IEPlus: Russians develop taste for charity
Charity spending is gaining popularity among Russia’s finance professionals. Previously, charitable initiatives in Russia were initiated by expats, but now the locals increasingly want to “do something good.”
Such is the dynamic observed by Preslava Fentham-Fletcher, director of Action for Russia’s Children (ARC).
The charity, registered back in 1990 and officially set up as a charity in the UK in 1997, aims to benefit children in Russia by using the knowledge and experience of foreign female professionals living in Moscow.
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Among its supporters are Goldman Sachs, Linklaters, KPMG and UBS, as well as a range of firms far removed from the financial industry.
Russia’s Renaissance Capital has also acted as a sponsor in the past. The connection with the firm is not only that of charitable giving, but also of family ties, as ARC’s Fentham-Fletcher happens to be married to Simon Fentham-Fletcher, chief of staff in the Moscow office of Renaissance Asset Managers.
“More and more Russian people are coming to us and showing interest,” says Mrs Fentham-Fletcher. But the practice is still a new concept for Russia. She says “fundraising as a profession does not exist here.”
Last year, the Moscow State University launched a fundraising course, but it has not attracted much interest so far. ARC is trying to raise awareness of the practice.
Each year, the charity holds a fundraising ball, which attracts 500 guests and around 20 corporate sponsors. On average $200,000-$250,000 is raised on the night.
This year’s event is coming up on September 29, which will mark its 8th birthday. The night includes a cocktail reception, dinner and an auction, which accounts for 80% of the money raised.
Famous Russian artists donate their works to the auction, including Maria Vishnyak and Ivan Pugach, both locally famous.
The charity is run solely by volunteers, with no overheads or administration costs – another unique concept, even for the West.
All of the funds generated from events and donations go towards the project. The charity operates by providing grants to related charitable projects to help them along the way.
The sums are not typically large, since the aim is to encourage local charities to grow and continue searching for funds in a sustainable manner.
“Our aim is to raise the profile of Russian projects, not just offer funding. We introduce them to businesses and help them build awareness,” Fenham-Fletcher explains.
This year has already seen three successful projects and the charity is currently funding a new one focused on physiotherapy for children – a service not widely available in Russia.
It is also engaged in providing resources to Russia’s children, such as translations of foreign books and education for children with disabilities.