We seek to help philanthropic organizations and civil society understand and improve the legal environment for grantmaking, fundraising, and giving around the globe.

Laws regulating philanthropy, fundraising, grantmaking, and receipt of funding vary greatly around the world. There is often a lack of clear, concise information to help organizations understand a country’s legal environment for giving. This knowledge is critical, as some countries impose significant and complex barriers to giving and receiving funding. ICNL seeks to fill the knowledge gap and support a legal enabling environment for philanthropy worldwide.

Key Resources

Virtual Currency Donations

This report, assembled by the Blockchain Trust Accelerator at New America with the support of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, assesses opportunities and obstacles in charitable donations of virtual currencies. It aims to bring civil society organizations, would-be virtual currency donors, and policymakers up to speed on emerging trends.

Fundraising Principles

This report and briefer provides a global overview of current trends in fundraising regulation and self-regulation. It also offers principles and recommendations addressing seven key areas based on international and regional standards and country practices. The report aims to support advocacy efforts to create an enabling environment for fundraising around the globe.

Global Grantmaking Country Notes

In partnership with the Council on Foundations, ICNL maintains reports on thirty-four countries to help U.S grantmakers undertake equivalency determinations for foreign grantees. The reports in this series describe the legal frameworks for nonprofit organizations and provide translations of relevant legislative provisions.

General Principles on Civil Society's Right to Funding

These general principles, which were issued by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in cooperation with the Community of Democracies, summarizes key aspects of civil society’s right to receive international funding.

General Resources

International Review of Philanthropy and Social Investment

The Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment at the Wits Business School in South Africa recently launched the International Review of Philanthropy and Social Investment, a new interdisciplinary international journal for cutting and leading edge primary research on philanthropy and social investment. It explores the emergent and developing field of philanthropy and social investment in Africa and beyond.

Aid Barriers and the Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism

Around the world, countries are limiting the ability of civil society organizations to benefit from cross-border philanthropy. This article by Douglas Rutzen categorizes these constraints, summarizes governments’justifications, and analyzes restrictions under international law.

Understanding the Drivers of De-Risking and the Impact on Civil Society Organizations

This research report from the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law describes the effect on civil society organizations of banks’de-risking practices, including inordinate delays in cash transfers, onerous due-diligence requirements, the inability to open bank accounts, and arbitrary closures of bank accounts.

The Regulatory Framework for Fundraising in Europe

This study, produced by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, compares the legal frameworks for fundraising in sixteen European countries.

Basics of Grassroots Fundraising

This publication introduces the basic rules and principles of fundraising and offers practical advice on overcoming the difficulties commonly connected with raising funds. The handbook was produced by the Czech Fundraising Center, with support from the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

Allies or Adversaries? Foundation Responses to Government Policing of Cross-Border Charity

Professor Oonagh Breen, former ICNL board chair, explores the drivers behind recent restrictions on cross-border philanthropy, particularly the constraints imposed in the name of development effectiveness and host-country ownership of the deliberative space.

States, Public Space, and Cross-Border Philanthropy: Observations from the Arab Transitions

Professor Barbara Ibrahim, ICNL board member, explores the policies and regulations shaping an important aspect of civic life, the mobilization of funds for public purposes. The paper focuses on international funding flows for philanthropic purposes, with case studies from Egypt and Tunisia.

Guidelines for a Model Foundations Law in the MENA region

These guidelines, available in Arabic and English, identify key elements to include and best practices to consider in drafting foundation laws in several Arab countries. The guidelines were drafted in consultation with associations and philanthropic organizations working in the Middle East and North Africa.

International and Comparative Law Analysis of the Right to and Restrictions on Foreign Funding of Non-Governmental Organizations

This paper by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights examines the legal framework for cross-border funding as a protected right at international, regional, and national levels.

International Investment Treaty Protection of Not-for-Profit Organizations

In this ICNL paper, trade experts analyze the protections that investment treaties provide to cross-border funding of civil society organizations.

Experiences on the Implementation of the Percentage Designation Mechanism

Percentage-designation mechanisms are common supplementary sources of funding for civil society organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. This report by the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law provides an overview of percentage-designation legislation in Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia and reviews examples of the use of these mechanisms by civil society organizations.

The Closing Space Challenge: How Are Funders Responding?

This report by Thomas Carothers explores increasing restrictions on cross-border funding for civil society organizations and assesses funders’ responses.

UN Resources

UN Special Rapporteur Report on Foreign Funding of CSOs

In this report, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association explains that these freedoms include the right to seek, receive, and use resources from domestic, foreign, and international sources.

India: UN special rapporteur argues that restrictions on foreign funding are contrary to international law

This legal analysis by the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association argues that India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Act fails to conform to international law, principles, and standards.

All Philanthropy Related Resources

Analysis of the Current Legal Framework for Civil Society in India

Analysis of the Current Legal Framework for Civil Society in India
This report, written by Noshir H. Dadrawala for ICNL’s India nonprofit law reform workshops in December 2018, provides ... Read More

Legal Environment for Financial Sustainability in Georgia

A sunset over Tbilisi, Georgia. (Photo: Vladimer Shioshvili/CC)
In order to advocate for barrier-free access to resources, civil society organizations need to be ... Read More

ECNL: Tax Benefits Stimulating Philanthropy

currencies (photo credit:
There are several ways in which governments can actively foster an enabling environment for philanthropy ... Read More

Hong Kong’s New Security Law

Protesters in Hong Kong getting arrested by police, July 2020. (Photo: Studio Incendo/Wikimedia)
The passage of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law threatens to upend civic freedoms and ... Read More

Principles for Statutory Regulation and Self-Regulation of Fundraising

Hands holding money with a seedling growing - symbolizes a new investment (Photo: 401(K) 2012/Wikipedia)
The Fundraising Principles report provides a global overview of current trends in fundraising regulation and ... Read More

The Law Affecting Civil Society in Asia

UNSR meeting with civil society and human rights defenders on Asia issues in March 2019 (Photo: Jeff Vize)
Made up of more than 40 countries, Asia defies easy categorization. On the one hand, ... Read More
Explore our full resource collection, which includes reports, legal analysis, and curated collections of materials covering an array of issues impacting civic space around the world.