Q and A on Annual Reports competition

practice of preparing annual reports has become a matter of good form

The ‘Tochka Otschyota’[1] 7th All-Russia Annual Reports’ Competition for
non-profit organisations began on 25 April. 
The aim of the competition is the wide-scale introduction of standards
of transparency and public accountability to charitable activity.  The competition organiser is the Civic
Chamber of the Russian Federation’s Charity and Volunteering Commission, in
partnership with the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and the Russian
Ministry of Justice. The Donors’ Forum, a non-profit partnership of
grant-giving organisations, is responsible for the organisation and leadership
of the competition, for collecting applications and calculating results, and
for coordinating the work of the jury. The Donors’ Forum’s executive secretary
Natalya Kaminarskaya gave the Agency for Social Information’s correspondent
more details about the competition. 


ASI: Natalya, the ‘Tochka Otschyota’ project aims to
increase transparency and openness within Russia’s non-profit sector.  What does ‘transparency’ mean to you, and
what significance does it have for the non-profit sector at the present time?

NK: for me, transparency means clarity, leaving no room for doubt. That means that if you look at a voluntary organisation’s annual report
you should definitely be able to understand what the organisation does, what
its day-to-day activities are, what its achievements are, what problems are
associated with its work and how the organisation copes with them, who supports
the organisation and why it exists.  It seems
to me that the theme of transparency is very pertinent for non-profit
organisations.   Whatever its function, sooner or later a
non-profit organisation must publish an annual report which is available to the
public. Currently, voluntary organisations are required to be accountable to the
Ministry of Justice and to the tax authorities. 
 Unfortunately, the formal system
of accountability works in such a way that information is provided to the state
but not to ordinary citizens.   Non-profit organisations won’t survive if they
don’t make the effort to attract supporters from among the general public.   They must
explain the reasons for their activities, and that’s why annual reports are so
important.   A public annual report is just one of a range
of instruments available to non-profit organisations which enable them to get
their message across to the public, state their position and explain the reason
for their existence.  At the end of the
day, the aim is to attract supporters. 


ASI: At a press conference to mark the start of the
project, a proposal was made to invite the Prosecutor General’s Office to take
part in the competition. Is that likely to become an official proposal?  Is anything going to be done to make it

NK: The official organiser of the competition is the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation’s Charity and Volunteering
Commission. The Donors’ Forum simply works as the Commission’s agent. So it’s
up to the Commission to decide whether or not to invite the Prosecutor General’s
Office to be a partner. If they do so, we will, of course, suggest that the
Prosecutor General’s Office becomes a member of the jury or an equal partner
with the Ministry for Economic Development and the Ministry of Justice, both of
whom have been supporting the competition all these years. 


ASI: This is the ‘Tochka Otschyota’ competition’s 7th year.  How many organisations do you expect will
take part this year?

NK: The number of
participants grows every year. In 2007, when the competition began, 42
organisations from nine regions took part, whereas in 2012 there were 147 from
39 regions.   We very much hope that our efforts to
publicise the competition, along with the political situation as regards
voluntary organisations (relating to the mass checks on non-profit
organisations and the ‘law on foreign agents’ – editor) will attract more attention
to the competition.   We are prepared for this and we want more
organisations to participate.   I believe that this year more than 150
non-profit organisations from various regions around Russia will be taking


ASI: What do you intend to do to attract more
participants from other regions in Russia? After all, the majority of the
organisations which take part in the competition are from Moscow and St

NK: This year we will
approach regional civic chambers with a request to help us publicise the
competition or share with us the details of the non-profit organisations with which
they work, and which we will contact directly. Secondly, each region has
resource centres and large networks of non-profit organisations.  We are going to ask them to inform their
colleagues about the competition. We are also planning to approach business
representatives who support non-profit organisations, so that they can suggest
to their partners in the non-profit sector that they apply to enter the
competition and bring greater publicity to the event.   


ASI: Tell me about any new aspects of the
competition.  Has the composition of the
jury, of nominations or the feedback forms changed?

NK: I’d like to
point out straight away that following last year’s results we took on board all
the wishes of the jury members – their opinions are very important to us. We
also listened to the responses of those who participated in the competition and
tried to take their wishes into account both from point of view of the
effectiveness of the competition and transparency. We have made slight changes
to the nominations and to the application process. Nominations are now divided
into three categories: nominations according to the organisation’s budget,
according to subject (such as support of vulnerable groups, child protection
and healthcare etc.) and a ‘special’ category (for example, best presentation
of monitoring, best presentation of information regarding the organisation’s
sources of finance and of information about working with volunteers).    What’s
new is that there won’t be any special meetings to choose the winners from
among the nominations. Each report will be assessed by four experts.  A ratings table of all the reports will be
produced as a result of this process. The table will also include sub-nominations
relating to budgets and other areas. So everything will happen automatically. There’ll
be no opportunity to change things during the course of discussions. 


That leaves the feedback form. These are valued highly
by non-profit organisations, because they provide the opportunity not only for
organisations to find out how they ranked in the competition but also to find
out why they achieved that ranking, what was good or bad about their report and
where improvements can be made. Our partners at the NGO Development Centre (St
Petersburg) who have systematically supported the competition, are now working
on a compendium of the best examples of annual reports and analyses of why these
practices are best. It will be unveiled on the non-profit organisations’ portal
around 1 June. 



ASI: What have been the results of the seven years of
the competition?

NK: The most
important result has been that voluntary organisations have developed the
practice of preparing public reports. This has already become a matter of good
form. In addition, during this time we have been able to develop a good
relationship with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry for Economic
Development. Representatives of these two ministries take part in the
competition as jury members and always take a close interest in reporting
requirements for non-profit organisations. I should also point out that several
of our comments and wishes were taken into account when the statutory reporting
form, which can now be found on the Ministry of Justice website, was developed.
I believe that this work will continue in the future.


ASI: There are organisations which are taking part in
the competition for the fifth time, and there are newcomers who, having taken
part once, develop the practice of preparing public accounts. Do established
participants and newcomers get different things out of the competition?

NK: We have decided
that, from this year on, we will give encouragement to those organisations
which have participated in the competition four times or more. They will
receive a special diploma which proves and guarantees that this organisation
has been working and has been accountable for its work for many years. We would
very much like to see every non-profit organisation produce a public annual
report in electronic form.  Each
organisation participating in the competition receives a certificate stating
that its annual report complies with the reporting standards of a wide range of
stakeholders. This document helps non-profit organisations, especially those
based in the regions, and is evidence that they are doing good-quality work and
are operating correctly.  The practice of
preparing public reports helps organisations both in their work with the public
and when working with donors. Having an annual report is a vital element of the
transparency of a non-profit organisation’s activities.


I call on all organisations to prepare reports and to
make them accessible, to involve in their work as many as possible of the
people on whose behalf they are working.


Correspondent: Ioulia Vyatkina



[1] ‘Reference Point’

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