Burgas is one of the fastest developing Bulgarian cities. The good partnership between local government and the non-governmental organizations in the spheres of ecology, culture and social services plays a major role in this development. Burgas Community Foundation quickly became visible as an organization uniting the positive civic energy for improving the quality of life in the region. An important partner, who provokes the sense of responsibility for community issues in every citizen. The local government has always needed such a structure that helps motivate people to be active.
The benefit of having a community foundation in the community is to be found in the opportunity which this foundation provides to citizens to re-discover their own resources, to become generous and responsible for others who live in the same territory. In this way, philanthropy turns into something greater than an expression of the individual good will — it unlocks the vital, healthy trends in the communities, and gives a chance for survival and growth in this ever more complex and worried world. At present, the greatest success of the community foundations is leaving behind the culture of dependency and learnt helplessness, and incubating the culture of local activism.
The most important result of the work of Stara Zagora Community Foundation in the last 10 years is that local people began sensing the responsibility of taking care for their own community. In the beginning, we were approached to help solve some urgent social problems, while recently, we are being approached by people who wish to realize their dreams, and create social change quickly.
The community foundation educates local businesses in systematic giving, which creates opportunities for synergy of resources. We succeeded in relieving companies from the burden of being constantly pressed to donate for various causes. We showed them that if they unite their efforts they can be more effective in addressing issues.
I would have liked to answer that the local community has totally changed since the community foundation began its work in the city, but this will take some more years. In the short time in which we have been active (1,5 years) we have already won the trust of many people from Ruse, who supported us, and will continue to support us.
Our main priorities include creating conditions for sustainability of the organization, supporting more projects in the city, building an endowment and developing more partnerships with other NGOs and organizations for joint work in support of meaningful projects.
Community Philanthropy against All Odds
As a person who is experienced in community philanthropy development in Russia and other countries, who knows Bulgaria, and who hates complaints about “bad circumstances” for community philanthropy, I can say that the Bulgarian context is difficult. The paternalistic mentality and declining economy can indeed be prohibitive for the development of sustainable philanthropic institutions, and that gives a far higher credit to the people and organizations, which do this and achieve results.
The Bulgarian community foundation network represents a growing number of organizations covering an increasing part of the territory of the country. If I am asked to think about the word describing the Bulgarian community foundations then I would say “the diversity”, which is obvious as every organization is struggling in their communities for not just finding donors and partners, but prior to that for infusing the sense of self-reliance, individual initiative and active citizenship, which is a far complex task requiring focused adaptation of community philanthropy messages and promises to specific local conditions.
For more than a decade of their existence Bulgarian CFs proved the viability of the CF concept at all odds, and that should be attributed first of all to the people who took the initiative to engage their communities in philanthropy and to the strategic professional support provided by the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, and the donors — Mott Foundation and America for Bulgaria Foundation.