31 March 2022

The Role of Philanthropy in Crises

In this darkest time of war, we feel a strong call to help and support, to #standwithukraine. This war is an attack of the Russian army on Ukraine. And this is also an attack on all of us, on our values and the principles we stand for and have long worked for – as European civil society. 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many grass-roots NGOs such as MitOst have jumped in to help avert a humanitarian crisis. In Ukraine, cultural activists are not only saving works of art and heritage sites, they are first and foremost supporting the evacuation of vulnerable people and delivering medicine to hard-to-reach areas. Outside Ukraine, civic initiatives together with social impact entrepreneurs welcome refugees, organise aid transports and run donation campaigns. None of us are humanitarian professionals, but for weeks now, we have been bridging the gaps that the big institutions should fill soon.

This quick grass-roots response was possible due to years of investing in courageous people and decentralised networks, as well as funding that foundations released within days after the war started. Everyone is trying to do their part. However, looking at the wildfire of calls for proposals and related platforms in the last few days, sometimes our wish to help might actually get in the way of responding to the real needs. For the future, new ways of coordination and emergency funding mechanisms should be developed.

At MitOst, we are now turning to the mid-term: In close consultation with our partners in Ukraine, we’ve started to develop impactful schemes to support civil society and cultural actors, building capacity for (spatial) reconstruction of the country and (social) reconciliation of the people. For those to be successful, we need to rethink funding mechanisms ‒ away from externally set desired outcomes, and towards empowering entrepreneurial frameworks.

If we want to make a real difference, we should listen, understand and follow the field. They know what they need. It’s our job to then make it work. Will you come and listen?


Annegret Wulff
Managing Director, MitOst