Dobro 2016 discusses grant evaluation

Dobro 2016: why and how to show the social impact of grants?

Moscow 12/04/2016 In April, applications from non-profit organisations to receive presidential grants were being accepted and in June, a competition for grants for NGOs from the Public Relations Committee of Moscow will start. At the ‘Dobro 2016’ conference, organised by the Dobro Mail.Ru project from the companies Megafon and Metalloinvest, grant operators and NGOs discussed why organisations may not issue grants and whether it is possible to evaluate the social impact of funds received.

The organisers of the ‘Community’ forum carried out research in the third sector and explained that non-commercial organisations see distrust of the authorities, society and business, inadequate development of self-consciousness and a lack of a clear strategy as the main barriers to their development. This has an impact on the willingness of the government and business sector to provide them with grants.

To receive a grant, a non-commercial organisation must clearly understand their goals and know how to create projects, according to grant operators. According to Olga Shakhaeva, a specialist from the Public Relations Committee of Moscow, the NGO applications chosen for the competition in 2015 showed the lowest level of design culture and misunderstanding of the objectives of their activity.

Olga Shakhaeva considers that “unfortunately, many NGOs are not on the right path. They ignore the fact they need to pay rent, salaries, etc. I need a million so I will write the application. Many organisations don’t have a strategy. They simply do just to do and do not understand what they are doing it for, what the results will be and the social effect of their activities. As long as organisations do not understand this, it will be difficult for them to create a project that will receive money.”

Aleksandr Svinin, General Director of the foundation ‘Perspectiva’, which became one of the presidential grant operators, agrees that NGOs lack adequate goal-setting.

Aleksei Minyailo, of the ‘Noon’ Project for the socialisation of children, considers that the main problem for non-profit organisations who have not received grants is nothing to do with this. “Of course, everything is bad for NGOs regarding project activity but when presidential grants, which could offer serious support for many NGOs, are given to organisations like ‘Night Wolves’, can we talk about that? It is completely obvious that this is not the point here. We train our partners in the regions and do what we can,” said Minyailo. He also suggested that 10-20% of the grant be allowed for developing the organisation. “All NGOs have problems with administrative costs. The majority are not good at fundraising, and funding other sources than grants does not exist,” the expert added.

In order to measure the social impact of the grants received, Elena Alshanskaya, President of the charitable foundation ‘Volunteers to Help Orphans’, suggested carrying out a social audit. “When we evaluate the effectiveness of a foundation we look at how it obtains resources and what it does with them. I suggest that we also measure the effectiveness of the presidential grants as a project. In our opinion, very large sums are spent on very strange projects and quality projects receive very little money. Let’s analyse the social results obtained from different grants,” said Alshanskaya.

At the moment, the social impact of the grants is evaluated by the Public Relations Committee of Moscow. After evaluating the grants awarded in 2015, 19 programmes were recognised as ineffective.

NGOs are also concerned about the question of receiving grants from foreign organisations. This is accompanied by the designation of ‘foreign agents’ status, said the NGOs. Nikita Silakov, a leading specialist in the Foundation for support of public diplomacy named after A.M. Gorchakov, believes that NGOs don’t need to be afraid of this. “It is the opposite. Through initiatives including the Gorchakov Fund, the government is saying – let’s cooperate. We have 61 organisations with special status under the United Nations. This means new possibilites,” agreed Aleksandr Svinin.

“4500 NGOs received foreign funding in 2015. ‘Foreign agents’ account for 121 of these organisations. This is less than 1% of those who receive foreign funding. It is only those organisations who are carrying out political activity,” said Svinin.

These statistics do not convince members of NGOs. The concept of ‘political activity’ today means virtually any NGO activity will classify them as ‘foreign agents’, asserted participants in the discussion.

120 business representatives and 140 NGOs from all over Russia took part in the second annual ‘Dobro 2016’ conference.

Author: Olga Vorobeva

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