Target capital, training of NGOs, regular payments: the ‘Hour with Russia’s Economic Development Ministry’

In Russia’s Public Chamber on 17 March there was an on-line discussion between regional public chambers and the Ministry of Economic Development about NGOs, volunteers, charity, and more.

The discussion was moderated by Elena Topoleva, Chairman of the federal Public Chamber’s Commission on the Development of the Not-for-profit Sector and Support for Socially Oriented NGOs, and Director of the Agency for Social Information.

Target investment and support for small business in conditions of Coronavirus

The Deputy Director of the Department for Strategic Development and Innovation of the Ministry of Economic Development, Elena Ivanitskaya, spoke about her ministry’s legislative programme. She said that on 16 March a commission met in the Russian government which discussed inter alia amendments to the Law on Target Capital, which might be considered by the Duma this spring. Ivanitskaya outlined the main aspects of the draft law:

  • Donations to top up target capital will be treated as charitable giving;
  • It will be possible to use crowd-funding to increase target capital;
  •  Target capital funds consisting of property and cash of a value lower than 3 million roubles need not be subject to auditing.

Last year, Ivanitskaya mentioned, the Ministry brought forward a draft law about accountability of NGOs, support for small and medium enterprises, and loans for the purchase of accommodation by not-for-profit organisations. The government asked for some amendments but Ivanitskaya was confident that the law would be adopted. She also called on her colleagues from the regions to send in their ideas as to how small and medium business could be supported in current circumstances, given the effect of the Corona virus on business activity. She suggested that it was particularly important to support entrepreneurs working with elderly people and ‘strengthening human capital’. She said such suggestions would be submitted to her superiors.

Training NGOs and volunteers in fundraising

The Head of the Department for Strategic Development and Innovation of the Ministry, Tatyana Yevlampieva said that from December 2019 to February 2020 the ministry had done research which showed that ‘knowledge about fundraising among members of NGOs and volunteers is variable – all of them have some practical experience but they lack a single ethical standard’. The Ministry plans to lobby to raise the qualifications of NGO personnel and volunteers as concerns fundraising and project management.

‘We need to create training standards, assess how many NGOs need training, start a pilot project in higher education establishments or resource centres, and then introduce them across the country’ said Yevlampieva.

In addition, the Ministry wants to develop a programme for evaluation of the efficiency of corporate social programmes. Experts and regional public servants consider that there is nothing in Russian legislation about evaluation of the efficiency of social work.

Such a concept exists elsewhere and is actively used, so all that is needed is to transfer the methodology into Russian practice, said Yevlampieva. In Russia the practice of evaluation of social programmes exists. It has been developed by individual NGOs, such as the Charitable Foundation of Elena and Gennadii Timchenko.

Maintaining regular payments

Yevlampieva also said that the Ministry has been working on the problem of regular payments, which are very important for not-for-profit organisations. At present, if someone wants to set up a regular payment to a charity, if they change their card the direct debit automatically fails. The Ministry asked the Central Bank about this, to find out if a client’s bank can check with them when they get a new debit card whether they want all their direct debits to continue and whether this could be arranged centrally or would need to be agreed separately with each bank. If the Central Bank agrees then when a client changes their card, all their regular payments would continue.

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