Condition and development of charitable funds in Russia 2013

The Donors Forum’s (DF) Report on the condition and development of charitable funds in Russia 2013


On 15 April the DF presented its third annual report on the above. This wide ranging report  on the current state of institutional philanthropy attempts to identify the institutional donors across the third sector, portray their overall numbers and quality, and assess the value of their activities.

The report includes an analysis of the present state of the funds, describes trends and prospects for the development of institutional philanthropy, and analyses media reportage about charities. It describes five types of funds – private, corporate, fund raising, local/communal and endowed. The DF has developed a special resource* for the presentation of the activities of funds in Russia. 87 funds are shown as at the end of 2013. Their overall budget in 2012  amounted to almost six billion roubles 5.5 billion of which were distributed to charitable beneficiaries. The total budget of endowed funds came to almost 20 billion roubles.

For 2013 the report’s special focus was on regional philanthropy. The research commissioned by DF and carried out by Tsirkon identified eight kinds of territorial clusters in which developments are proceeding in different ways depending on a range of factors. The report found that the most important influence on the development of charitable activity was the quality of life as characterised by the level of comfort, the social index and the degree of social wellbeing. The next most important was the social potential as represented by the availability of human resources, the third was the economic situation and the fourth the presence of various institutions, infrastructure and voluntary activity.

After studying the practice and development of regional activity in the voluntary sector, the researchers were able to identify five different models of development in the regions. The flagship model exists where the community is fully engaged in pursuing the development of philanthropy in practice. This is characteristic of capital cities, an obvious example being St Petersburg. In the Samara region the model is that of ‘cultivated activity’ where the conditions  are excellent but not fully exploited by the community. In the Penza region and to an extent in that of Perm the ‘enthusiasm’ model predominates; here the right conditions do not exist but philanthropy is developing thanks to the drive of the residents or organisations present there. A situation characteristic of the ‘information’ model exists in the Republic of Tatarstan and the Tyumen region where charitable activity is the subject of theoretical discourse rather than actual development. The ‘inertia/outsider’ model is to be found in the Altai region and in the republics of Buryatia and Dagestan, where charitable activity is virtually undeveloped.

However, regardless of whether regions are developed or undeveloped, the specialists consider that philanthropy is on the rise.

‘It is clear that charitable activities in the regions continue to develop and attract growing interest. However, there is no systematic information as to what is happening in different areas. There are not many specialists in the field, and it is quite difficult for a region to compare itself with its neighbours in view of the dearth of information and of horizontal links. There is also a lack of objective information to analyse and on which to base research’, said the executive secretary of the DF, Natalya Karminskaya.

At the same time the quantitative indicators in practice failed to reflect the growth that had taken place in the regions, according to sociologist Denis Volvo of the Levada Centre. The figures available were sparse in relation to the size of the country. There was a limited number of funds in the frame – only those that had provided information about themselves on the activity map. ‘But activity is proceeding internally’, said Mr Volvo. ‘We sense that. It is just that we are not always able to record it’. He did however draw attention to the fact that Moscow with its developed philanthropic institutions was more and more acting as a ‘donor’ exporting both resources and volunteers to other areas. Successful experience was being passed on.

Maria Morozova, director of the Elena and Gennady Timchenko charitable fund, said that regional philanthropy was an area of interest to the major funds. These were seeking partners in the regions, adapting and developing their projects in accordance with the requirements of regional and local communities.

She drew attention to the fact that only a small number of the charitable funds were covered by the DF’s report. ‘It is very important to understand what is going on in the case of the huge number of funds not covered by the report. Does that mean that the city funds are more open? They have the resources and the opportunities. There is a culture of creating websites and producing public reports. So what is going on with the regions? Are people not setting up funds there? Are these not transparent? Are they working at an invisible level?’ she asked.

Maria Chertok, the director of CAF Russia, believed that there was little institutional charity in the provinces. She thought it was thus necessary to look at the quality of the work going on and not simply to maintain that they exist; and ask whether their numbers were increasing. She thought we should look at what they are doing and what social changes they are bringing about.

Amongst trends in the development of institutional philanthropy, specialists are noting an increase in the number of people with an active civil position, a rise in the number of ‘crowd funding’ platforms, the appearance of private funds aimed at supporting civil activism, and a rise in the number of informal initiatives and volunteer groups. An important factor in the rise in private donations remains the serious environmental situation whilst, according to the specialists, charitable engagement is a positive part of a successful person’s image.

A separate part of the report looks back at past performance and nominates the person, the event, the project, and the publication of the year respectively as voted for by members of the DF. The industrialist Vladimir Potanin, founder of the eponymous charity, was voted person of the year for 2013. A major donor, he is associated with the Giving Pledge and promotes the setting up of endowments to provide stability. The event was Russian entrepreneurs signing up to the Giving Pledge which involves committing to giving at least half one’s wealth to charity and means that Russians have joined the leading international philanthropists’ club.  The humanitarian action “Amur 13’ * was named as the project of the year. The publication of the year was CAF Russia’s report, Russian NGOs on the Road to Stability.

The text of the DF’s report may be viewed on its website.

Author: Yulia Vyatkin

*  the reference is to the Amur river flooding in August 2013.

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