WHILE companies in their philanthropic efforts contributed most of their funds in 2012 to support culture and cultural monuments, more serious issues, like fighting corruption or helping marginalised communities, received far less support. This trend can be seen on the Philanthropic Map, created by the Pontis Foundation in cooperation with companies active in Slovakia. NGOs say the map accurately reflects the situation in the country, and are proposing solutions to focus donors’ attention on these neglected areas.
“The Philanthropic Map is the first attempt in the history of Slovakia to map the donor activities of companies,” Pontis Foundation programme director Pavel Hrica, who deals with corporate philanthropy, told The Slovak Spectator.
The Pontis Foundation created the map in cooperation with 33 firms. It includes donations totalling €14 million, which is about one third of the whole amount that goes towards publicly beneficial purposes, Hrica said, as quoted in a press release.
The map includes details about financial, material and non-financial gifts, as well as the money contributed through the 2-percent assignation from taxes that the companies allocated through company foundations and funds, Hrica added.
He hopes that in addition to showing which areas companies support, the foundation’s map will gradually be able to show the changes that have occurred around the country thanks to the contributions.
The Philanthropic Map faithfully reflects what firms active in Slovakia actually support, said Boris Strečanský from the Centre for Philanthropy, adding that they also reflect the “specifics of company culture”, as well as the needs and preferences of the public.
What do companies support?
Companies contributed more than €3 million, or 22 percent, of the total amount towards culture and the protection of Slovak monuments. The same amount also went to education, while 18 percent went to the environment, which includes increasing the energy savings of various public institutions, supporting thermal isolation in buildings, and exchanging windows and old gas boilers, according to the Pontis Foundation.
The map also showed that 10 percent of the contributions went to social care, 9 percent to health care and 7 percent to recreational sports activities.
On the other hand, the least popular areas were supporting Roma, refugees and other marginalised groups (2 percent), economic development and establishment of social start-ups (1 percent), and humanitarian aid (1 percent). Only 0.3 percent of the contributions went toward fighting corruption and strengthening transparency, the map showed.
Unlike in Slovakia, the majority of subsidies of companies in western European countries go abroad, especially for humanitarian purposes and development aid, Hrica said. He added that the US Corporate Giving Standard survey shows that many companies donate money to education, which for the first time overtook the area of health and social services.
The structure of the contributions could change in the future, especially in terms of the support for culture and the protection of cultural monuments, for two reasons. First, companies allocated more funds to support Košice during its tenure this year as the European Capital of Culture 2013. Second, many funds went to the Let’s Renovate our Home donor programme supported by the Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) gas utility, Hrica explained.
On the other hand, he expects that support for fighting corruption will increase, though only slightly. Companies will continue to support education, health care and solving social problems.
Ways to promote neglected areas
There are various reasons why companies do not support fighting corruption or the integration of Roma. Some are afraid, as these issues are not popular among their clients or employees. Moreover, some firms are simply unfamiliar with the problems, and nobody has asked them to help or they are unaware of subjects that will help them find solutions, Hrica explained.
“Therefore we have to encourage the firms to [have] courage, evaluate them for it, show them the problems and motivate them [to find] solutions,” Hrica said.
Lucia Faltinová from the Slovak Donors’ Forum suggests that the public does not understand the activities of NGOs involved in fighting corruption and does not seem to be moved by them, which she considers “utterly paradoxical”.
“There is still very little civic engagement and critical thought that would enable the people in Slovakia to act beyond the simple facts that are easy to absorb,” Faltinová told The Slovak Spectator.
The Pontis Foundation, together with some companies, has already established the Fund for a Transparent Slovakia, through which they support anti-corruption activities. They also try to motivate other firms to join and help them fight this negative tendency, Hrica explained.
Moreover, Strečanský of the Centre for Philanthropy cited courage and leadership as factors that could increase firms’ interest in supporting these areas. He referred to the fact that several companies with foreign owners respond to these issues positively, and also more sensitively.
Another way to encourage firms to support these areas is through “explaining the causes within a wider societal and chronological concept, by building cross-sectional partnerships and improving donor synergy with a particular focus on long-term strategies”, Faltinová said.
Filip Vagač, from the Office of the Government Proxy for the Development of the Civic Society, also considers the lack of interest among companies in supporting the fight against corruption and supporting marginalised groups a problem. Donors are either afraid to support these areas or are uninterested in them.
“It reflects the overall set of society, which obviously does not see these issues as crucial,” Vagač told The Slovak Spectator, adding that civic associations might play a crucial role in “making them more sensitive and searching for possible solutions”.
16. Dec 2013 at 0:00 | Radka Minarechová