The BEARR Trust’s Ukraine Appeal: Two Months On

When apprehension gave way to shock on 24 February, our first thought was to reassure our partners in Eastern Europe that we would continue to do all we could to support their work with vulnerable people. On 25 February we posted a message of support on our website and published links to several national and international organisations that had already launched appeals for humanitarian aid.  

That same day, BEARR Patron Robert Brinkley was interviewed on LBC and referred to BEARR’s work with civil society partners in Ukraine. This prompted some listeners to donate to BEARR and helped us to realise that we could fundraise in our own right to support the impressive rallying of civil society in the face of the invasion.  

We have worked with more than forty small, locally based organisations in Ukraine and Moldova in recent years, either through our Small Grants Scheme or through conferences and workshops we organised in Lviv and Chisinau. On 26 February an organisation we had recently funded to work with women and children in Odesa wrote to tell us that their team were now planning to provide humanitarian aid – the first of many of our partners who rapidly pivoted towards helping people fleeing from the conflict or who were suddenly trapped in their homes without support. 

We launched our Ukraine Appeal on 27 February, just three days after the invasion. Donors seemed attracted to the idea that we could get money quickly into Ukraine and Moldova, where known and trusted local partners would immediately procure emergency supplies. As our partners sent us photos of their delivery and transport efforts, plus stacks of receipts for food, clothing, bedding, hygiene products and medical supplies, donations to our appeal fund accelerated.  

We had initially thought of a target of £10,000 but decided to try for £25,000. We hit that target within the first 24 hours, so we doubled it to £50,000. Within a week we doubled the target again, to £100,000. At that point, with donations still arriving thick and fast, we stopped setting targets. Including known pledges, we forecast that the appeal fund (currently at £170,000) could soon reach £250,000. More than 800 individuals or charitable foundations have donated to the appeal so far. 

Our partners told us that BEARR’s money was often the first to arrive and was sometimes the only source of emergency funds. We are pleased to be able to bridge a gap until international aid comes in, but we know there will always be pieces missing in the network – this became clear from the first-hand reports sent back from Moldova by trustees Megan Bick and Jane Ebel.

Another aspect of our Ukraine Appeal that attracts donors is the fact that 100% of what we receive is passed on to provide emergency help. There are no overheads – all our administrative costs, and bank transfer fees, are being covered by other grants and donations. Our trustees, already a notably ‘hands-on’ group of volunteers, stepped up their involvement according to their availability and particular knowledge and skills. The trio of Ross Gill, Janet Gunn and Nicola Ramsden has been working continuously to make payments and organise the necessary adaptations to BEARR’s processes, while Janet works with BEARR’s Information Officer and volunteers to ensure that updates are posted quickly to the website and social media. 

At the start of the campaign, BEARR’s Information Officer role was deftly passed by Louisa Long (who had just accepted a new job with the John Smith Trust) to Alexia Claydon. They completed a seamless handover while helping to launch the fundraising campaign and liaising with our partners in Ukraine and Moldova.  

Two months into the conflict, and with no respite in sight, our partners have added trauma counselling to their list of basic physical needs. We are now in regular contact with, and supplying funds to, around 30 local organisations in Ukraine and Moldova, providing emergency aid over a wide area. Our network of contacts on the ground now includes other recommended local organisations and is expanding as we receive more information and requests. Having Megan and Jane in Moldova for a few weeks deepened our local knowledge and widened our contacts significantly. 

We are learning about what other charities are doing and we are also introducing other funding organisations to our partners. Most recently Street Child, where a former BEARR volunteer is now a programme manager, has supported one of our most active partners in Ukraine. 

The capacity of civil society organisations to respond to urgent need is heartening, but they are pushing themselves to the limits in exhausting conditions and they need to be supported too. BEARR’s fundraising campaign will therefore continue – it has proved to be a very effective source of immediate help, but the needs are growing and becoming more complex. 

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