Charities share examples of successful and failed partnerships

Charities share examples of successful and failed partnerships

02.03.2015, Moscow

At the 11th Annual Conference on Charity in Russia organised by the newspaper Vedomosti, charity representatives shared “real stories” of various partnerships which had ended in either success or failure. Experts believe that either outcome is determined by the quality of the individual partnerships between businesses and charities, the types of projects that are best suited to partnership coalitions, and visions for strategic partnerships.

In their search for effective means of implementing health, educational and cultural programmes, many large charities and companies are now looking at the potential for collaborative working. The role of partnerships is growing in the view of experts, but it’s worth taking note of the experiences of existing partnerships in order to avoid mistakes in the future by using more successful examples.

According to charity representatives at the conference, one of the most successful examples of a partnership is the group “All together” which was set up 10 years ago and comprises 40 Moscow charities. Ekaterina Bermant, Director of the “Children’s Hearts” Foundation and member of the group, explained that the partnership was originally created as a circle of friends, but had now grown into a professional organisation.

Bermant said “Our intention was for the group to be the single point of entry for people asking for help, seeking information about charity in Russia, to learn from the experiences of others, and to provide support with resources. We wanted to create a “White Book” register which would be regarded as a sign of quality for those who joined us. However, we soon realised that aims and objectives could change over time. Now, we think of ourselves as a professional body that promotes charity ideas and mutual support, as well as giving added weight to the meaning of charity. Many things can be achieved with a letter that bears the signatures of 40 individual charities, as was the case with an initiative instigated by the Ministry of Labour regarding the use of nappies”.

The “Give Life!” charity is another example of a successful partnership with regional charity bodies. “We realised that the ‘arm of Moscow’ doesn’t extend to every region, which means that regional programmes have to be developed. We provide regional charities with organisational and financial support which is used to send children to Moscow for medical treatment. We sometimes transfer philanthropists over to the regions, asking them to support people in a particular area.

So, what does our charity get out of this partnership? Well, it’s mainly information on the state of regional hospitals. We can quietly send children to the regions for further treatment knowing they’ll be well looked after. We also acquire important regional contacts and are able to hand over a whole area of work that we cannot undertake. Palliative care services are now being organised thanks to the efforts of charities we’re working with in Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk and Kazan”, says Ekaterina Chistyakova, Director of the “Give Life!” charity. According to Ekaterina, this partnership has created a platform for mutual support among regional charities. Advice given by experts from charities in Chelyabinsk and Novosibirsk is often more useful than that offered by their Moscow counterparts as the working environments in the capital and the regions differ from one another.

Ekaterina Chistyakova gave the following account to illustrate how an effective partnership can work in practice. A child was on a plane travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok after an operation. During the flight, it suffered several respiratory arrests, so the cabin crew took the decision to land at Bratsk. The child was then taken into an emergency room while her mother was left on her own. “A local charity looked after, fed and clothed the mother as her luggage was still en route to Vladivostok. A charity in Irkutsk arranged travel tickets to Vladivostok where the child’s condition was stabilised. All this care was provided by regional charities – the only thing we had to do was send a specialist physician. This account highlights the fact that there are some emergencies which can only be dealt with by organisations working together. “Small charities” as well as regional ones can have a positive impact. For example, there is a charity in Kazan which is much better than us at raising money – some of which has been used to build its own hospice. The “AdVita” charity in St. Petersburg is also particularly effective”, said Chistyakova.

By contrast, Faina Zakharova, President of the “Line of Life” charity, spoke of a failed partnership, which she described as “shooting sparrows with a gun”. This referred to a project called “Life in motion, Kilimanjaro 2014”, which was jointly organised by the “BELA”, “Line of Life”, “Artist” and “Happy Families International Centre” charities. Its aim was for a group of young disabled people to make an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, in order to raise the profile of charity as a whole, and the activities of charities in particular.

Faina explained that “A week before the event was due to start, it emerged that no account for the collection of donations had been created, as well as there being no dedicated number for sending SMS messages. It was initially assumed that live online support would be set up, including Facebook, as many media people were involved in this venture. Every aspect had been thought through, apart from the technology side. We managed to resolve the account and SMS messaging issues during the week, but this didn’t salvage the situation. As a result, two confused messages were left in the minds of the media – disabled people climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and three charities are in tow intent on raising money. We couldn’t report the fact that 149,000 roubles were collected for three charities during the event. The partnership was a complete fiasco”.

The general view of conference delegates was that partnerships need to produce results which, in turn, depend on the effective allocation of responsibility among participants from the very outset of a particular task. According to Olga Fedoseeva, Head of Family Philanthropy at the “Uralsib” Financial Corporation, it’s really important that organisations find the right person when forming a partnership. “Only someone who generates ideas and believes in the success of a partnership and has control over organisational and administrative assets can decide issues relating to the allocation of resources in implementing collaborative projects. But the most important requirement is trust because, without that, there can be no achievements or outcomes”, says Fedoseeva.

“For me, talking about partnerships is important, particularly in the context of the need to create greater unity within the sector. Common goals will be achieved through short and long-term, together with multi-and bilateral partnerships, so it’s vital that we all work together rather than in isolation. It’s also worth remembering that partnerships are not the ultimate goal, but rather a means to an end”, suggests Maria Chertok, Director of Russia’s Charity Aid Foundation.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina

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