The story of EAPN begins with a study conducted in 1999 that estimated that there were as many as 60 local grantmaking trusts and foundations within East Africa, some of which were established as far back as the 1950s and earlier.
Beginning in 2001, like-minded individuals came together to advance the conversation about indigenous philanthropy in the region. Some of these conversations were facilitated by the Ford Foundation Office for Eastern Africa which convened a series of meetings of eight regional trusts and foundations in an initiative called the East Africa Foundations Learning Group. The primary goal of these meetings was to explore the different elements of foundation-building among philanthropic organizations, asset development, grantmaking, and governance, to make them more effective in their work.
The emergence of the East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) took place at a time of increased regional activity between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda brought about by the creation of the East African Community. Elections in Kenya in December 2002, which saw a peaceful and democratic political transition, further contributed to a mood of optimism in this region. It was seen as setting a background to the many opportunities for the trusts, foundations and other civil society organizations in the three-country region to work more closely together for the common good. At the same time the formation of the Association provided the opportunity to promote philanthropy more broadly and to strengthen grantmaking institutions that were serving the local communities.
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An association of grant-makers provided a central point of reference for all the work that is being done across this region. It also provided a forum for its members to exchange experience, information and expertise. The association had a sterling run for the first 10 years, attracting a number of members from across the sector, including core philanthropy organizations comprising of Foundations and Trusts, as well as members of the larger civil society who ran granting mechanisms. The Association also engaged with corporate organizations that were running remarkable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs significantly contributing to the giving culture in the region.
The work of the Association reached a peak in 2015, with an increased variety of members going beyond the strict confines of foundations and trusts which informed rebranding to the East Africa Philanthropy Network.
The current EAPN membership is drawn from Family Trusts, Community Foundations, Corporate Foundations, and other types of grant-making and non-grant making organizations registered as foundations, trusts and CSO’s that operate in the region and actively engage in promoting philanthropy in East Africa.