public charities may be the most straightforward route for international giving, but it's not the only option.
“Friends of” organizations
These organizations are domestic public charities formed for the express purpose of benefiting a specifically named foreign charity. There are about 400 such organizations in the U.S., which tend to support colleges and universities, hospitals, arts and culture, and some religious organizations. Examples include: Friends of Cambodian Child’s Dream, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins San Frontièrs, and Friends of Armenian Cultural Treasures. As “Friends of” organizations work continuously with their foreign partner, they may be better able to conduct due diligence on the foreign charity, oversee the grant, and obtain evaluation reports than an individual donor.