Donating money from personal funds for the general good forms a critical part of today’s modern societies and in some form is indicative of the maturity of critical and strategic thought for the solidarity of individuals in society.
Financial contributions outside the institutional sphere play a vital role in influencing public policy. They mobilize citizens’ ideas in coordinated advocacy actions and concrete proposals for improving public policies or in orientating them outside the definitions and limitations offered by the government or the broad political and ideological spectrum of a ruling group.
In Kosovo, hundreds of thousands of euros are donated by individuals, personal and collective funds, foundations and corporations that contribute through education, health, arts, informal activities and other areas that aim to improve the lives of the citizens of the country. But all these activities occur under the shadow of terminological ignorance and the lack of an objective understanding of this kind of action that sometimes even raises doubts and conspiracy theories about why and what lies behind these donations.
By trying to understand the meaning of the definition of ‘philanthropy’ it is important to distinguish its defining premise. Asking questions like; ‘Who donates to Kosovo?’ makes us analyze the number of individuals, businesses and donors in the country. When we think, ‘Why is this money being donated?’ we try to search beyond the subjective reasons and the whole human side of donating that has been passed down through generations to the motives of donations as organizational engagement in society.
Studies into the factors influencing philanthropy emphasize beliefs, gender, income and education as the prime driving forces behind being philanthropists. For a decade, FIDES, the award ceremony on philanthropic contributions, has continued to the process of acknowledging and appreciating the work of philanthropists and the promotion of philanthropy in Kosovo and the diaspora, trying to influence public education on the culture of donating and increasing the potential of this sector in the country.
There are few identified cases of philanthropy in Kosovo but often there is no way of really knowing, since the donation of funds does not occur on the basis of strategic planning in general. Such planning should influence the ways of involving philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, new ways of investing and regulating the relationship between ‘donors’ and ‘recipients.’
The philanthropic chain between institutions, businesses and citizens lacks the conceptualization and clear definition of the sectors to be changed, which could include environmental, health and education reforms as key sectors in medium-term social reform.
Institutional support and strategic thinking
The lack of a legal framework on philanthropic contributions only deepens the philanthropic void in Kosovo. Legally unregulated, monetary donations often go to destinations that are more humanitarian in nature and remain far from the needs of transforming society and finding models that would otherwise not exist.
This void has so far been covered by the foundations and support from U.S. and EU philanthropic funds, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the German foundations, the Westminster Foundation, bilateral funds and those from other European Union countries.
In Western countries, philanthropists find that through donation they help shape the framework of public policy. In one of the paragraphs of his book “The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age,” David Callahan mentions, amongst other things, the experimentation of philanthropy with new models of social systems that were adopted by the government. For example, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which with their contribution of millions, laid the foundations for today’s emergency call system 9-1-1.
What is different today, says Callahan, is that instead of legacy foundations that affect the fate of many forgotten people, today’s philanthropists are alive and very involved in how their money is spent. In Kosovo, a concrete platform is needed to support donations to society.
The main motive of the business community to donate to overall well-being is “the will to help people in need.” Businesses in Kosovo have charitable motivations to donate, focusing on the elimination of poverty and suffering caused by social problems, while philanthropic contributions focus precisely on eliminating these problems in the first place.
At this point, charity and philanthropy differ and the business community in Kosovo has not fully differentiated between these two forms of donation. Financial support from individuals who donate to projects that benefit the entire society is more than necessary.
But who are the true Albanian philanthropists today? Is the diaspora the largest philanthropic contributor in the country, including strategic donations that have supported the idea and foundation of freedom, independence and state-building of the country?
Kosovo’s diaspora is known as one of the groups that donates most money. Every year 1.5 billion euros is spent by the diaspora in Kosovo on consumption, immovable property and other unplanned expenses. And all of this revenue does not go for strategic and sustainable investments.
In this sense it is necessary to transform how the money is donated and to know where the money is going. This would have an impact on the country’s direct economic development and would reduce the phenomenon of growing parasitism in the country, where many have become comfortable living off the money sent by family members in the diaspora and have stopped looking for ways to contribute economically themselves.
It remains very important to differentiate the subjective reasons behind money donation, strategic planning and other factors that affect these actions. Philanthropy becomes inseparable from the social sphere only when integrated into strategic planning. Very specific philanthropic ideas relate to policy reform in the space where we live, activism, and support for individuals and sectors that otherwise could not be funded.
Although in principle the whole philanthropic sector in the country may seem small, if a cohesive process of coordinating contributions were to happen between individuals and domestic and international companies, including the banking system, members of the diaspora and wealth inheritors, then some of the country’s strategically important sectors could find financial support.
And it would come without facing the endless fundraising bureaucracy or being subjected to the political pressures and agendas of different groups that try to take credit and transform ideas; or even in special cases that try to block initiatives that may be vital to evolution, innovation and creativity in a society that aspires to compare with developed democratic societies.
Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.