PhilanthropyPosts with you again: So, what did we expect to happen and what actually happened in 2012?

Ok, so you all probably forgot by now that in 2011, Philanthropy Posts (PP) was started to provide a platform for exploring current issues and happenings surrounding philanthropy in the Balkans. In the meantime, PP had a looong pause due to all kind of different reasons with which we are not going to bother you…

But in spite of the long break, we are not done!

The first good news to share (we hope you’ll see it as good news 🙂 ) is that PP is finally back and is here to stay! We hope that this year will see PP back on its feet, with more interesting texts and news to share!

The second good news is about the “we” in the first paragraph, because Nathan Koeshall has joined Philanthropy Posts as one of the editors! Nathan has gotten the philanthropy bug under his skin in the last few years and, as many of you who read this blog, has a never ending thirst for understanding how to do philanthropy better and more effective here in the Balkans. Welcome Nathan!

The new round of PP blogs is starting (a bit late admittedly) with a look back at 2012: what we expected to happen in the philanthropy field and what actually happened?

Just to remind you, towards the end of 2011, PP asked a number of friends and active practitioners of philanthropy in the region to provide their views on what could be expected for 2012.

With 2012 now complete and a good part of the new year still ahead of us, PP once again asked those same friends and practitioners to reflect on the 2012 predictions and give us insight into which predictions came true and why some predictions may not have been fulfilled. They were also asked to provide a set of goals / priorities upon which we might jointly concentrate on in 2013 in order to further the development of philanthropy in the region.

So a big thanks to: Vesna and Zoran from Mozaik Foundation, BiH; Jasna from Tuzla Community Foundation, BiH; Branka from Slagalica Foundation, Croatia; Drago from Zamah Foundation, Croatia; Zoran from Center for Institutional Development (CIRa), Macedonia; Maja and Anto from  Fund for Active Citizenship (fAKT), Montenegro; Ana from Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, Serbia and Mia from Balkan Community Initiatives Foundation (BCIF) Serbia.

Since our friends shared a lot of thoughts, we’ll split the information into several blog entries to follow over the next couple of weeks! We hope that you’ll enjoy the reading and that you’ll find these insights as useful and interesting as we did!   And, needless to say, we would like to hear your comments and opinions – a lot of them :)!

Nathan and Alex

So, what did we expect to happen and what actually happened in 2012?

2012 Prediction 1:

Global philanthropic players (foreign donors) will continue to leave the Balkans and cause steady and continuous drop in foreign funding. The others will look for alternative, more efficient ways of funding in the region, turning to local organizations capable of re-granting in an effort to reduce operational costs as a way to compensate for the decrease in available funding.

There seems to be an agreement that this prediction to have been fulfilled; the departure or substantial decrease in funding levels by both foreign government and private foundations is noted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia. However, it seems that , the tendency of turning to local organizations capable of re-granting has been inconsistent across the 5 countries represented.  

On a positive note though, local organizations have been chosen over the past year to implement re-granting schemes for donors as diverse as the World Bank, Unicredit Foundation, Olaf Palme International Center (using SIDA funds), Swiss Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Balkan Trust for Democracy etc.. Most recently, the European Commission has piloted re-granting as a part of its country level support in Montenegro and Serbia, with the intention of rolling it into future calls throughout the region.  USAID has also begun to provide direct grant support to local organizations in line with its global Forward initiative, with several of the initial grants including a regranting component.

2012 Prediction 2:

Decrease of funding will bring CSOs and foundations to become more creative and innovative in promoting philanthropy, fundraising from local sources, using new mechanisms and tools and creating matches between donors and their own programs.

The consensus seems to be that this prediction was partially fulfilled. While there has been a measurable increase in activity among CSOs in seeking local funding and in piloting new mechanisms and tools, this is still at a pilot stage across the sector. While there is a greater awareness about the emergence of local philanthropy as a tool and means for increasing their programmatic sustainability, many CSOs have not moved fully into action in this realm as they need to be.

Zoran from Macedonia had an interesting point to make why this is so: “Surprisingly, a key strategy for CSOs that were the strategic partners of donors now closing their programs in Macedonia is to look for funding from another donor agency or program for grant support, rather than developing fundraising strategies focused on mobilization of local resources or supporting social entrepreneurial activities. Partially, the reason behind this is that donor programs do not having appropriate strategies for securing organizational sustainability of their local partners”.

“We believe more time is needed to fulfill this expectation. CSOs are still in a state of disbelief and criticism focused on making donors (local and foreign), rather than the creation of new and creative solutions. But definitely a stronger voice from the sector about the need to establish a positive legal and financial framework for philanthropy “ says Vesna from BiH.

Ana From Divac Foundation feels that: CSOs are heavily dependent on support from foreign donors, which can lead to less direct interaction with citizens and their problems. At the same time, foreign donors are pulling out, and citizens still lack sufficient confidence in the work of CSOs to support them financially”.   

Still, a number of respondents noted several instances where community-based organizations have had success in reaching out to their local business communities to raise needed resources, even in light of the continuing economic crisis in the region.  This increased awareness has moved several key organizations to make strategic investments in building staff capacity and reaching out to new potential partners.  The emergence of recently created networks, such as the Network of Creation Foundations and the Serbian Philanthropy Forum, that promote the exchange of emerging best practices and foster partnership and collaboration are also pointed to as an innovation in the sector to learn and transfer know-how.

And as Mia from Serbia noted, “Some new mechanisms and tools have been developed (online giving, global fundraising platforms, endowment funds, etc. How effective these are remains to be seen in 2013 and beyond.”

2012 Prediction 3:

General development and improvements of the legal and fiscal framework for philanthropy (incentives for giving, specific legal framework for foundations, etc.), that have already started in some countries will continue and spread through the Balkans.

Despite limited progress in some countries in seeing the legal and fiscal framework transition to a more friendly environment for foundations and to foster or incentivize corporate or personal giving, the general consensus is that this prediction was not fulfilled during 2012.

Bosnia and Herzegovina saw the creation of a joint register of foundations on a state level and an increase of the frequency with which the legal framework for philanthropy appears on the agenda of Bosnian CSOs was noted.  In Croatia and Macedonia, delays to expected improvements in laws governing foundations and on donations and sponsorships ran into legislative delays due to other governance priorities, so these changes are now expected in 2013.  Montenegro welcomed a new law governing associations and foundations, but this focused mostly on registration and not on provided an improvement framework for local philanthropy. In Serbia, a mixed bag of legal changes resulted in the law on personal data now allowing some data for citizens to be shared so that direct mailing and fundraising through utility bills is now allowed, while several late-year changes to the law on accounting and the regulations that govern bank accounts may result in a more difficult environment when applied to local fundraising and social enterprise activities.

More is to come soon… Stay tuned! And of course, give us your opinions and views on the 2012 predictions and why they are (not) fulfilled!

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Nathan Koeshall