Today, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) release the special edition of the Global Philanthropy Environment Index (GPEI), which features the reorganization of previously published information to highlight the diverse environment for philanthropy in Europe.
Ricardo André Marques, Ph.D., is the GPEI expert on Portugal. You can read his insights about current philanthropic trends in Portugal below. You can also check out his full report on Portuguese philanthropy, or learn more about the Global Philanthropy Indices.
My involvement with philanthropy began in the 1990s, when I joined some social (but also artistic) movements that fought for different social causes (gender equality, housing rights, working conditions, among others). Along with this involvement, I studied sociology at the university and also integrated the student associative movement, having been involved in the struggle for free and quality public education.
Training in the social sciences enabled me to work on the reality of the nonprofit sector, not only as a technician, but also as a researcher and consultant. As an integrated researcher in teams from different research centers, I was able to study the social reality and the nonprofit sector not only in Portugal but also at European Union level (particularly in matters related to volunteering, associative movements, philanthropic organizations, and it also enabled me to work the relationship between the government and the third sector).
My focus has always been on the fact that the recommendations given to the various actors (government and civil society organizations) could be incorporated into public policy and civil society organizations’ capacity to respond, which is unfortunately not always the case in the Portuguese scenario.
In methodological terms, I worked on a diachronic analysis – that is, always based on the understanding that the contemporary Portuguese scenario reflects a historical process where different historical moments take on particular importance, among which we could highlight the Middle Ages and the importance of the Catholic works of mercy; the industrialization of the late nineteenth century; the advent of the ideas of Republicanism and the emergence of a secular society; the “fascist” dictatorship that existed between 1926 and 1974; transition to the democratic period; or the recent International Monetary Fund intervention under the financial assistance program. The different moments contributed to the reality of the philanthropy we are facing today, although this is always in transformation.
In order to obtain a greater degree of trustworthiness, I carried out a bibliographical research that emphasized the specialized literature and the latest research on the scenario of philanthropy, nonprofit organizations and the third sector in Portugal.
I have also worked on quantitative indicators from different sources, not only national but also international; as well as information coming from different institutions belonging to the government and the main organizations that work on the topic of philanthropy and the third sector in Portugal, especially those that have observatories. My concern has always been that the report is as current as possible, but never ceasing to consider the notion of “system”.
In the process of collecting information, I have noticed some changes regarding the reality of philanthropy in Portugal. While on the one hand there are some substantial improvements due to less legal complexity, as well as greater administrative decentralization, the Portuguese reality, as well as that of other southern European countries, still has substantially lower degrees of participation and involvement when compared with the countries of Northern Europe, the United States and Australia.
This lower level of participation is evident in the reduced involvement of individuals in voluntary activities, for example. The government is still seen as the guarantor of social welfare and, therefore, conditions the perception about the space of civil society organizations and a more limited intervention by them. On the other hand, there is still some mistrust regarding philanthropic actions encouraged by the companies and their lack of dynamism in terms of philanthropic interventions.
The issue of funding is also not peaceful, and this is one of the main difficulties that nonprofit sector organizations face. On the other hand, it is necessary for the tax system to be more dynamic in order to generate capital gains for individuals and companies that make social donations, as well as for a more in-depth knowledge of the reality and the difficulties of organizations working in the area of solidarity and philanthropy.
Unfortunately, society and the media often end up giving relevance to the bad examples and not to everything that has been positive in the scenario of solidarity and social intervention. However, Portuguese society is very supportive and this is evident in its ability to organize and mobilize around the great social causes. I think, fundamentally, that is what should be valued.
Having the opportunity to work on the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Global Philanthropy Environment Index was a very enriching and unique experience. The level of involvement and the spirit of mutual help have always been very high and should serve as an example of good practice for other institutions.
The research that has been developed contributes not only to the knowledge of philanthropy in the world but also allows pertinent comparisons that can and should be used in order to increase the degrees of philanthropic intervention. I have learned a lot and hope to have contributed positively to this knowledge.
Ricardo André Marques has a degree in Sociology, a Master’s in Sociology / Cities and Urban Cultures, an MBA in Management and Marketing, and a Ph.D. in Social Sustainability and Development. He worked as a technician in the social area and integrated research teams from the Universities of Coimbra and Lisbon, having also worked as a university professor and researcher in Angola. Along with his activities as a trainer, he also works as a consultant for Stone Soup Consulting.