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Russian community funders growing up

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PJ staff report

Since 1998, when the first community foundation was established in Russia, the fledgling funders have grown sturdy enough to weather the Great Recession and become an important part of the social fabric of some local areas, a new book says.

Located primarily in rural areas, the nation’s community foundations remain largely optimistic about their futures, but face significant hurdles, says “Community Foundations in Russia,” published by the State University – Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

The country has about 29 community foundations, either in operation or in the early stages of development, that cover about 10 percent of the population, according to the Community Foundation Partnership, an association of foundations.

The majority of their funding comes from government contracts and corporate contributions, with most of the government relationships taking place at the local rather than regional or federal levels.

At the same time, government authorities do not have a particularly solid understanding of the role community foundations play in addressing pressing social problems, the book says.

Despite that critical role, there is a lack of awareness among the populace of the important work foundations do, although public trust seems to be growing slowly.

To prepare for the future, Russian community foundations should work to improve their image and awareness among stakeholders with the goal of attracting donors and volunteers.

Further diversification of the donor base is also important, and the emphasis should be placed on private donations as government funds typically are less flexible.

Community foundations in Russia also should cooperate with other foundations and would benefit from more opportunities for training and professional development.

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