Olga and onwards

Andrew Milner

The Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize was inaugurated in 2013 to reward and stimulate the development of philanthropy in emerging market economies. How has philanthropy fared in the countries from which Prize nominees have come over those five years? Alliance has been catching up with some of them….

Lucia Dellagnelo, Brazil (Nominated 2013)
In 2013, Lucia Dellagnelo was CEO of Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis (ICOM). She now heads the Centre of Innovation for Brazilian Education (CIEB) a non-profit organisation that promotes the culture of innovation and the use of technology to improve quality and equity in public schools. She was recently re-elected president to the board of ICOM.

‘I think there have been some positive changes in Brazil since 2013. The first is a clearer framework for NGOs to work in partnership with the government, though some argue that while we have more transparency and it is a fairer process, it’s more bureaucratic and it takes longer to establish those partnerships. Last month [August 2018], there was also some advance in the legislation about endowments, which has taken a long time because people didn’t understand the concept and thought that it would make no sense in an unstable economy like Brazil.’

‘I think there is a new generation coming into wealth and wanting to do more philanthropic work Three weeks ago, we had the philanthropy forum in Sao Paulo and there were a lot of new faces there. Many of them are creating their own foundations or are investing their money in already-established foundations. A lot of the new people are very interested in impact investing so they’re putting money into social enterprises.’

‘My feeling is that NGOs are in a stage of consolidation rather than growth. We are moving ahead slower than I would like, but there is movement. We need more fiscal incentives, because at the moment there is no incentive for creating an NGO or a foundation.’

Online giving has made only limited headway so far: ‘We started an online giving platform in ICOM but it was not very successful and I know other organisations who have had the same experience. There is a version of Giving Tuesday, Dia de Doar. There is the mobilisation, people talk about it, but if you consider the amount of money given, it’s still not very significant.’

‘The media has begun to highlight some people’s philanthropy. For example, Jorge Paulo Lemann, one of the richest men in Brazil, has a foundation, the Lemann Foundation, which is now one of Brazil’s most significant donors for education and innovation. It’s noticeable that while he’s always been featured in magazines with articles about his wealth, they’re now starting to cover his philanthropic work more.’

‘I think there is an increase in the number of family foundations which were once not very common….on the other hand, we’ve been working hard to promote the community foundation concept [ICOM was the first CF in Brazil], but for some reason, it hasn’t taken off. Funnily enough, though, there is talk about community philanthropy… how to mobilise people in communities and, right now, IDIS is doing research on community philanthropy in the state of Sao Paulo.’

‘In terms of networks, there are only GIFE and IDIS. Synergos tried to start a network of philanthropists in Brazil but it has remained a very small group. One thing that is new is an initiative to evaluate NGOs and promote transparency, called 100 best NGOs in Brazil, launched three years ago and run jointly by Dia de Doar and a magazine called Época.’

‘My feeling is that NGOs are in a stage of consolidation rather than growth. We are moving ahead slower than I would like, but there is movement. We need more fiscal incentives, because at the moment there is no incentive for creating an NGO or a foundation. I think there is a new belief that civil society is important for maintaining democracy in Brazil so a lot of people are interested in investing and donating money. We still have a civil society that is dominated by corporate foundations but as the number of family foundations grows and other kinds of organisations support social enterprises, we are going to have a more balanced third sector in Brazil.’

Natalya Kaminarskaya, Russia (Nominated 2014)
At the time of her nomination, Natalya Kaminarskaya was CEO of the Russian Donors Forum. Since 2015, she has been director of Blagosfera, an organisation which works with NPOs and individuals, as well as with donor institutions.

‘Legislatively, some things have changed for the better, some for the worse. The major challenge is that there is no common position in the sector on how we’d like to move forward. Just now, the state is developing a new concept for the support and development of philanthropy, and this is an opportunity for us to set out a new basis for cooperation between the state and development of the sector.’

‘We have a very tricky situation. The effect of the foreign agents’ law has been to worsen the attitude towards the sector and for sure it has worsened the situation for a lot of non-profits who were receiving foreign funds. Very few organisations have enough courage to fundraise abroad, but on the other hand, not many Russians understand how NPOs are funded, so they’d say, “yes, we support Lifeline foundation”, but they don’t understand how it is organised and financed internally. But since 2014, public support for NPOs, for philanthropic organisations has grown a lot and many more Russian citizens have started giving money and time to philanthropy and thanks to things like the Olympics and Paralympics, you see more non-profit activity in the public space.’

‘There is no general official line that philanthropy is bad or good. It very much depends on the particular official or issue you are talking about. Though online giving platforms exist, they’re probably not growing much. The most popular form of giving is by SMS because it’s supported by the TV channels. They advertise during programmes and people donate by text. We do have a Giving Tuesday and we are going to be running it for the third year this year. I can’t say it’s very popular, but it’s known at least in the non-profit sector. I think it’s an important initiative and for us, it’s working because it’s part of an international global movement. A corporate philanthropy day or foundation day was tried, like Active Thursday in Europe, for example, but it didn’t work well. In some cities, NGOs organise fairs for the local community and they are becoming more popular. The biggest is in Moscow at the beginning of December. It’s less a fundraising, more an awareness-raising activity. It showcases NGOs’ activities and it’s a family day – there are quizzes, games, activities, you can buy souvenirs and you find out how NGOs work in different spheres.’

‘What’s missing? ‘Leaders…. who will set an example and have the courage to venture into untouched areas. Like Olga. For me, she is still the leader.’

With one or two exceptions, ‘big philanthropic funding is not that visible’, though there is more media attention to philanthropy. Some TV channels will cover non-profit activity, ‘but the internet is the place where we can publish information and try to get through to the audience we’d like to get to [online news channels and feeds, like Youtube and Instagram]… this is a growing area, much more than traditional ones like TV and newspapers. It’s cheaper, it’s much easier for us to manage and we can produce content ourselves.’

‘We still don’t have reliable data on the number of foundations so it can only be an assumption, but I would say the number of community foundations is not increasing as much as we’d hoped and the number of newly-established endowments is not growing the way I’d like to see. The number of foundations is growing but most are operational rather than grantmaking.’

She also sees, ‘a new stage of infrastructure development in our country …In Moscow, the High School for Economics has started courses in philanthropy and social activities. We also have an organisation called Philanthropic Infrastructure. They provide legal and financial services for foundations. We’ve got a new foundation called Friends that is working with a number of foundations to accelerate their development and make them more professional. In the regions, resource centres are being established. Community foundations are starting to establish common spaces for NPOs to come together to explore how to establish communities around certain issues.’

What’s missing? ‘Leaders…. who will set an example and have the courage to venture into untouched areas. Like Olga. For me, she is still the leader. She was the person who made me believe in this sphere. Because of her, I’m still here. We don’t have a leader like that in the sector at the moment. The other thing is, we need resources, resources to try to experiment, to set up new infrastructure.’

Is the position better or worse than in 2014? ‘It’s developing. Let’s say it’s better overall in that more people are involved.’

Pushpa Aman Singh, Guidestar India (Nominated 2013).
Pushpa was at Guidestar at the time of her nomination and is still there as Founder and Chief Executive Officer.

‘Philanthropy has come a long way in terms of individual or retail philanthropy. We’re now in the second year of Giving Tuesday in India, which has shown phenomenal growth over what we did as a kind of experiment last year. We still have several campaigns running, but We have some campaigns still running, but have surely crossed Rs85 million (USD1.2 million)[1]. The Joy of Giving week, which started in 2009, is also much bigger since 2013 and there are so many more services for supporting retail philanthropy, whether it’s giving money, giving time or material.’

In terms of the legislative environment, she says, ‘it’s been both good and bad…most of taxation and foreign contributions-related registration and a good part of other regulatory work is now online, so it’s been streamlined and it has become more transparent. The flipside is that this requires a certain capability among NPOs … so capacity building in these areas is critical and retail philanthropy won’t support that. It will have to come from traditional foundations and philanthropists. Another downside is that almost 20,000 NPOs lost their registration to receive foreign contributions. Part of that is because some of them were inactive accounts or did not want to apply for renewals, but there are definitely a number of NPOs who have been affected in the process.’

In terms of taxation, too, practically everything is digitised, though there are concerns about safeguarding personal information. ‘On the whole, though, digitisation is helping more people. This is not a commonly held perception but as someone who is working with thousands of NPOs and with technology and issues of transparency and public accountability, I would say that largely the trend is positive and is improving the credibility perception of NPOs. We do need to emulate some best practices in digitisation and flow of information among different bodies. There is also need for streamlining of systems and revisiting archaic laws at state level.’

‘There’s certainly more media coverage since 2013. I see far more features on philanthropists in publications like The Mint, the Economic Times, the Times of India. Is it enough? I don’t think so…’

Again, the attitude of government depends on which bit of it you are talking about: ‘government is not one single entity. … When we interact with government authorities at different levels, they do engage in dialogue with NPOs to see how the changes in laws and systems take into account the non-profit viewpoint, but…I can’t say for sure that that is the case across the board. There are areas where better consultation would help, where more dialogue is needed, where being more proactive on both sides would improve matters.’

‘There’s certainly more media coverage since 2013. I see far more features on philanthropists in publications like The Mint, the Economic Times, the Times of India. Is it enough? I don’t think so because unlike the for-profit community, NPOs don’t usually have a PR function, they don’t have budgets to systematically engage media so stories are usually under-reported, nevertheless, large initiatives especially DaanUtsav gets wide coverage and this year Giving Tuesday did get attention. Unfortunately, there are more media reports that are quite damaging and the general public tends to remember the bad stories, the sensational stories. We do have greater presence of social sector-focussed publications such as India Development Review and The Better India.’

‘As well as individual philanthropy, there has obviously been growth in more systematic CSR since the 2013 Companies Act. There has also been a significant growth in the high net worth individuals’ philanthropy. Between 2013 and now, organisations like Nilekani philanthropies, Azim Premji Foundation and the ATE Chandra Foundation have made significant contributions, and we have more groups either giving through their own foundations or through donor advised funds. There’s also been a major growth in the ecosystem players. One type of support organisation where we saw a lot of visibility and new players coming in is crowdfunding platforms. Many of them are social businesses and they are focusing on using technology to help peer-to-peer fundraising. The other growth area is the number of players for building the capacity of NPOs and for supporting volunteering. We also have the Centre for Social Impact & Philanthropy at the Ashoka University looking at systematic research to support the philanthropy ecosystem.’

Better or worse than 2013? ‘I think much better. In December 2013, we [Guidestar] had 1,300 organisations on the database. Now it’s almost 9,000. We also have more than 1500 NGOs that have undergone GuideStar India’s certification since 2015. We are much more actively involved in promoting philanthropy in a more significant way. It’s been a great journey, but if we had more support for the kind of work we do, it could have been far more significant. I love what I do. It’s not finished yet and I don’t think it will be finished in many more years. It’s all much more transformational now with the kind of mobile and other applications we have leveraging the data that we didn’t have in 2013. Then, we were talking about an information repository, now we are talking about a more dynamic technology platform and information system. The more NPOs GuideStar puts on to the platform, that many more there are in our philanthropy marketplace. That’s one clear indicator of growth – more NGOs being accessible for online and strategic philanthropy means there’s that much more activity happening.’

Xu Yongguang (Nominated 2015), China
Xu Yongguang was at the time of his nomination, and continues to be, President of the Narada Foudation.

‘Since the end of 2015, China’s legislative environment for philanthropy has had major advancements. One of the most important, the Charity Law, of March 2016, is China’s first legislation specifically made to address the development of the philanthropic sector, and clarifies the relationship between the philanthropic and non-profit sector and the government. There have also been new measures to increase transparency, and the passing of the Overseas NGO Domestic Activities Management Law in April 2016, to regulate and standardise the activities of overseas NGOs working in China.

‘The government’s intention to encourage philanthropy is shown by this legislation, however, in some respects, it is overly stringent. For example, the requirements regarding investment risk are strict and not conducive to charitable organisations handling their own assets responsibly and independently, nor are they advantageous for preserving and growing assets. Both the amount and proportion of individual giving has increased. Last year, China’s total charitable gifts were RMB149.986 billion (USD21.6 billion), with individual gifts estimated at 23.28 per cent of that, more than doubling the figures for 2015.’

‘China now has several online giving platforms, usually established by commercial institutions such as internet companies. The advantage of this is that charitable organisations can reach many more donors by using these platforms to fundraise. The downside is that the government requires them go through these platforms to fundraise online, which restricts their ability to do so.’

‘The increasing numbers show the growing strength of China’s citizen-led philanthropy, but, at the same time, only a very few – around 1 per cent – are grantmaking.’

‘Giving days and public charity events are also increasingly popular. In 2015, Tencent Charity Foundation launched its 99 Charity Days initiative which raised approximately RMB1.414 billion (USD201.7 million) in 2018. Alibaba Foundation’s Taobao.com site highlights high quality NPOs or charity programmes to which merchants using the site can voluntarily designate a percentage of their sales proceeds. There are a number of sponsored walks/walkathons, including China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation’s the Great Walker activity, the China Youth Development Foundation’s Eight-Hour Challenge walk-a-thon. The media’s attitude toward philanthropic activities has been quite proactive. Many of China Central Television’s (CCTV) channels – the country’s most influential TV station – are creating their own charity programmes. A show called “Community Heroes,” showcases 10 or so philanthropic or non-profit organisations. The audience votes for them and the higher the vote the NPO gets, the bigger the donation it gets from a sponsoring foundation.  Numerous magazines and newspapers have special pages with a focus on philanthropy and many media organisations organise annual charity meetings at the end of the year to recognise philanthropic and non-profit institutions and donors.’

‘China has two kinds of foundations, public fundraising and private foundations. Private foundations are still the minority – 1,700 out of a total of 6,300. The increasing numbers show the growing strength of China’s citizen-led philanthropy, but, at the same time, only a very few – around 1 per cent – are grantmaking. They’re not playing the role of a charity investor, so the philanthropy sector is still in early stages.’

‘Besides the China Foundation Center, there are now a number of platforms for promoting the sector’s development – the China Social Enterprise and Investment Forum (CSEIF) which has played a vigorous role in promoting a social enterprise movement and the China Effective Philanthropy Multiplier, co-created by the Narada Foundation and 15 other foundations in 2016. Its aim is to accelerate social programmes, scaling their impact, and to address social problems in a more effective and efficient way.’

‘As a whole, the philanthropic sector is improving but many challenges remain. I believe that, for it to develop, the government should give more space for citizen initiatives. Under the legal standards and supervision of the government, the sector should set up its own mechanisms for self-regulation to promote more discipline and regulation. Meanwhile, large-scale public participation and fair competition should be encouraged so that the fittest organisations survive. We should believe that competition can help the sector improve.’

‘I think the greatest difficulty for Chinese philanthropy’s development is still the creation of a favourable tax system. While there are tax incentives on donations, some social services organisations still pay tax on their income and income that charitable organisations get from investing their own assets is now subject to corporate income tax, creating pressure for large foundations and forming a deterrent to wealthy individuals’ philanthropy.’

Bhekinkosi Moyo, Southern Africa (Nominated 2016).
Bhekinkosi Moyo was executive director of the Southern Africa Trust when he was nominated. He is now Adjunct Professor at Wits Business School (WBS) to establish a new Africa Centre for Philanthropy and Social Investment (ACPSI).

‘We are seeing more and more governments and regional bodies wanting to work with philanthropists. That’s a very positive sign. Some of them, like South Africa, have gone as far as to have dedicated employees who work with philanthropists. Within the Department of Science and Technology, they have staff whose focus is to work with philanthropies, especially in education and health. And governments in the whole southern Africa region have for the last two years or so been working mainly with the Southern Africa Trust to put together a regional resource mobilisation framework which is heavily dependent on the role that philanthropy could play. However, there haven’t yet been any new laws put in place to promote philanthropy, so that’s the next thing that’s needed.’

‘I don’t think there have been any new umbrella bodies or networks set up since 2016, but there have been attempts to strengthen those that exist.’

‘Individuals have taken note of philanthropy and what it can do and there has been a lot of awareness-creating, whether it’s convenings, or social media, by the Africa Philanthropy Network for example, and the Global Fund [for Community Foundations] is really present on social media, but whether that is translated into individual giving, I think it’s still too early to say. Individuals in Southern Africa and in Africa generally, do give, but don’t give to structured organisations.’

‘There isn’t a public giving day, but there are various initiatives that try and publicise different forms of philanthropy. There’s an initiative in Johannesburg, where the mayor mobilises community members on one weekend a month to clean up the city. There’s also an annual event organised by Radio 702 called 702 Walk in which individuals take part to raise resources for different charities and organisations like the Southern Africa Trust hold annual giving platforms. These have become very visible. I see a lot of crowd sourcing especially on social media, so I think there is steady growth of online platforms, including by governments. The latest was an online fundraising by the government of Zimbabwe to address cholera outbreak. There is also more reporting and writing on philanthropy than before.’

‘As to whether there are more philanthropic institutions, like foundations, there probably are, but there has been no new study to confirm this, but I’m aware that research on the topic is underway.  I don’t think there have been any new umbrella bodies or networks set up since 2016, but there have been attempts to strengthen those that exist. The other main infrastructural development has been the expansion of the chair at Wits University into a centre on philanthropy. Overall, I think the situation for philanthropy has improved since 2016. What’s principally needed in my view is more investment in building the infrastructures for philanthropy.’

Andrew Milner is associate editor of Alliance magazine


  1. ^ All currency conversions to US dollars based on xe.com/currencyconverter

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