Rebuilding the culture of philanthropy in Ukraine

Ukraine‘s foundation and philanthropy sector, at a glance:

Number of foundations:
7,328 charity foundations (source: letter of the State Fiscal Service (in Ukrainian); so far, officially published data is not available available)

Main umbrella bodies:
Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum (UPF), established 2005
Association of Charity Providers of Ukraine, established 2011

State of the sector:
The historical events surrounding the Ukrainian state caused the almost total destruction of the philanthropy sector in the 20th century (as a result of the October Revolution, and later the Soviet regime), which is why the culture of philanthropy has been actually rebuilt since 1991, when Ukraine became independent.

Biggest opportunity in the sector:
Development of common standards for the charity sector can be the basis for confidence building in the society, preventing fraudulent activities, and also creating favourable conditions for partnership and collaboration.

Biggest challenge for the sector:
Funding from foreign donors is gradually decreasing so there is a need for the reorientation of donations and funding in the domestic market. The Ukrainian society is still not aware of the standards of charity activities, which creates favourable conditions for fraud and unjustified enrichment in this sphere. Sometimes the victims of fake fundraising actions become disillusioned with the concept of charity as a whole.

12. August 2019

Interview with Polina Nyukhina PhD, Director, Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum, Ukraine

Polina Nyukhina
Credit: GivingTuesdayUA

What are the three broad issues that will drive Ukraine’s foundation and philanthropy sector in the next 10 years?
It's very difficult to talk about 10 years in our rapidly changing world, as we are planning strategically in Ukraine not even for five but only for three or fewer years. However, I would like to assume that the following three directions will be most widespread in the Ukrainian charity sector:

  1. Confidence-building through transparency, strong partnerships, standards of activities, and also public reporting and focusing on the outcome and impact of interventions. Charitable organisations in Ukraine will try to build and consolidate trust in the society. This is a long-term process, which requires, first and foremost, institutional maturity of the organisation itself.
  2. Institutional development will be the second direction. Charitable organisations in Ukraine are serious players involved in the formulation of public policies (especially in the field of health and social protection) and the preservation of a positive image of the country internationally (through international partnerships and collaboration, access to international movements, such as, for example, GivingTuesday). After all, the charitable sector makes up a significant part of the country‘s GDP, at 3.5% in 2018 according to the UPF. Therefore it is extremely important that a sector with such opportunities is professional, conscious and ethical, and that cannot be achieved without the institutional capacities of funds.
  3. Last but not least is digitisation, data collection and information protection. In Ukraine, the state does not collect statistical data on the volume and status of the charity sector. However, work with data is key to better understanding beneficiaries’ needs, the quality of their own services and development opportunities. And data collection is not possible without digital skills and understanding of cyber security and information protection issues.

What is traditional philanthropy in Ukraine, and how do you expect this to develop in the future?
The traditional institution of philanthropy, which flourished in Ukraine for some six hundred years (approximately from the 14th to the 20th centuries), was destroyed by the revolution and the Soviet regime. The concepts of charity, tithe and donations were ‘out of the law’ in the ‘equal’ society, where only the state cared single-handedly for the general good and self-organisation, along with individual initiatives, was not welcomed. Therefore, charity became ‘quiet’ and still many Ukrainians prefer anonymous donations. In addition, the uprooting of the philanthropy culture makes the good deeds of modern Ukrainians more reactive than strategic. Fortunately, many philanthropic organisations want to change this approach toward more responsible charity, which is aimed at long-term results and sustainability. However, revitalisation of the philanthropic culture is a systematic and long process. It could take years to rebuild the institution of philanthropy in Ukraine to the level of the beginning of the 20th century.

What role will philanthropy take?
In Ukraine, charitable organisations often take on problems that should be solved by the state (for example, social protection, health care and community development). One could discuss the positive or negative context of such a situation indefinitely. But it is better to focus on this starting point and think about the development of Ukrainian philanthropy and the benefits to society that this development is capable of bringing. In my opinion, charitable organisations are an intermediary between active citizens and the state while, at the same time, being a marker for business, which could help to identify potential consumer troubles. The philanthropists are constantly working with the final beneficiaries, making them better aware of their needs and expectations, so it would be appropriate to collect this information to build both public and business strategies.

Will Ukraine's philanthropy be more nationally focused, or will it also be regional and global? Is there any other subject you consider crucial for the sector?
Ukrainian charity is a national phenomenon. Unfortunately, the only resource that Ukraine can share currently with the international community is experience and partnership, but not financial efforts. I hope that I will see a time when the state of Ukraine will enter into a pool of international donors of technical assistance.

Are there some developments we are not yet aware of at international level, but which do you see coming in future in the future?
It seems to me that in order to reach a wider constituency and support of philanthropic and charitable initiatives, more attention needs to be paid to areas of knowledge such as behaviourism, behavioural change and community management. In the end, the charity sector is called upon to cause social changes in the society, so we need to know more about people, their behaviour, needs and troubles.

If people want to get information about news and trends in the sector in Ukraine, where can they find this information?
All the information resources about charity in Ukraine are in Ukrainian and do not have English versions. Among the information resources that cover the CSO sector as a whole, "Hromadskyi Prostir", "Gurt" and EUProstir (with an English version) may be identified, which highlight the progress of social projects funded by the European Union in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Philanthropic Marketplace is the first nationwide online charity platform. The portal of the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum is an interactive platform for philanthropists, which includes such tools as the Charity Map (in Ukrainian) (an interactive database of 100 transparent charitable organisations) and a free online consulting service on legal and financial issues (more than 1,000 expert answers on current issues facing charitable organisations in Ukraine).


Compiled by Sabine Friedel, Association of German Foundations

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