By Marija Mitrović, Philanthropy and Partnerships Director at the Trag Foundation
SouthEast European Indigenous Grantmakers Network (SIGN) is a regional network gathering the Trag Foundation (Serbia), MOZAIK Foundation (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Fund for Active Citizenship – fAKT (Montenegro), Forum for Civic Initiatives – FIQ (Kosovo), HORUS (North Macedonia) and Catalyst Balkans (Serbia). On October 8th, 2019 these foundations gathered at the Philanthropy House in Brussels to celebrate a decade of joint work on development of philanthropy, cross-sector partnerships and long-term sustainability of civil society on the local and national level, as well as across the Western Balkans region.
A one-day event that was hosted by the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and its CEO Gerard Salole, served to help the SIGN Network present the biggest achievements and highlight the most important success stories, share its journey with similar actors in Europe and present its future plans in improving philanthropy development and supporting the civil society to bring about positive changes in their local communities.
In order to describe the context for philanthropy development, active citizenship and the ways they address the shrinking space for civil society in the Western Balkans region, SIGN Network partners presented the comparative analysis of public opinion surveys on philanthropy that were conducted in five Western Balkan countries and further analyzed by Catalyst Balkans.
Although the general public in all countries believe that governmental institutions should bear most responsibility by giving and helping directly, it is worth mentioning that citizens expressed a higher understanding of the ways that they can contribute to the common good and demonstrated the confidence that their donations are relevant and can really help the society (49-67%). This, in combination with the notion of doing something noble, represents the prevalent motive for people to support philanthropic actions (41-52%). The fact that more than 50% of respondents stated that they would be willing to participate in future philanthropic actions, inspired a further discussion on the importance of SIGN Network’s work on supporting people in local communities to rely more on themselves, use their resources more effectively, take ownership of solving local issues, build their constituency and impact, and thus finally becoming more sustainable, resilient and less dependent on external factors.
The joint conclusion of the SIGN Network’s analysis was that the biggest challenge for the local civil society organizations in the region is the perception of their transparency and that their main focus should be on building trust, primarily through better outreach and increased understanding of their goals and results by the people in their communities. More than 50% of respondents found issues of transparency of utmost importance for their motivation to give, not only when it comes to the levels of funds raised but also results and impact of supported activities. To citizens, media is seen as an important provider of this information but their publishing also remains the responsibility of the civil society sector and initiators of supported philanthropic endeavors.
To address this issue, SIGN Network developed the Standards for Transparency in Fundraising that have been endorsed by more than 200 non-profits across the region, and the number of signatory organizations is expected to rise in the forthcoming period. SIGN Members keep on being diligent in their mission to support the non-profits in their countries to mobilize citizens, build trust among different actors in their communities and generate social changes, making it a priority and a pressing need for the development of the otherwise polarized societies across the Western Balkans region.
The event concluded with the formal opening of the exhibition highlighting many of the SIGN’s biggest achievements and milestones throughout its 10 year history. The exhibition features images, case studies and storytelling about initiatives and activities carried out by SIGN in the region and will be on display and open for general public to visit it free of charge in the Philanthropy House in Brussels, Rue Royale 94, Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 17:30 until November 30th, 2019.
The full comparative analysis of the public opinion survey on philanthropy across Western Balkans can be found here.
Philanthropy and Partnerships Director at Trag Foundation
Trag Foundation is local foundation that instigates active participation of citizens in social changes in Serbia.. Read more on their website: http://www.tragfondacija.org