Adaptation in the face of war: the experience of the Zagoriy Foundation


Eugenia Mazurenko


Change can be surprising, discouraging, and immobilising. Especially when it comes unexpectedly and uninvited. Like, for example, a missile attack on your city at five in the morning.

Before the war, Zagoriy Foundation aimed to develop a culture of giving. We conducted research on giving, developed institutional philanthropy and trust in foundations, and provided them with grants to improve efficiency. With the advent of war, the priorities of each of us changed, and most of our projects had to be cancelled. But we’ve remained loyal to our mission and decided to stick to it in the harrowing new conditions. 

Adapting the mission

Zagoriy Foundation’s grantee 280 Days Charity Fund works to reduce the number of pregnancy complications in Ukraine and helps cover the needs of maternity hospitals during the war. Photos by Evgeniy Vorontsov for 280 Days Charity Fund.

It is worth adding that it is the second time we are changing the tactics of the foundation’s work in two years. The first time, in order to fight the consequences of the pandemic, we redirected the vector of aid and launched grant support to help local organisations. This time, relying on the strengths of our team, which include excellent knowledge of the sector, expertise in operational management, and solid communications and connections, we decided to focus on assisting and coordinating non-profit organisations during the war and post-war period.

Every non-profit organisation in Ukraine has now faced the new realities of war. Most will continue to work despite all the difficulties, help their wards or solve current wartime problems. Therefore, we strive to support Ukrainian organisations, identify current needs, promote coordination and partnership within the sector.

In the early days of the war, organisations could quickly cover rapidly growing needs in the wake of a general increase in requests and a desire to help. However, after a while, due to frequent fraud cases, among other irregularities, there was a request to check the transparency of foundations and initiatives. Thus, our team took part in the reporting, checking and verification of bona fide funds.

However, accountability is not all it takes to make the sector work effectively in times of war. Civil society should work constantly to strengthen their positions in fundraising and relationships with donors to build connections and keep the workflow stable.

Supporting our partner organisations and grantees to work efficiently

Photos by Evgeniy Vorontsov for 280 Days Charity Fund.

Grassroot organisations in Ukraine work hard every day to support civil society and its needs. However, their voices are often not loud enough to be heard both in Ukraine and abroad. Our team is now collecting the needs of our grant organisations, participants of training programmes, and partners to accumulate requests and cover them as efficiently as possible. Thanks to our grant policies and CRM system, we have the capacity to do it transparently and record all reports. We also provide consulting support on restructuring the operational processes of partners to ensure their smooth running.

Development of coordination within the sector and efficient allocation of funds 

Through collaboration with well-established partners, we plan to join forces and collect information about all activities, needs, and challenges, thus making the work of the non-profit sector as efficient as possible. Such a mapping process will help compile the lists of coordination headquarters by cities and humanitarian aid depots for the international community to inform donors about existing needs in a centralised manner.

Dissemination of information about philanthropy during the war

This includes an analysis of the current situation, recommendations for charitable activities, protection against fraud, and providing information to the international community about the role of philanthropy in solving problems. Long-established relationships with international partners, collaboration with the media, and our Media of Great Stories platform have become an effective tool for disseminating important information about the non-profit sector.

International cooperation

We are incredibly thankful to the international community for the enormous support our nation receives these days, wherever we are. At the same time, the scale of needs is growing, so we continue to inform our international partners about the activities, and the list of sector needs to raise financial support for reliable NGOs and charities operating in Ukraine centrally through our foundation.

Information partnerships and financial assistance from the international community help our team ensure the effective functioning of the sector, which makes an invaluable contribution to the protection of civil society. We believe that support and cooperation are critical success factors under challenging times.

Change can be surprising. But if you stick to your values and mission, they can give impetus to the development and open up new horizons for growth.

This piece was published first on Philanthropy in Focus on 31 March 2022It is being re-shared in Alliance with permission.

Eugenia Mazurenko is CEO of Zagoriy Foundation in Ukraine. The rest of the Zagoriy Foundation team also contributed to this article.

Tagged in: Ukraine-Russia war

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