First venture philanthropy projects take off in Slovakia

VENTURE philanthropy is an alternative model for giving which has already gained a foothold in Slovakia. Using this approach, non-profit organisations and companies have teamed up with the aim of using the latter’s business experience to help solve the problems of children in orphanages.

VENTURE philanthropy is an alternative model for giving which has already gained a foothold in Slovakia. Using this approach, non-profit organisations and companies have teamed up with the aim of using the latter’s business experience to help solve the problems of children in orphanages.



“Venture philanthropy is an interesting model of philanthropy which brings experiences and principles from the business sphere into the non-profit sector,” Pavel Hrica, programme director for corporate philanthropy at the Pontis Foundation, told The Slovak Spectator. “One or more corporate donors focus on a specific problem in society and support, in a well thought-out way, an organisation which has been addressing the issue for several years in order to maximise its results.”

The Pontis Foundation has teamed up with several partners – the Pro Vida Foundation, the Slovak arm of IT company Dell, financial advisory firm ProRate, and some experienced consultants – to address the problem of the high number of children in orphanages in Slovakia. The mission of the venture philanthropy fund they have created is to find families for children from orphanages, especially children who are ‘hard to place’, such as Roma children, children with disabilities, and their siblings. One aim is to prevent the need for such children even to enter institutional care homes in the first place. The only beneficiary of the new venture philanthropy fund so far is the civic association Návrat, which Hrica describes as the most competent and best-suited organisation in the sector providing substitute parenthood and helping families in crisis.

“The aim of the fund is to help strengthen, by all available means, the capacity of Návrat to solve this social problem,” said Hrica. “The venture philanthropy fund comprises companies that donate not just their money but also the time of their employees and their know-how in order to increase the impact of Návrat’s activities. So we invest in Návrat not only money but also time and managerial assistance. We advise it on its strategy, marketing, human resources, and so on. In short, we are engaged much more intensively than in the case of a normal donation.”

The involved organisations and companies help Návrat to fulfil ‘its business plan’, according to Hrica. They know to how many children and families Návrat is currently helping and what ‘market share’ still remains for it to occupy. The fund is open to other donors who want to help it and Návrat reach their goals.

ProRate, which specialises in investment and corporate financial advice, helps Návrat prepare strategic plans and supports its internal processes so that its experts can devote their time exclusively to fulfilling Návrat’s mission.

As Marcel Imrišek, managing partner of ProRate, explained to The Slovak Spectator, the company got involved after being approached by the Pontis Foundation.

“Venture philanthropy appealed to us immediately, especially because this approach means that apart from money, which is very important, we can donate our professional experience to those segments which are in need of help,” said Imrišek. “It is gratifying that we can contribute by doing what we do best.”

Imrišek sees venture philanthropy as having more positive aspects compared to traditional philanthropy, especially in terms of the greater long-term effectiveness of investing in a system which can provide long-term help to those who need it, rather than purchasing goods, which tend to improve the quality of life of a limited number of people.

“The resources provided should be used to build a sustainable social assistance organisation which after a certain time will be financially sustainable even without receiving money from the venture philanthropy fund and which will generate benefits for all society in the long run,” he said.

ProRate wants to continue in its venture philanthropy activities.

“We at ProRate would like to build long-term partnerships with other NGOs to whom our company with its experiences can offer something,” said Imrišek. “I believe that long-term cooperation can bring benefits to both partners, because at stake in such cases is not just one-way help but mutual enrichment.”


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