Portrait of a Donor: Nikola Koprivica or The one who gives should be thankful!

Last year, PP brought you portraits of two major individual donors, both from outside of our region. We thought it might be time to show that there are such donors in the Western Balkans as well! This post is about Nikola Koprivica, businessman and philanthropist from Montenegro, who, in memory of his father, established the Foundation “Ćano Koprivica” in Niksic in Montenegro.

His father, Stanislav-Ćano Koprivica was widely known in Montenegro for his philanthropic giving and is considered as one of the greatest Montenegrin philanthropists. The first Montenegrin Iskra Award for Individual Philanthropy was given to him, posthumously, for outstanding life contribution. His words are often quoted: “it is not important how much money you have, but it is important to know what to do with it.”

This is Nikola’s (Stanislav’s son) story:

Why give money for philanthropy at all?

Giving is the way we were raised in my family, and when you are growing up with that then it becomes normal. My father used to help a lot of people and the company that he was running also gave out a lot of money for philanthropic purposes. Before he died, he told me about his wish to establish a foundation.

So, when I developed my own business, I started to think about a foundation or endowment. I had about 350,000 Euro for this purpose. When I went to Niksic, I asked them what they need? And after number of ideas, they came up with the high school for music. They also decided to add some money and this is how it started.

This is also how I raise my children. For example, my children are now godparents[1] to children in Africa – they give money for the children’s education. These are not large amounts – but they do give from their own pocket money and I add to their donations. They are also following the work of the foundation. I think that the wish to help others (society) is one of the most important things that is learned at home and that it has to be nurtured from early days.

Why give money through the foundation and not through other organizations?

I decided to establish a Foundation because that gives me control over giving and I’m not tied up with other donors. Also CSOs/local foundations give money for projects, while for me it is important to give to individuals as well. I think that one of the challenges that Montenegro faces is having more educated human resources and this is an area where I want to invest.

And I like to see the clear result of my giving and what has been accomplished.

Through the work of the Foundation, I realized that there are many CSOs and small ones too… so it’s good that other foundations like fAKT exist and can support them.

What causes are important to you?  

Areas that I’m interested in are education, culture, environment…

But, a very important part of my philosophy is that we need to give the opportunity to young people with talent. That’s why we built the musical school and we are also supporting some young people with scholarships so that they can study in Podgorica. I also plan to establish the Stanislav-Ćano Koprivica for Young Entrepreneurs Award.

As the work in the Foundation has developed, I have realized even more clearly how important it is to influence child development and provide opportunity for them to learn the right values at an early stage in their life. This is why the Foundation invests more and more resources in early education for children. 

Also, while most of giving is in Montenegro, I also help some people in Serbia. I was raised in Yugoslavia, so I don’t look completely separately on Montenegro and Serbia.

Business, money and giving

My business is completely separate, and I do not practice giving money through my company. It’s not such a big company and it markets itself in other ways. However, what I am thinking about is starting a business that would feed its profit into the Foundation.

For me personally, tax incentives didn’t have anything to with this – my business is in another country and I do not benefit from tax incentives by giving in Montenegro. But for some people it might be important.

I look at money as energy: it shouldn’t be still, it should move around.

What do you think about motivating others to give?

When motivating people to give, it’s a lot about atmosphere and the reason for giving. Our Foundation has had donor evenings and we have raised about 60,000 EUR from two nights. And this wasn’t only about rich people, some donations were as small as 5 EUR. It was about a lot of people who loved and respected my father and wanted to remember him in this way.

 And for the end…

Some time ago I read a Zen story which I find to be very true and is part of my philosophy of why to give. It tells us that the one who gives should be thankful for the opportunity to give. 

In 2011. Nikola Koprivica received the Montenegrin Iskra Award as an individual who, through his philanthropic activities, contributed to community and society development.

Foundation “Ćano Koprivica” remains very active in Montenegro.  Apart from Nikola’s contribution to its work, the Foundation is supported by great number of individuals and companies. One of the Foundation’s recent projects is the establishment of a puppet theater for children in Niksic and its first show (Little Red Riding Hood).

Also in line with Foundation efforts to invest more in early education for children, in January 2013, the Foundation supported the opening of the first Montessori school in Montenegro “The Bell” for children between 3 and 6 years of age. In parallel, the Foundation also plans to support the Training Center where teaching staff from all over Montenegro can come to be trained and certified. Overall, the Foundation has invested close to EUR 750,000 in various projects and programs in Montenegro.

Many thanks to Nikola Koprivica for his readiness to share his story. If you wish to find out more about the work of the Foundation “Ćano Koprivica”, please visit http://www.nvfcanokoprivica.org/cg/index.php


[1] World Vision program: Sponsor a Child

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Aleksandra Vesic