By Nadia Ahee
Only recently did the concept of charity emerge in Russian culture. According to Gazetta (2011), as little as 20 years ago, charity did not need to exist because the Soviet government took care of its “less-fortunate” citizens. As a consequence of this, the more fortunate citizens did not feel the need to interfere with these social services.
It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the majority of social services were shut down and there became an absolute need for charity. In Russia today, there are only 20 major charities and approximately 100 smaller charities; however, this is a huge growth for Russia in comparison to only a few years ago. Since 2007, Russia has shown the largest growth in Philanthropic aid throughout the entire former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The unique characteristic of charity in Russia is they have yet to form their own philosophy of philanthropy. Because of this, charity can be very spontaneous which causes a need for every citizen to help out. One other distinctive characteristic of charity is Russia, according to Bokova-Foley (2011), is that charities often replace services that should be covered by the government, for example scholarships and health care.
In Russia, the most common charitable organizations are centered around education, culture and medical services for children. Not only are they target groups for individual donors, but they are also the most popular charities for larger corporations to sponsor. On the contrary, it is unlikely for Russians to give to charitable organizations that support the elderly, the disabled, or single mothers. These types of supports are seen as the governments responsibility only, and do not require support from the general public.
Although Russia has seen such an increase in philanthropy over the last few years, there has already been a major shift in the way Russians are giving. In the past, 70% of charitable donations were given by large business corporations, which in 2007 totaled $1.5 billion. A poll done by a Moscow business, Daily Vedomosti, showed that 49% of Russians lacked confidence in their local charitable organizations and as a result, they preferred to give their money directly to people in need. (Gazetta, 2011) Nowadays, Russian charitable organizations have seen a decrease in sponsorship from corporations; however, single sponsorship has not decreased at all. It is also noteworthy that Russian businesses and citizens do not receive tax deductions for charity donations.
To show a specific example of philanthropy in Russia, Advita (a local children’s charity) used to hold large charity auctions which raised large sums of money for their cause. However, once the decrease in corporate giving’s set in, they soon realized they would need to make a second approach in order to sustain their pediatric organization. They decided to print children’s drawings onto post cards and sell them for a very small amount of money. The program coordinator admitted this was originally a joke, but she soon realized many people were willing to give small amounts which soon totaled $7,000 towards their goal. Today, 57% of their annual earnings come from individual donors.
Bokova-Foley, T (2011) The philanthropist of Dagestan. Russia! Magazine; the war and fashion issue. http://readrussia.com/blog/business/00333/
Gazeta , R (2011) Russia’s vulnerable need sweet charity from philanthropy. Russia Now. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/russianow/5194435/Russias-vulnerable-need-sweet-charity-from-philanthropy.html