Which crowdfunding platforms work in Belarus? How can one use local fundraising to raise funds for CSOs? How should one work with businesses and talk to sponsors? ODB Brussels in partnership with the Support Programme of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany has organized an expert seminar for non-profit organizations who wanted to learn to raise funds and resources for their projects in Belarus.
The seminar 'Easy Fundraising for CSOs' was held within the framework of the Clearing House programme with participation of experts from Slovakia and Belarus. The event was organized in the Johannes Rau International Centre for Education and Exchange in Minsk.
Siarhey Laboda (on the left), Thematic Coordinator of the Organizational Development direction in the Support Programme of Belarus of the Federal Government of Germany (Belarus), Norbert Maur (on the right Programme coordinator, Corporate Philanthropy Department at Pontis Foundation (Slovakia)
The event brought together representative of about 35 Belarusian civil society organizations. Experts in the fields of law, philanthropy, social innovation and media shared their experience on how to raise funds and resources for CSOs.
First crowdfunding platforms in Belarus were launched in 2011. At the moment civil society organizations have several options for raising funds with the help of crowdfunding: via Ulej e-platform, MaeSens charity auction of meetings and Social Weekend, as well as Talakosht platform of crowdfunding campaigns. Ivan Viadzenin, creative director of Talaka.by, made a presentation to CSO representatives on how to use the Talakosht platform.
Ivan Viadzenin (on the left), Creative Director at Talaka.by (Belarus)
When creating Talakosht, recalls Ivan Viadzenin, they analyzed the leading crowdfunding platforms: "We reviewed all the market leaders: Kickstarter (USA), Russian Boomstarter and Planeta.ru; examined the Ukrainian platform Big Idea because it was more or less original in comparison with other platforms. We modified the system slightly so that we could implement even though we were not a bank. Our innovation is the "pledge model". When a person says that they are ready to spend a certain amount of money, they just make a pledge. If the crowdfunding campaign succeeds, then the person gets a notice: "Now you can pay! ".
According to Talakosht statistics, 80% of Internet users follow up on their cash pledges. The other 20% can say that they are experiencing difficulties, says Mr. Viadzenin, who suggests these risks should be factored in when setting the amount of a crowdfunding campaign.
There is no direct accumulation of funds on Talakosht (unlike on Ulej, where the amount "pledged" by the user when they provide their payment card data is immediately frozen in their account, and the money is only transferred if the crowdfunding campaign was successful and the set amount has been 100% raised).
Both Belarusian crowdfunding platforms copy the mechanisms of famous American platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Kickstarter, similar to Ulej, works on the "all or nothing" principle: if the 100% amount for the project has not been raised in the course of a crowdfunding campaign, the project does not get any funding and the money is returned to the users. This scheme will help prevent funding to projects that cannot be implemented, and, as a rule, it is commonly used for commercial startups when users make pre-orders for a new product.
The Indiegogo platform, which Talakosht is similar to, is based on the "everything you raise" principle. According to Ivan Viadzenin, Creative Director of Talaka.by, a successful crowdfunding campaign at Talakosht is one that raised at least 25% of the set goal for the project or initiative. In his opinion, this mechanism works for projects that can be easily scaled depending on the amount of funds raised, and is convenient to implement charity ideas and social initiatives.
Ivan Viadzenin, Creative Director at Talaka.by (Belarus)
Of 21 crowdfunding campaigns on Talakosht, only 9 were successfully competed, admits Ivan Viadzenin, and only 3 of them can be called very successful. The record number of funds was raised in a campaign to translate Peppa Pig cartoons into Belarusian. Talaka's creative director thinks that this campaign has become popular thanks to the need for a national identity that exists in the Belarusian society; this project can also be classified as a non-profit one, since the cartoons translated into Belarusian are uploaded to Youtube and can be viewed by any Belarusian family.
In the Belarusian segment of the Internet, CSOs can raise funds with the help of the MaeSens charity auction of meetings. This platform, which existed for over 4 years, provides an opportunity to "sell" personal time to regular web users, showbiz stars (earlier this year a meeting with Robbie Williams was auctioned) and even local politicians (for example, Tatsiana Karatkevich put up an offer to go see the premiere of the Chekhov's Seagull in the Kupala theatre with her).
Dzianis Kandratovich, cofounder of MaeSens explains that today anyone can sign up and put up a meeting to support a charity they like: people place bids to win this meeting, and then the winner receives contact details while funds are sent to the initiative or organization. You can also donate funds directly, adds Mr. Kandratovich, without setting up a meeting: this option is also included.
|Dzianis Kandratovich, co-founder of MaeSens, StartIdea projects (Belarus)|
According to Dzianis Kandratovich, Maesens started as a hobby: students of Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics decided to replicate a one-time initiative which had been organized in Ukraine through social media; after graduation they set up a website and launched a campaign. According to him, Belarusians most often use the platform to donate money to help sick children and stray animals:
"Actually, any initiative can use the platform to raise funds, but ultimately it's up to people to decide who they will support. Some users donate about 1 million of Belarusian rubles every month. Since many campaigners need to convert rubles to foreign currency to pay for their medical assistance, for example, they in fact raise less, but the overall dynamics is still generally positive".
HOW SHOULD ONE TALK TO SPONSORS?
Norbert Maur, Programme Manager, Corporate Philantropy Department at Pontis Foundation (Slovakia)
According to Norbert Maur, Programme Manager, Corporate Philantropy Department at Pontis Foundation (Slovakia), current situation in Belarus reminded him of a similar situation in Slovakia in early 1990s. At the time, many foreign donors came to Slovakia to develop its infrastructure and build capacity of its organizations, as well as to launch democratization processes. Today, however, the majority of foreign donors are leaving Slovakia, because their mission of democratization has been completed, says the expert.
The Slovak expert advises civil society organizations who engage in fundraising to focus on generating constant cash flows (these flows provide funds that the organizations can use to cover the needs of the CSO, with no particular project goal in mind), to work with thematic endowment funds (e.g. with an environmental transport fund, if it is a project on cycling), to cooperate with strategic charity funds (those that raise funds for specific programmes).
When working with sponsors, advises Norbert Maur, it is necessary to carefully study the global and local strategy of the business company and its target audience. He recommends to use a project approach to raise funds from companies: design a comprehensive project with deadlines, a plan of activities and a budget. For the sponsor, according to Mr. Maur, a project plan must resemble a startup and should never exceed one page of printed text. In this "sponsor" plan, you need to state the problem, explain why it is your CSO that offers the best solutions, and define the target audience of the project.
The Pareto rule, which is familiar to any experienced fundraiser, should be also used in your conversation with the sponsors: 80% of the time you should listen and only 20% of the time you should speak. It is necessary to set the exact project budget, or the businessman will assume that you are not sure you can do this, notes Mr. Maur. If the sponsor gives no response, adds the expert, you need to ask only four clarifying questions: "Is the problem with the civil society organization?", "Is the problem with the project?", "Is the problem with the project amount?" or "Is the problem with the time needed for fundraising?"
According to the Slovak expert, the majority of business companies change their perceptions of civil society organizations only when they work together.
"From 2000 to 2008 we started to work with corporations. At that time, businesses companies were not eager to provide voluntary aid to civil society organizations. The profile of companies has changed dramatically since then, partly because we have been working with them. Sometimes businesses can discuss legislation with the governmental authorities as well, so I recommend you cooperate more with companies, build relationships with them - between civil societies and businesses: in that case they will be able to lobby matters of sponsorship in the dialogue with the state, talk about improving legislation related to sponsorship".
WHAT SHOULD FUNDRAISERS PAY ATTENTION TO?
Maksim Padbiarozkin, Clearing House programme coordinator, ODB
Maksim Padbiarozkin, Clearing House programme coordinator, drew the attention of participants to the fact that fundraising must be systematic and regular. Also, a civil society organization may seek not just financial support but also that in the form of corporate voluntary work. For example, a commercial company can help a CSO by providing their expertise: a civil society organization may need professional help from translators, lawyers, programmers, advertising experts, web developers, etc.
"There can be operational and strategic fundraising. Ideally, we would like to see strategic fundraising develop in Belarus. If you are a director of an organization, you should understand that if you engage in fundraising development, in a year or two you will be able to manage a lot more than whatever it is you can do today".
While doing fundraising, it is also essential to actively promote your social projects in mass media and new media, so that your potential donors and the public could learn about them. Media support is useful both when doing crowdfunding campaigns and when working with the local business communities.
|Vasili Yadchanka (on the right), Editor-in-Chief of the Agency of Social News, Communication and Analytics (SocNews, Belarus)|
Vasili Yadchanka, Editor-in-Chief of the Belarusian Agency of Social News, Communication and Analytics (SocNews), notes that for the majority of Internet users, the decision to donate money to a project they like can be compared to an impulsive buy.
Social media users or media audiences, as a rule, have no time to "wait in a line at a bank", which is why such simpler actions as transferring funds for charity via a text message, a phone call or an Internet payment, can be convenient and effective.
The editor-in-chief of Socnews pointed out that Belarusian civil society organizations need to use their own information resources when they promote their projects: websites of other CSOs, their webpages on social media sites, etc.
According to Vasili Yadchanka, due to a higher motivation, Belarusian civil society organizations today have a greater capacity to solve social problems than public officials.
"People are rooting for this thing, they like it, they want to do this. It is joyful to see that a lot of input comes from the regions, this proves that they are active and have people who want to develop local communities. Vitsebsk,Hrodna, Homel are active, Babruisk is now taking up".
Socnews was created in early 2015 and, according to Vasili Yadchanka, it has no analogues in Belarus. The web resource, which has been created on the free Wordpress platform, is a unique source of socially oriented information of regional and national level; the website has 10 information sections: on charity, corporate social responsibility, urban development and activism, opportunities for education, grants and competitions (the latest one being the most popular, according to the editor-in-chief).
According to the editor-in-chief of Socnews, any Belarusian non-profit organization today can contact the Agency of Social News, Communication and Analytics to post information about their new initiative, project or event, free of charge. The Agency is ready to provide consultations on the coverage of social campaign and promoting information on civil society organizations - this is also free.