Serbia’s breakthrough on the World Giving Index: A review of charity activities in Serbia
By Veran Matić, Director of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum
On the European Day of Foundations and Donors, which is marked on October 1, the Serbian Philanthropy Forum looks back at the latest data of the World Giving Index, published by the international organization Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) for ten years, that disclose Serbia remarkable leap in 2020: from being ranked 129th in 2018, it reached the 48th position, becoming the sixth country that has advanced the most.
The philanthropic Community in Serbia has been trying for years to present charity in the best possible way in the country, both when it comes to the ways of forming this giving index and adequate data for its creation. Four years ago, the Coalition for Charity was formed in Serbia, led by Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, of which the Serbian Philanthropy Forum is a member, along with the Trag Foundation, Smart Kolektiv, Catalyst Balkans, Responsible Business Forum and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The establishment of the Philanthropic Council of the Government of Serbia was soon initiated. It consists of representatives of the Coalition and the Government of Serbia, with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic as its Chairwoman, Executive Director of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum Veran Matic as its Co-Chairmen, and Milos Popovic, the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister of Serbia, all designed with the aim of improving the framework for giving.
Although progress has been evident in the last few years, thanks to the efforts made by the Coalition, until last year we were still at the bottom of the list, which usually includes 110 to 140 countries. Given the difficult circumstances last year, this remarkable leap is becoming even more significant. The Serbian Philanthropic Forum and the Coalition for Charity are proud of this result, which contributed the most to the people who urgently need help and support in one of the hardest years burdened by the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it comes to data collected in the country, Catalyst Balkans, a member of the Coalition for Charity, reported that almost three times the donated amount was recorded in 2020, compared to the previous year. This huge leap, both when it comes to concrete data and when it comes to the World Giving Index, is the result of a number of impacts: there is no doubt that the uninterrupted activity of the Coalition for Charity contributed to that, but the COVID-19 pandemic strongly encouraged that, both within the business sector to make a big step forward in giving for the common good, and with the citizens who responded in masse and provided support to individuals and the health system. Last year, a record amount was registered as donations, citizens and companies donated more than 90 million euros for the common good. The same motive contributed to a series of innovative individual campaigns, various auctions on social networks with individual initiatives, while auctions brought tens of thousands of euros of individual and collective donations.
Citizens and companies in Serbia have proven that they possess a high degree of responsibility and solidarity towards the public interest and humanity in relation to individual needs.
This great step forward speaks of potentials, meaning that in hard times, the boundaries of charity and solidarity are eliminated. The pandemic certainly gave a big impetus to such results. However, we should continue with this, it is now necessary to really improve the legal framework for giving, so that it is not an incident that implies a major national disaster or global problem, but to create legal conditions that encourage solidarity and giving without these destructive incentives.
The government must ensure that all donations are accompanied by recognition and the removal of any obstacles that further burden donations for socially responsible and humanitarian campaigns. That is why I call on the Government of the Republic of Serbia to adopt the proposals of the Coalition for Charity, concerning the abolition of VAT on food donations before the expiration date, because that would significantly increase the amount of donated food, available for the most vulnerable groups.
The ongoing campaign “Let’s save food, let’s save humanity”, on the occasion of the National Day of Giving, October 9, established by the Serbian Philanthropy Forum, points to the problem of insufficient food donations and offers a solution, among other things, through the solidarity of citizens, companies and media, but also through a message to the Government of Serbia to create circumstances in which it will be inadmissible to destroy surplus food, or food that is about to expire, including directing overall capacities towards solving the problem of food shortage faced by our poorest fellow citizens.
There are 147,000 foundations in Europe today that provide approximately € 60 billion a year to empower communities across Europe. It is estimated that non-profit organizations in the EU, through the support they provide, pay 6 billion euros of VAT to which they are not entitled to a refund, except in certain countries such as Ireland and Denmark, which refund VAT paid to non-profit organizations through compensation funds. According to current data, 993 foundations and endowments are registered in Serbia.
The Serbian Philanthropy Forum is a member of Dafne – Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe, which established October 1 as the European Day of Foundations and Donors in 2013.
Every year, on October 1, charities, foundations, communities, donors, philanthropists, and volunteers gather across Europe to highlight the positive role that foundations play in European societies, raise public awareness of the importance of philanthropy and charity, and encourage even more giving and civic campaigns.
On this occasion, Dafne and The European Foundation Center launched a campaign called “Stepping into tomorrow”, with the aim of raising public awareness on the contribution of philanthropy in building a better future for the next generations – at the local, national, regional, and global level.
In order to be able to step into the future, we must unlock the potential of philanthropy, so that philanthropy becomes a catalyst for lasting and transformational change for the better.
Photo credit: spasimohranu.rs