Philanthropy is Happening…All Around Us

What an absolutely exciting time it is in the philanthropy sector in the Balkans.  Since deciding to dedicate a portion of my time to mapping and learning from the new forms of philanthropic practice popping up all around the Balkans, I have found myself in continuously thrilled at each new discovery.  Here are a few of my musings…


Working Together

I have had the privilege of sitting with the founding members of the South-East European Indigenous Grantmakers Network (SIGN) this week in Ohrid as they hammer out their vision and mission and discuss ways of moving philanthropy development forward and spreading their belief that everyone is a philanthropist.  The leadership and some staff of BCIF (Serbia), CIRa (Macedonia), Mozaik Foundation (BiH), fAKT (Montenegro) and FIQ (Kosovo) are for the first time comparing and compiling their respective methodologies for training in fundraising, local resource mobilization and community development grantmaking, with the helpful inputs from the VIA Foundation (Czech Republic). 

They are also charting out a clear path to achieve a specific set of goals and objectives they have jointly developed to influence and speed the emergence of local-source philanthropy as a key source of social good funding in the region.  I believe you will be hearing lots more about the SIGN Network over the next few months as they pursue their strategy and emerge as a collective leading force in our industry.


Still Amazed

The Blic Foundation, a new initiative by the Serbian daily Blic, has been using its Heart for Children campaign to raise funds from its readers to address the felt needs of children living in poverty and their families, has made a number of big splashes over the past two months since they have launched.   In addition to rolling out big name celebrities to provide support to the campaign, give of their own money and to raise the spirits of children by visiting their homes when delivering assistance and gifts, they are doing a great job of storytelling featuring a story on Blic (and via media partnerships with others, including Pink TV) every day either about a new need discovered or of a need met by the initiative. 

While the campaign doesn’t appear that address the root causes of the poverty in which these families find themselves, the organizers certainly have found a message that resonates with their readers and provides motivation for them to give.  I saw and watched the two-hour live telethon that was broadcast on Pink several weeks ago.  While I was impressed with the steady stream of stars and celebs that were manning the phone bank or were singing songs and generally providing the entertainments, what truly amazed me were the results of the show.  There were two ways people could donate their money, the first was via SMS and the second was by calling into the phone bank and paying a per minute fee. 

Between the two options, in a short two hour period, more than 70,000 people donated to the campaign…that is nearly 1% of Serbia’s population.  Please…I don’t want to hear any more from the naysayers who say that the population of this region isn’t ready to dig into their own pockets to help their friend, their neighbor, or even a stranger, to live a better life.  They are ready and they are showing it with the new opportunities that are created for them give to.  To date, the Heart for Children campaign has raised nearly 200,000 EUR.


Cool Idea That Warrants More Attention

Sometime during 2012, an enterprising few people associated with a web marketing company unveiled a new idea for Serbia.  It envisions the idea of ‘paying it forward’ in a common setting, the bakery.  The Solidarity Meal idea is quite simple.  A participating bakery / fast food outlet posts a sign in their window that calls people to provide a solidarity meal and lets hungry people know that free food is available.  When a customer decides they want to participate, they simply let the clerk know and pay for the extra food.  The clerk then makes a change to the counter on the sign, letting hungry individuals know that someone else has paid for a meal and that they are welcome to come in and get it.

With only 5 participating bakeries so far, the idea hasn’t exactly taken off, but this is the exact type of everyday philanthropy that we can all participate in and feel good about.  I would love to see the Solidarity Meal idea take off…or at least come to a bakery near me, so that I can be a part of this novel idea.

What new events, happenings, campaigns, or exciting tidbits about philanthropy in the region have you stumbled upon?  We would love to hear….post a comment below, or send an email to


About author


Nathan Koeshall