Russian donor funds seek stability in the pandemic

Russian Donor funds seek stability amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic


On 21 October, the third day of the annual conference of the Donors’ Forum, discussions focused on the impact of the current pandemic on charitable foundations and donor funds.

Representatives from Russia’s major donor funds spoke about stability, about the sector’s future prospects and about their experience of working through the pandemic.

Executive Director of the Donors’ Forum Alexandr Boldyrev remarked: “The issue of stability is always key for corporate, private and fundraising funds and for the sector more broadly.  The concept of stability can be interpreted in many different ways but the consequences of Covid-19 have added a whole new dimension.”

Maria Chertok, Director of the Charitable Foundation for the Development of Philanthropy CAF, explained that charities faced a straightforward challenge at the start of the pandemic – supporting the healthcare system: “This was not a question of stability; it was about surviving and providing a rapid response to a huge and unexpected event.” She believes the pandemic poses an existential threat to the whole sector, and CAF instantly recognised the imperative of supporting NGOs.  Then there was Phase 2, which again was not about stability but about supporting charities working with those worst affected by the pandemic, namely the elderly, children in care, people with large families and children with disabilities. 

CAF has now moved into Phase 3 and begun offering finance to NGOs that need greater financial stability.

Chertok continued: “I believe we have come to recognise another aspect of stability for organisations which is of greater strategic importance – it is not the stability of the organisations themselves but rather the relationships that they have built up, their contacts and the links they have with the communities they support.  Without them these organisations cannot provide an adequate response to the threats people are facing.

Chertok explained how years of investment had gone into supporting local communities and their relationships and described the ways they work together as exemplary.  The right conditions have been created that have allowed people to mobilise their own resources and assist each other.

Maria Morozovaya, General Director of the Charitable Foundation of Yelena and Gennady Timchenko, said that at the beginning of the pandemic the foundation’s staff made a concerted effort to adapt quickly to new work patterns with a focus on the ‘here and now’.  Morozova felt the foundation struck a good balance between delivering urgent assistance and accepting the need to relax some of their traditional approaches to the systemic analysis of problem, following best practice guidelines, consulting experts and running pilot projects. 

Timchenko, General Director of the Fund, commented: “This new ‘here and now’ experience of finding solutions for those in greatest need as a result of the pandemic and dealing with the consequences of isolation has been highly beneficial to our team.  Despite the social distancing measures we adopted we still managed to work in a highly effective manner, building a sense of shared purpose and taking pride in our important work.” 

What do the donor funds need?

Maria Morozova highlighted the urgent need to tackle the current crisis on a local level and to find high quality projects and reliable partners for major donors.  She urged grant giving organisations to review their procedures in the light of recent events. 

“Grant giving organisations need to become more flexible and respond more promptly to the situation.  They need to show greater faith in their partners and allow them to take responsibility for their own decision making now that we are facing such deep uncertainty.  In addition, the organisations need to adjust their internal procedures.  It may be a difficult process but there is no alternative.  In my view, there needs to be a shift away from project financing to the financing of NGOs’ day-to-day activities and the provision of long-term support.  Only this will deliver the stability needed.” 


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