Through the Development of Community Foundations Program, RAF offers financial support and technical assistance (especially via Asociația pentru Relații Comunitare – ARC) to community foundations and to the Federation of Community Foundation in Romania (FFCR) for the development and / or consolidation of organizations as a whole, in particular for their teams to be able to implement effectively the long-term strategic plans that would enable them to fulfill their strategic roles, strengthening their position as community leaders and independent local donors.
Community foundations are organizations whose mission is to contribute to the welfare of local communities, by mobilizing and distributing funds for projects in various areas: health, culture and arts, education, environment, development and social inclusion, development of public spaces etc. Community foundations support the local residents, companies and civil society organizations’ capacity to take action by providing a creative and transparent space for cooperation, mobilization and distribution of resources to the benefit of the community.
Between 2008 – 2020, the community foundations movement in Romania has gradually developed, reaching a total of 19 active community foundations. The program started as an initiative of ARC and has received financial support from the Romanian-American Foundation (RAF) from the beginning. Two other main donors were the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation and the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe.
The first community foundations in Romania came into being in Odorheiu Secuiesc in December 2007, and in in Cluj in January 2008. At the end of 2019, the national movement included 19 community foundations in Alba, Bacău, Brașov, București, Cluj, Covasna, Dâmbovița, Galați, Iași, Mureș, Odorheiu Secuiesc, Oradea, Prahova, Sibiu, Timișoara și Țara Făgărașului plus nou infiintatele fundații comunitare din Banatul Montan (Reșița), Buzău, and Vâlcea.
În 2012, the community foundations have set up the Federation of Community Foundations in Romania, an umbrella organization with the potential to act as a facilitator for the development of member organizations and as the main actor in shaping and implementing a framework system for self-regulation of community foundations.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis hit Romania, community foundations immediately mobilized and used their fundraising platforms and skills in support of the health system, raising over US $ 1,7 million cash for medical and protection equipment. They acted as trust brokers between individuals and companies that donated and health institutions or structures in need of resources. Despite their significant contribution during the Pandemic, community foundations started facing organizational challenges, as they lost access to important financial resources, in particular for their general operating costs.
The medical crisis further highlighted the need to increase the sustainability and resilience of the community foundations within their communities
RAF’s strategy for community foundations aims to contribute to the development and consolidation of these organizations, so that they can cultivate leaders, unlock resources for development, and facilitate access to opportunities for local citizens and businesses.
Over time, RAF’s Development of Community Foundations Program integrated a wide range of resources and support tools for community foundations:
- TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE (via ARC) AND START-UP GRANTS for setting up community foundations in new geographical areas;
- MATCHING FUND (finalized program) – grants for operational costs, that matched the funds raised by the community foundations from individual donors in their communities, within an annual limit between $5,000 and $10,000 (depending on the foundations’ longevity);
- ȘTIINȚESCU FUND (stiintescu.ro) – grants for 13 community foundations, to set up and manage a local Științescu Fund, dedicated to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math). Moreover, RAF offered financial support to FFCR to create instruments and a common space for learning for the community foundations managing local Științescu Funds; each local Științescu Fund is designed by the community foundation together and in agreement with local partners. The grants are disbursed to teachers, NGOs, students, or science aficionados developing innovative initiatives in the realm of science education, that are likely to make STEM education mora attractive to students. Community foundations mobilize financial resources from individual donors, companies, NGOs, authorities or other donor institutions/organizations, and the RAF grant matches the funds raised, up to a maximum limit per edition (between $10,000 and $15,000);
- TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE (via ARC, the Friends for Friends Foundation, and the Federation of the Community Foundations in Romania) FOR ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, increasing the efficiency and sustainability of existing community foundations and and support for the development, in a participatory way (with the involvement of the Executive Team, the Board members and key community stakeholders), of the community foundations’ strategic and operational plans for the medium and long term;
- ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT GRANTS (a) for the community foundations, focusing on the development/consolidation of the organization’s human resources and partly covering operational costs, so that they can successfully implement strategic plans; and (b) for the Federation of Community Foundations in Romania in order to effectively fulfill its role of support and guarantor of standards for the community foundation network in Romania;
- FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR CONSOLIDATING THE FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY of those community foundations interested in setting up reserve funds, with the support of matching funds, which double the funds raised from the community for this purpose.