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Community foundations: taking the local engagement to the next level

During the past few months, community foundation program and initiative groups have accomplished significant results when it comes to fundraising, connecting and mobilizing the community.

Having in mind the remarkable progress initiative groups in Stara Pazova, Pančevo and Niš made since the beginning of the program “Our local foundation – community has a say!” Trag Foundation had opened another call for the second round of the program in May 2022. Primary focus of the program’s second phase is to identify new initiative groups who have a potential to develop a functioning community foundation in cities and regions that are still without one. Any group of at least three individuals with history of previous cooperation, community engagement, motivation for volunteer work and awareness of local potentials was eligible to submit its application. One of the most important criteria was history of active engagement and dedication, ability to work in varying contexts and basic idea on how community resources can be best put to use for the benefit of all. The main goal of the call was to gather groups with emerging potential for community foundations and support their growth and development. The call was successfully closed on 9th of June, gathering a total of 27 applications from towns and municipalities placed across the country. Trag Foundation and “Our local foundation” program team members plan to conduct the interviews with most prosperous applicants in the following weeks.

Throughout June, all three initiative groups have been gathering and submitting necessary documentation for official registration, consisting of statute, founding act, decision on members of the managing board and decision on members with executive roles. This process culminated in the official registration of the first community foundation in Pančevo, as the result of long-term investment of time, resources, ideas and motivation. Other initiative groups are awaiting the official decisions on their registration in weeks to follow.

Simultaneously with the administrative process of registration, initiative groups have continued with their fundraising activities, raising more than 42 000 Euros, directed towards promising local initiatives. So far, community foundations have closed a total of 6 calls in all three communities, supporting 49 initiatives and regranting the amount of 48 000 Euros. Community Foundation Pančevo will close their call by the end of June, hoping to support at least 5 new initiatives. Stara Pazova is planning a new Call for projects after the holiday season. All three foundations are opening calls for proposals as they gather a certain amount of money (3 000 euros) that are matched by the Trag Foundation, in order to support fresh ideas and citizen engagement around new solutions to a wide range of community issues in their surroundings.

At the annual National Conference on Philanthropy organized by Trag foundation in November 2021, initiative groups had a chance to present their work within the panel discussion dedicated to local philanthropy and its role and position in general philanthropic infrastructure. Panelists were members of the all three initiative groups, soon to be registered community foundations and session was moderated by Marija Mitrović, philanthropy and partnership director in Trag foundation. Marija and panelists offered the virtual audience some important conclusions, regarding the motivation of the initiative groups to establish the new frontier and take their local work and activism to the higher level; mechanisms and tricks for successful fundraising campaigns and the art of networking and prosperous supporting of the smaller initiatives in their own local communities.

Results of the program implemented in Serbia have drawn the attention of the community foundations operating in South America, more precisely in Columbia and Peru. Their representatives visited Serbia during the organized european study visit and had the opportunity to exchange the experience gained through local work and community engagement with representatives from Community Foundation Niš. These meetings were filled with knowledge sharing and productive discussions, where every participant had a chance to expand their horizons and overview the global impact of united local work. Along with a successful study visit, philanthropy and partnership director, Marija Mitrovic, had a chance to participate on the meeting within the framework of ECFI annual conference in Barcelona, where she presented the most significant results and accomplishments of the “Our local foundation” program implemented in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the past few months, the 5 initiative groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina were making their first steps on the path of fundraising, implementing their campaigns and actively mobilizing the community. Initiative groups from Zenica, Bijeljina, Sarajevo, Birač and Borja region, attended the training on communications and outreach provided by Trag Foundation in Zenica, from 11th to 13th March 2022. After the training, groups launched their fundraising campaigns, which resulted in the total amount of 6 000 euros gathered, and the initiative groups in Bijeljina and Zenica are launching their first Calls for projects by the end of june, hoping to support at least 10 civic initiatives to bring about positive changes in their surroundings by the end of 2022.