28 May 2020

Together we can do it all! – reflections on DAFNE’s Summer Meeting

by Suzana Djordjevic, Director of Hemofarm Foundation and Chair of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum Board

The session of the Summer Meeting of the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE), which was attended by 30 national networks and European foundations across Europe, was an opportunity to exchange experience on work during COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to send out a message of solidarity, necessity of stronger bonding and exchanging experience, aimed at developing philanthropy and promoting thereof for the common cause.

In Europe, there are more than 147,000 foundations, which are presently developing their agendas in dynamic and competitive environments, under a scrutinising public and political eye watching over what they are doing, with limited funds for work and a constrained area for activity.

The extent to which foundations and organisations are vital was demonstrated during the coronavirus pandemic, and the importance of providing them with continuous financial support can be illustrated by the example of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum, which has been a source of information on the needs of the health sector, the lack of medical equipment and devices and the link between the state and private sector. Foundations and organisations across Europe justify their existence every day – rather than solely during times of crisis – by promoting the values important for every society, while advocating for the wellbeing of everyone, irrespective of the religious and national affiliation. 

Suzana Djordjevic, Director of Hemofarm Foundation and Chair of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum Board

The session of DAFNE General Meeting, held in mid-May 2020, was an opportunity to discuss the current situation and the future of philanthropy in Europe. 

COVID-19 has paralysed the world for a moment, challenged its social-economic survival prospects, brought business to its knees and threatened the existence of the entire philanthropic community, as numerous donors suspended their support to foundations and organizations and leave them with an open question: ‘how to move forward?’

The question ‘how to move forward’ was vividly discussed at the DAFNE meeting. The situation in which foundations and organisations have found themselves is incomparable to any other situation experienced so far because no one knows how long COVID-19 will stay with us or where and when new outbreaks can occur, which makes it difficult to foresee where and for what purposes support will be indispensable in future. Understanding and solidarity between foundations and organizations are at a high level because all of them share the same problems and cannot make long-term plans. On the other hand, some donors have shown flexibility, though not all of them. 

Public-private partnerships – in which the civil sector could be the bridge – providing at least minimum sustainability to organizations until the crisis is over, could be the way out. In that regard, abandoning old cooperation models and cutting down on bureaucracy is necessary, while organisations should primarily start looking for innovative solutions which, among other things, involve even more projects on digital platforms and intensified engagement in online platforms, particularly in the field of healthcare and education.

The DAFNE Summer Meeting has revealed the need for intensified communication and exchange of information, reminding decision-makers that, during the time of crisis, when individual governments showed dissonant positions in their response to the pandemic, philanthropy has shown unity in spite of its  diversity.  Foundations and organisations have left their ‘comfort zone’ and joined their efforts to support the users on the frontline, as well as those whom the government support measures have initially by-passed.

That is the message for society – we can overcome our differences, we can unite, we can work for the common cause. Together we can do it all!

Suzana Djordjevic, Director of Hemofarm Foundation and Chair of the Serbian Philanthropy Forum Board