Brazilian philanthropy innovates to foster a culture of giving – Get to know Fundo BIS!

Fundo BIS (BIS Fund) is an initiative to promote the culture of giving in the country by supporting initiatives that create an increasingly favorable and motivating giving environment so that all Brazilians are engaged and donate to social causes regularly. The initiative started out when a group of recognized civil society organizations acting in the socio-environmental field decided to come together and join the cause.

The culture of giving in Brazil has plenty of room for growth: while in the United States giving represents 2% of the country’s GDP (gross domestic product ) in Brazil it represents only 0.23% of the national GDP, according to researches ‘Doação Brasil’ (2015) and McKinsey’s ‘Effectiveness of Social Investments’ (2008).

Campaigns incentivizing giving; collecting data on the role of civil society organizations; a favorable regulatory environment and innovative mechanisms that favor and facilitate the practice of giving are key elements to strengthening this environment.

To set up the erika_vpbfund, Fundo BIS received contributions from Instituto Arapyaú, Instituto C&A, ICE –Instituto de Cidadania Empresarial and Instituto Cyrela.

To talk about this unique initiative in Brazil and the world we have invited Erika Sanchez, Programs Manager at GIFE and one of the people responsible for managing the campaign.

 

What do you think is the first step to achieve a strong culture of giving in Brazil? Why?

It’s difficult to define what the first step would be. For GIFE there are two very clear and distinct dimensions: the first is the existence of a regulatory framework that doesn’t discourage donations and where they can certainly be better incentivized and promoted Stemming from this objective, GIFE is in the process of implementing an advocacy project by 2019, funded by the European Union. The project will act in 4 different thematic areas: ITCMD (state taxes on donations), tax incentives for donations made by individuals, endowments and the new regulatory framework for civil society organizations (MROSC), which regulates partnerships and relocates resources from the state to civil society organizations. The project will have a transversal approach: knowledge production — through the development of 4 researches -, articulations with key players connected to the topics, communications, and occurrence.

The other dimension – and certainly not the least important – is the cultural dimension, which involves many different aspects and where there is opportunity and potential for research, due to the lack of studies on the topic in Brazil. However, as the research Doação Brasil (Instituto para o Desenvolvimento do Investimento Social 2015) points out, Brazilians have a big sense of solidarity with other people- and this is perhaps the first step which we already have. There is undoubtedly enormous potential for developing and strengthening the culture of giving in the country. One of the challenges is to raise awareness that Brazil’s socio-environmental problems are not solely the responsibility of the government, that the solutions to address them need to come from a collective effort between the public, private and civil society organizations and that it is everyone’s role as citizens to be conscious about it. This general consciousness has been expanding but there is still much work to be done.

Another key point is to recognize the central role of a pluralistic civil society that is diverse and empowered to tackle social and democratic problems, and also recognize the value of civil society organizations’ work which are often being attacked in response to the visibility the media gives to isolated cases of corruption – which unfortunately can represent the sector in the eyes of the public – ignoring thousands of positive examples of extremely encouraging and necessary work. Recognizing and valuing the work of CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) can certainly contribute to the expansion of the culture of giving in the country.

There is still the idea that CSOs are fulfilling a role that should belong to the State – this comes from a belief that only the State is responsible for solving social challenges. However, it is becoming clearer that CSOs have their own place in society, which includes being executors of public policies.

Although some of these questions have already been overcome in the sector, there is still a long way to go until the whole of Brazilian society has the same perception and this is essential to the promotion of a comprehensive and consolidated culture of giving.

For GIFE, all forms of private resource mobilization for the production of public goods should be fostered and this is why we believe we have a role in the two dimensions mentioned above (regulatory and cultural). This is also why we actively support the movement for a culture of giving in Brazil and decided to accept the challenge of incubating an initiative like the BIS Fund, the first Brazilian fund – and possibly in the world since we have not yet heard of any other initiative like this – committed to finance projects whose goal is to foster a culture of giving in the country.

For the structuring phase and the first call for proposals, the BIS Fund has received contributions from Instituto Arapyaú, Instituto  C&A, ICE -Instituto de Cidadania Empresarial and Instituto Cyrela.

What is GIFE’s role in Fundo BIS?

It is important to note that Fundo BIS is not a GIFE initiative. The idea came from a workshop on the theme, led by Instituto Arapyaú. The goal was for the group to create some initiatives that would promote the culture of giving in Brazil: that’s when the idea of Fundo BIS first came up.

There was a period of gestation – which is normal in such innovative initiatives and processes managed by networks – between when the idea came up in 2015 and the launch of the first call for proposals in July 2017. GIFE participated in the workshop and offered to incubate the fund, since it would require a legal entity to put the plan into action.A curators’ committee was created for the fund’s governance, consisting of funders and key people in this area in Brazil.

As an incubator, GIFE offers its credibility to legitimize the Fund in the eyes of society and provides its accounting structure to receive financial resources. Given the responsibility, the incubator has a permanent chair at the curators’ committee. However, we decided that we would not have voting power during selection time, as it is our responsibility only to support and facilitate the process – areas in which we have expertise.

For the actual implementation, we decided to hire an organization that has know-how in the management of calls for proposals. For this first edition we chose PonteAPonte to be responsible for the relationship and operation between the BIS Fund and the initiatives supported. Therefore, the selection and evaluation of all projects submitted to the fund are the responsibility of PonteAPonte along with the members of the committee (except for GIFE) and other experts invited to evaluate the proposals.

Individual giving is a new trend across the world. We don’t depend on established organizations to fund causes anymore – there are many crowdfunding platforms facilitating public engagement with causes and increasing giving. How do you think Fundo BIS can collaborate/is collaborating with this movement?

It’s too early to say anything concrete but we have very high expectations!  We hope that the fund can significantly contribute to this movement.
We believe that the fact that the call for proposals has already happened is already a motivation for organizations and people to think about the theme – after all, funding ideas is always a challenge – since incentives in this area are still rare.

When designing the call for proposals we sought to be very open, stating that we value innovative ideas and that we are open for experimentation. In addition, we decided to include the possibility of receiving proposals from individuals, which significantly broadens the spectrum of applicants.

Although this is a pilot project and we are still in the process of evaluating the proposals, the numbers and analysis are already making us believe that the fund can actually collaborate to improve the culture of giving in the country: we’ve received 218 initiatives from many different Brazilian States.

One thing we have already learned from this call for proposals is that there is a misunderstanding between what are fundraising campaigns and what are projects that have the promotion of a culture of giving as their main objective. However, more than 50% of the proposals met the criteria and among these, we have identified many with great potential: so the selection committee will have a difficult task during the second evaluation stage. This is  great news and confirms the assumption that led to the creation of the Fund.

The call for proposals includes 4 possible areas for applicants – campaigns, innovation, research and advocacy. We have received proposals in all of these four areas which is excellent. We will certainly be able to talk more precisely about the contribution level at the end of the selection process in December, and even more so after a year when the projects will be finalizing their implementation processes.

GIFE is working with this innovative initiative. Do you think this can be duplicated to other countries around the world? What would be your advice for organizations willing to start a fund like Fundo BIS?

It is certainly an initiative that can be replicated in other countries, especially in those where the culture of giving is being developed, as it is the case in Brazil.

A first piece of advice would be to identify the actors who are already engaged with the cause. I think the experience of designing and implementing such an initiative within a network is extremely important for the success of the initiative and for reflection on the theme itself. Networking also has a much greater potential in engaging other actors – the plurality of actors is certainly something that adds a lot since initiatives to strengthen the culture of giving can come from the CSOs themselves, from academia, the private sector, and even from individuals. We need to see the culture of giving as a cause itself, even if it ends up serving other causes and strengthening civil society. A cause can only be strengthened by many hands, many heads and many engaged hearts.

 

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