Part 4 of 3 series: What to Focus On for the Continued Development of the Philanthropy in 2013

Admittedly being late in publishing, we present the final (this time for real :)) piece of collated thoughts of our virtual panel of foundation professionals. While the previous three pieces dealt with what did and didn’t happen in 2012, this blog is about what should be the focus to support the development of philanthropy in 2013?

According to our colleagues, there are five distinctive areas in which we as a sector need to push stronger this year:

Institutional Strengthening of Local Foundations. While both national and community foundations have achieved significant progress in the last couple of years (and they are, in our opinion, definitely one of the guarantees that philanthropy will continue to develop), they still need support and strengthening. Therefore, we should advocate and look for foreign donors that are ” willing to provide ‘seed funding’ for ‘regranting’ in order to strengthen their position in negotiations for matching funds by state and local donors with the aim of providing greater and more significant support for local projects” (Jasna from BiH). Also, as Zoran from Macedonia says, “In their exit strategies, donors need to provide support to local CSOs to develop and implement organizational sustainability strategies.”

Influencing the Government/s. The legislative framework for philanthropy is at a different stage in each country; even in the countries in which the legislative framework has significantly improved, it is still not fully implemented. So advocating for both improvements in and full implementation of policy and the legislative framework should be one of the focuses for this year:

For Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vesna believes that we should provide “concrete examples of good legislation and financial incentives for philanthropy” in order to influence the Government’s thinking. Jasna agrees that improving the legal framework is necessary, and adds that sharing knowledge and information could help in this process as well. She suggests: Perhaps one regional conference on philanthropy could really give good results, where the Balkan countries exchanged information on the current situation in these countries, but would also learn from each other, if they are in a more advanced stage, like Macedonia.” She also believes that examples from other countries could get Governments to think about various ideas on how to support sustainability of foundations: “…through building endowments (such as the Czech Republic, where the government gave initial “endowments” for the Foundation or as the UK where the government runs programs jointly with foundations, which stimulates philanthropy and creation of endowments…”

In Croatia, Branka thinks that it is necessary to finally regulate the new legal framework” and that efforts should be directed to “maximizing the opportunities created through the National Strategy for Creating Enabling Environment for the development of civil society” while Drago believes that it is high time to “propose amendments and push for the Law on Foundations” which has been awaiting adoption for four years.

While Macedonia has by far the best legal framework, Zoran believes that it can still benefit by “increased pressure by CSOs for improvement of the Law for Donations and Sponsorships” and that more CSOs need to acquire Public Benefit status.

Both Mia and Ana from Serbia agree that “working on the legal environment” is necessary in Serbia and Ana adds that more energy should be put into “promotion of models that already exist in positive laws.”

Capacity Building of CSOs. There are two main directions in which foundations see capacity building should go. Increasing the transparency and accountability of CSOs and civil society in general, toward both their donors as well as their beneficiaries is seen as very important by Vesna, Ana and Mia. They mention that mechanisms and tools for communicating and sharing information should be improved. Mia points out that it is important to “press on with standards of accountability and transparency in fundraising so we can stay ahead of the curve and earn the trust of citizens as we are trying to increase their trust. ”

Zoran believes that another important direction is working with CSOs that are ready to change their approach to fundraising and increase their capacities in order to be ready for local fundraising activities.” He also adds that it is necessary to “further increase the number of local CSOs that use online giving opportunities as well as e-philanthropy possibilities; work with CSOs to develop skills in fundraising communication”. Finally, he points out that “using a challenge grant mechanism to support local CSOs will increase their motivation to focus on their local fundraising strategies.” Ana adds that the “development of networks, professional bodies and skills sharing will help build a more structured and developed fundraising sector as well as professional standards in philanthropy.”

Working with Citizens. In this area, foundations believe that campaigns to promote philanthropy and giving are crucial – both general and specific campaigns and as Maja says “via a variety of channels”; Branka adds an idea about developing programs to encourage philanthropy in schools.

They also point out that continuing to develop new tools, and pioneering new and sustainable outreach methods would be important for increasing the culture of giving.

Working with Corporate Sector. While companies in all of the countries are already active in the field of philanthropy, there are ideas how to improve this field. Branka believes that promoting positive examples, advocating for more transparent giving by companies and promoting donations vs. sponsorships would be useful. Both Zoran and Ana point out that we should work with companies toward creating strategic and long-term partnerships between them and CSOs.

These five focus areas obviously present a very wide ‘front’ for foundations to work on. While all foundations have, no doubt, already set their priorities for this year, and the SIGN Network will certainly have a significant leading role in this work, we would add that (given the amount of work) finding and engaging new allies from all sectors – government, individuals, companies, media – could also be one of the priorities as it can help all of us to achieve some of these goals faster. 

At the end of this series of articles, we once again want to give 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.

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Nathan Koeshall