With Pawel Lukasiak, President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, we go deep into the state of philanthropy and social investment with one of the main player in the country when it comes to promoting modern and impactful practices to create social impact.
The Academy is an NPO, active in Poland since 1998, working to promote individual and community philanthropy, the diffusion of effective models of intervention, and the support to companies working to generate social impact. A fundamental role to create a proper culture for philanthropy and impact investing in a national scenario still characterized by strongly under-funded non profits, low individual propension to an engaged philanthropy, and a corporate sector still in its infancy when it comes to promoting win-win partnerships to produce social impact while empowering the core business.
From your privileged perspective, could you give us a glance on the Polish philanthropic scenario?
Sure, in Poland there are 17 thousand registered foundations and 86 thousand associations (excluding Volunteer Fire Brigades). Approx. 70 thousand of them are actively operating. Most non-governmental organizations are involved in sport, tourism, recreation and hobbies, these are the basic fields of activity in case of 34% organizations.
As far as the financial situation of Polish non-governmental organizations is concerned, in 2011-2014, the average income of the NGOs increased from 18 thousand to 27 thousand PLN.
Despite the improvement of the financial situation, the sector remains budgetary delaminated. In 2014, budgets of 14% of organizations amounted no more than 1 thousand PLN, while only 6% of organizations achieved income of 1 million PLN.
In 2014, more than half of the organizations budgets were powered by:
- funds for the implementation of public tasks by the local government and public administration – 60% of the organizations;
- membership fees – 60% of the organizations;
- financial and material donations from individual donors.
When it comes to the regranting mechanism in NGOs, e.g. from 1998, the Academy has awarded €10 million in grants; last year it was almost €1 million.
Concerning the general drivers that the Academy is witnessing, what are the main trends that are defining the Polish philanthropic sector nowadays?
There are several trends currently emerging in the philanthropy sector in Poland, both positive and negative. For example memorial funds are being developed which is a consequence of gradual succession in companies. 25 years after transition to the free market economy many private businesses are vested to subsequent generations. We hope that this trend will positively impact social issues.
On the other hand, unfortunately, state involvement in the financing of non-governmental sector is decreasing. Moreover, the allocation of 1% income tax is not functioning properly. A lot of organizations, instead of supporting local initiatives, create bank accounts for people raising funds for various purposes: medical treatments, operations, etc.; organizations just transfer funds, which is a distortion of the 1% concept.
When it comes to charitable activities, most Poles (41% of responses) help financially during money collections or by transferring 1% tax on public benefit organizations, which declares 34% of respondents.
Studies show that Poles prefer to perform a “small effort” to throw some coins into the box, buy charity candle, send sms – or, as in the case of transfer of 1% – indicate the purpose by filling the appropriate box in the tax return, rather than engage in the work of the organization or support concrete social projects.
In your knowledge, which tools do Polish Foundations implement to select and evaluate their grantees to make sure their resources are used in an effective way?
In some social programs, such as Act Locally (one of the PAFF programs, coordinated by the Academy’s) in which you have one, stable donor, as Polish-American Freedom Foundations, it is very important to conduct the impact study after the implementation of the financed project.
But grantees who are financed by many donors are not so guarded, there is no pressure to conduct impact studies. Such situation is unfortunately more common in Poland. What’s more, only every third organization has detailed information on the number of their beneficiaries: institutions or individuals; only slightly more than half of them regularly analyzes and compares such data. Organizations rarely try to assess the effectiveness of its activities: two-third of them do not systematically asses their activity and analyze the effects of work in any form.
Last year we presented in Italy the EVPA’s report Corporate Social Impact Strategies, highlighting through different cases new business-oriented approaches to the creation of social impact (mainly through the use of strategically oriented corporate foundations; inclusive business practices; corporate impact investing). Do you think companies in Poland are adopting business-aligned strategies able to achieve a win-win result, i.e. generating social impact and empowering the business?
In Poland we are observing a slow emergence of Social Impact Investment movement. Non-governmental organizations, such as the Academy, try to persuade companies, so they can be driven by social impact. Few years ago the Academy began a cooperation with business leaders through the program entitled Presidents-Volunteers. CEOs gathered in our coalition are pretty active in this field. Moreover, for 19 years we are running the Benefactor of the Year Competition, which is the most recognizable and prestigious competition promoting corporate community involvement (CCI) among Polish enterprises – both large and small. Since its foundation in 1997, its main goals, among others, have been: promoting CCI and partnership between business and NGOs, awarding most socially active companies, inspiring entrepreneurs to take social actions, increasing the level of knowledge about CCI in the society.
But to say that Polish companies operate well in the field of generating social impact and empowering the business at the same time it’s too much. They need more time to change their strategies and it requires persistent education in this area.
Would you like to describe one of the Academy’s project/initiative/program which you deem particularly significant – in light of the challenges characterizing the current socio-economic Polish and/or European scenario?
For such question the only answer is YES. Right now we are initiating the Global Challenges Local Solutions (GCLS) program, a Europe-wide initiative supporting community foundations. Europe needs a more engaged, socially aware and active citizenry equipped to tackle the challenges we face. Launching in 2017, GCLS will support community philanthropists to fund civic activism, educate, engage more people in community life, integrate migrants and find solutions to make cities inclusive, safe and sustainable.
We are strongly convinced that local communities should play the key role in the process of a global problem resolution. It is impossible to tackle global issues such as those defined by the Sustainable Development Goals without grass-root initiatives, run by local communities. Change comes from the bottom-up, so if we want to empower local communities and to encourage them to take part in such process it is needed to foster solidarity by cherishing the values of community philanthropy (tolerance, empathy, care and peace) and to inspire them by promoting good practice.
To ensure that GCLS we will be able to deliver community foundations the support they need, they are now reaching out to find more partners, including community development groups, foundations, civic activists, thought leaders, local governments, funders, community businesses and multinational corporations.
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