Since the last study trip and then reading a provocative but truthful reflection paper from Jiri Barta I have in my mind two disturbing questions – is more philanthropy our best (and only) way to sustainability of our communities and second – do we have a courage to do it ?
Let me now walk you through some examples of our attempts to raise money from local sources and what we have learnt in our foundation.
The Healthy City Community Foundation took the first lesson about local fundraising 20 years ago, when The Mott Foundation gave us a matching offer and we needed to raise 500 thousands Slovak Crowns. Unimaginable amount in that time and quite scary! But some Board Member came with the idea – let’s break it down into smaller numbers which led to our first campaign “500 friends of Banska Bystrica” , in which we planned to raise 500 gifts of 1000 SKK. We have learnt several lessons during that process – the most important one: people actually donate money but … and those “buts” were very new for us and important to understand, like it takes more time then we expect, it costs money, it requires some skills, knowledge, etc. – I guess you know all of this. Later on, with the luxury of more foreign sources, we could experiment and tested other fundraising tools, like an art auction, production and sale of postcards, calendars, books, organizing a charitable social events, chocolate party, dinner, concert… The lesson learnt – people liked it but all these activities required a lot of our capacity and did not bring long term results. In these days we are busy to learn and implement all kinds of new e-tools to raise money, to be present in virtual world, to create the coolest application, to post funny statement, special picture, etc.
I understand that we need to do some of that to be visible and readable.
The challenge is to find a right balance between all these supporting activities and our major role (if we believe in it) to bring more philanthropy into our communities.
I think I am finally getting it – what is a difference between fundraising and developing philanthropy. And at this point I am coming to my favorite point – values.
For me, developing local philanthropy is sharing and developing values.
It means that community foundation needs to define them and find the best way of their articulation and argumentation. Then to go out to different places of the community to meet different people, to listen to them and offer them what we stand for and work on together. It seems to be a very hard, demanding and in some areas even risky work in our current complicated world. That’s why I have many questions, the main one is – do we have courage to do it?
I personally am very close to answer – yes. And my last “but” for today is – but I can’t do it alone.
Beata Hirt, June 19, 2015