Report on local community foundations

CAF Russia: local community foundations no longer local

20 May, 2014


Local community foundations play an important role in the development of regional charitable activities; they act as knowledge and community development centres, and have a good chance of becoming partners and experts on issues concerning regional charitable movements and development. This is the conclusion the authors of the report entitled: “Local philanthropy of national importance – Russia’s local community funds” have drawn. The presentation of the report prepared by CAF Russia took place on 19 May to coincide with the centenary of the world’s first local community foundation.

The report details the research results of local community foundations as a special type of charitable organisation and an analysis of their role within local communities. The research was carried out under the framework of the “Programme for the development of local community foundations” by CAF Russia with the financial support of CS Mott Foundation. The research spanned a decade, from 2003 to 2012.

Local community foundations are a special branch of local philanthropy. The foundations bring together various resources, business, local authorities, private individuals and non-commercial organisations to find solutions to the communities’ most pressing problems. Initially this model was created in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio. In Russia the foundations have been developing for 20 years and have become a notable force. At present, there are 45 local community foundations in Russia, and another 13 organisations are using this model in some way.

‘In terms of local philanthropy, unlike in some other areas, we have become part of the global process’, said Maria Chertok, CAF Russia Director.

According to the research, local community foundations are present in seven out of eight federal areas (excluding Severo-Kavkazsky) – from Kaliningrad to Magadan; 60% are city-based and 40% are rural.

Businessmen have taken on an active role within community foundations, defining priorities, discussing problems, selecting projects and influencing resource allocation. The business component of the foundations accounts for 43%, and government-backed 20%, so a common belief that authorities can influence the foundations’ activities is not substantiated, the report says.

Local community foundations use various methods of fundraising to support social projects and programmes. The main source is private donations. In recent years, the funds attracted via various government programmes (federal, regional and municipal) have increased; local foundations act as administrators and implementers of such programmes. Plus IT solutions have been developed to facilitate online donations.

During the period of research local community foundations raised over 16.5 million USD, organised over 500 competitions and supported over 4,000 social projects with local resources. The foundations prioritise social initiatives which they support on a competitive basis; in other words they capitalise on the region’s social assets, and initiative development from local citizens. Enthusiast groups support 94% of the local community foundations, and this is what separates them from other charitable foundations. They prioritise areas such as child protection, culture, welfare, education, health, and environmental issues. ‘These are aspects that are understood by local communities. Some small percentage is dedicated to sport. We don’t tend to support legal rights projects or cross-national cooperation’, said Larisa Avrorina, CAF Russia Programme Director.

Researchers state that the sustainability of local community foundations is helped by endowments, but it is difficult to establish those under Russian law. At the same time, local community foundations aim for resource accumulation. The Togliatti city foundation has the most significant resources – 52 million roubles, whereas ’21 Century Pervouralsk’ has 12 million roubles; the funds of Rubzovsk, Angarsk and Penza have 2 million each.

The foundations take on various roles – from raising awareness among local communities to fundraising and fund allocation. The foundations involve local community representatives in problem solving, and are sometimes the only organisation able to attract external funds towards the development of the area. They play the role of a social ladder: “Over 15 years we have nurtured many city mayors and departmental heads – these people have knowledge of communities, and how it all works, and this knowledge is in demand’, says Avrorina. The foundations are the focal points for knowledge and innovation. ‘The first ever foundations received support from major donors, and they had to follow those donors’ wishes in terms of fund allocation – they developed programmes for the donor for example. These days many foundations focus on solving problems that are current and pressing. So they are building a bridge, when on the one hand we have information on what needs to be done and on the other – the resources the foundations have. The foundations have started using various assessment tools to determine the society’s health more effectively: assessment of project effectiveness and regional potential through monitoring websites, media, participating in focus groups, workshops. This information is gathered and is then available to the public’, said the CAF Russia programme director.

The report also talks about cooperation among the foundations – this has been highlighted as a separate trend, creating more opportunities for the development of local philanthropy. The foundations are also reaching to remote areas and villages.

The foundations have become a platform to unite people of all social status, the authors of the report believe. They create new practices that quickly become widespread, for example, the “Dobrye goroda” initiative.

“One could say that the funds are building on their home-grown experience as opposed to that from abroad. They shape the future guardians of the regions. They are excellent resource and expert centres. Many foundation leaders are also involved in various high-level committees and social groups’, says Avrorina.

The main financial source is not from big corporations but rather from small and medium-sized businesses, and in rural areas – farms. “I think this speaks for itself – the fact that the majority of donations come from individual donors. This creates the feeling of belonging’, says Avila Kilmurray, a foundation director from Northern Ireland.

There are no community foundations in Moscow. “I understand how difficult it must be to create these foundations in Russia’s big cities – financial centres. It is important in terms of development to create foundations where there are resources’, she says.

The authors of the report believe that Russian foundations have great potential to become future partners and experts in the development of Russia’s regions, working alongside regional authorities and local businesses, and in time with federal authorities and large corporations.

By Yulia Vyatkina

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