As a young democracy, Romania is a recent entry into the community foundation field. But what the former communist stronghold lacks in experience, it more than makes up for in passion and creativity. The dozen community foundations that have blossomed since 2008 under the guidance of Romania’s national support organization, the Association for Community Relations (ACR), are involved in a broad spectrum of social, cultural, civic, artistic and environmental causes.
A community foundation … identifies needs within the community and addresses those needs through engaging the respective community.
Established in 2001 with the promotion and development of philanthropy as its core mission, ACR began exploring and testing community foundation support in 2005, but its efforts in this area really took off when it launched a comprehensive Community Foundations Program in 2009. Through this program, ACR is dedicated to supporting community foundation efforts to achieve a higher quality of life for residents. "A community foundation … identifies needs within the community and addresses those needs through engaging the respective community," said Nicu Scorus, consultant to the Association for Community Relations.
While it provides some funding, ACR’s support for the community foundation movement goes far beyond financial. With its expertise in philanthropic practices and strategies, ACR works with community foundations to identify and tap into local resources; increase corporate giving; and explore new giving techniques and programs. Additionally, ACR promotes peer-to-peer learning through communication networks, philanthropic training and educational conferences, and offers assistance in areas such as board development, maintaining accurate and transparent financial records, and effective grantmaking.
To further promote the field nationally, ACR partners with the Romanian Community Foundation Federation that was established in 2012. The Federation represents and supports its members through the development and monitoring of standards, education and peer learning, and promotion of the community foundation concept.
People see they can make a big impact in their community when their small amounts are added together.
Because community foundation leaders in Romania understand the value of providing more than money, ACR, the Community Foundation Federation, and community foundations regularly involve residents as active participants. Although the grants are small compared with those made by many community foundations in Western countries, the interaction is huge. "People see they can make a big impact in their community when their small amounts are added together," said Alina Porumb, ACR’s director of the community foundation program. Two initiatives that not only raise funds for local causes but also inspire a lot of participation in community foundation activities are donor circles and annual swim-a-thons. ACR helped launch these programs and then modeled them for adaptation and use by community foundations throughout the country.
There are still many things to be done, but the community foundations are built to last.
While the Romanian support organizations work closely with community foundations on engagement, education and communications, the foundations themselves collaborate with donors and residents to identify specific projects and programs to focus on — and then develop creative ways to build interest in them. Examples include:
The concept of national support organizations fostering the growth of the community foundation field in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia spread quickly. Support organizations like the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, the Association of Slovak Community Foundations, the Workshop for Civic Initiatives in Bulgaria, and the Charities Aid Foundation-Russia are among those that have helped advance the community foundation movement.
Research has shown the best predictor of new growth in community foundations is the presence of national or regional organizations supporting their development for several years prior.
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