Charity in Russia: how philanthropy has changed in the past 30 years
A report on the development of charitable giving in Russia, prepared by CAF and Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), has shown growth in donations on the one hand and on the other, a choosiness on behalf of donors towards recipients of money.
The report ‘Charitable giving in Russia’ was prepared by Caroline Hartnell, a consultant editor of the PSJP portal, with participation from the Alliance Journal, WINGS and CAF. The report describes the development of Russian charitable giving based on interviews with Russian experts and practitioners, namely representatives of the charitable fund ‘Podari zhisn (Gift of Life)’, ‘Starost v radost (Joy in Old Age)’, V. Potanina, ‘Nashe budushee (Our Future)’, ‘Sistema (The System)’ and other specialists from the non-commercial sector. CAF and the Donors’ Forum were named the main organisations for the development of philanthropy in Russia.
In the last 20 years, around 140,000 non-commercial organisations have appeared in Russia, but few of them are ready to go beyond the bounds of traditional forms of support, the report says. According to the report’s results, the most exceptional success in the last 10 years in the development of philanthropy in Russia has been the growth of private, middle class donors. According to the study by CAF, in 2017, 53% of the population of Russia had donated money. They mainly donate to help children, religious organisations and poor people.
Amongst other achievements is the development of local charities and the creation of fundraising charities. In this area, the fastest growing form in Russia is ‘rural funds’.
The researchers conclude that charitable giving in Russia is becoming more systematic; charities are creating giving strategies and are evaluating their results. The biggest ‘player’ is corporate giving, carried out by companies themselves, rather than by corporate funds. According to the study, from 2013 to 2016, around 60 major firms (in Russia and abroad) had a budget allocated for charitable giving, growing from more than 10 billion roubles to 43.9 billion roubles.
“The report is sufficiently balanced and shows perhaps even a rosier picture than we have seen ourselves. Whilst highlighting a whole series of significant successes, for instance, in the realm of developing mass charitable giving, the report also notes a significant gap – the practically non-existent progress in impact investment (investments in the social sphere)”, Maria Chertok, the Director of CAF, told the Agency for Social Information.
The limited financing of human rights organisation was also noted. Many of them, according to Russian legislation, fall under the designation of “foreign agents”. Only a few successfully manage to attract donations from citizens. Amongst them is the human rights project OVD Info, which monitors public protests, and the ‘Pravo materi (Mother’s Rights)’ fund, helping families whose sons have died during armed service.
The report emphasises that the development of Russian charitable giving is affected by the adverse legislative environment (including the law on “foreign agents”), a lack of transparency and self-regulation and the lack of will amongst charities and people to support unpopular causes. Moreover, almost the entire infrastructure of the third sector is concentrated in Moscow and in major cities. Amongst limiting factors in this sphere are the lack of trust in NGOs, because of which people prefer to donate directly to those in need.
“There are always some difficulties at certain stages of development,” Maria Chertok adds. “All of these barriers can certainly be overcome, but new ones may arise. The current barriers are largely connected with external circumstances. Although there are also those that are due to insufficient professionalism in the sector. We will deal with this through our combined efforts.”
The report also shows the prospects for further development in philanthropy.
“I think that the main movement will be in the direction of developing private donations and attracting citizens – we really have had a lot of success with this. Many organisations are working to make private donations more systematic, more deliberate and more regular. Many achievements are possible here. It seems that we have not achieved as much progress in the development of private foundations set up by rich people as we could have. Considering the capital created in Russia, there are obviously very few funds and, the ones we do have are not big enough. Although some of them are very interesting and work systematically, you can count them on two hands. We hope that there will also be significant progress in this area over the next few years, perhaps even a breakthrough, which will put us on a level with other countries in terms of charitable giving and purpose,” the CAF Director summed up.
The report was mentioned in the Centre for Charitable Giving and Social Activity ‘Blagosfera’, and gave rise to the first meeting of a new cycle of events ‘Conversations on Charity’. The events will discuss models and directions of charitable giving and global processes in the sphere. Both Russian and foreign experts will take part in these meetings.