Fundraising in Belarus: Routine vs Creativity

On October 7, within the framework of the “CSOs Resource Centre“ programme and with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairds of Germany, a school of fundraising was launched in Minsk. The school was organized by ODB Brussels in partnership with the Belarusian human rights organization “Human Constanta” and "Koopp Forum International”. The first of the School’s seven planned training sessions was dedicated to the various types of fundraising. The not-so-familiar-yet word “fundraising”, as Belarusian participants found, means “activities to attract funds and resources”.

Alyona Lis, Head of ODB Brussels.

Out of more than a hundred applications, the organizers selected 15 civil society organizations and invited 2 representatives from each of them. In her opening speech, Alyona Lis, Head of ODB Brussels, reminded the participants that from 90 to 95% of funding for Belarusian CSOs comes from foreign grants and international technical assistance. “Such dependency is a threat to CSOs and their projects today, because the amount of international funding is declining every year. Even though the country has no Law on Charitable Activities, fundraising does exist in Belarus, and we have collected best cases from successful Belarusian fundraisers for other organizations to follow suit. Besides, it is important to remember that, when we raise funds within the country, we can increase the number of our followers, get more people involved to help resolve the problems of our target groups, and generally understand how useful our activities seem to people from the outside”.

Maksim Padbiarozkin, coordinator of ODB Brussels projects in Belarus, was the main coach of the introductory session. Starting in 2009, Maksim spent 5 years working in the Belarusian Children’s Hospice, raising funds to sustain the organization. “I began to help the Hospice in 2001 as a volunteer and had to do everything, including writing grant applications. Then I got an offer to become a professional fundraiser, I trained in the UK, went on study visits to Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania, Russian and Ukraine. In each of the countries, I learned how organizations achieved sustainability”. Maksim underscores that all the knowledge he received during his training is useful and can be applied in Belarus. “It is just that in different situations, you have to make more or less effort. Perhaps wait for a while”.

Maksim Padbiarozkin at the introductory session of the “School of Fundraising”. October 7, 2017, Minsk


Funding as a result of mutual trust

Maksim stressed that, despite the end goal of fundraising being money, this activity is primarily aimed at building a relationship of mutual trust and identifying the common goals of the two organizations. “If we look at fundraising from this point of view, then the spectrum of issues to consider will include personal motives, image creation and not just economic feasibility. In the end, we get to the money bit, but it comes as a result of the relationship that you have — or have not — built. Fundraising starts with your environment, with a more efficient use of the resources you already have. To do this, strategic planning sessions are organized, everyone comes round and discusses where the organization is going and what its goals are. Only then it is time to discuss who you can involve in your organization’s activities, and these will mainly be actors from you familiar environment”.

Participants of the introductory session of the “School of Fundraising”. October 7, 2017, Minsk


During the introduction, participants shared their expectations from the programme. Many of them explained that they had been looking for a sustainable financial model for years, aiming to expand their activities instead of simply using all the resources to cover current expenses. For example, members of  the “Angels’ Wings” team were upfront about their wish, which is to receive a ready-made, easily understandable tool to help them achieve their goals. Representatives of the Human Library of Belarus stressed that they wanted to learn how to deal with corporate organizations. Such trainings are crucial for motivation, because many people have the drive, but it declines because of their fears and the routine. That is why it is vital for all the participants to simple get together with a group of like-minded people and recharge their batteries by listening to real success stories.

Expectations of the “School of Fundraising” participants


Learning from mistakes

Maksim impressed it upon the participants that no single recipe for success could exist and one could never fully avoid mistakes. "You will always, unavoidably, make mistakes, but it is important to draw conclusions and learn from your strategic or tactical mistakes. At every training I organize, my goal is to motivate people to start. As Greek philosophers said, a good start is half the battle, so you have to start doing. If you start tomorrow, in six months you will already get some results”.

The biggest challenge for beginners in fundraising is to decide how to use their time in the most rational and effective way. When a new person comes to work with great enthusiasm and scores of ideas, it may be difficult to explain to them that you have to plan for everything in advance. Which is better: spend your time writing letters or organizing a big charity concert? After all, it can take many months to prepare such an event but, in the end, it will bring you little money, while establishing a new partnership with a successful business can take less effort and yield greater results.



Participants of the training on October 7 also had a chance to hear from Yauheni Labanau, Head of the Centre for Environmental Solutions. He provided detailed and specific examples to showcase the three methods of fundraising in Belarus that his civil society organization successfully applies. You can read more about fundraising by the Centre for Environmental Solutions in a separate article.

Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk

Photo by: Alyona Lis

ODB Brussels