Cultivating a Giving Mindset: CEU’s 2021 Philanthropy Week

CEU's 2021 Philanthropy Week explored global philanthropic trends, funding topics for higher education, as well as plenty of opportunities for learning and participation. The week, which concluded May 21, celebrated the power of giving across CEU's global community, gathering students, alumni, donors and numerous other international philanthropic leaders.

Hosted by CEU's Alumni Relations, Development, and Community Engagement Offices, along with the Human Rights Initiative and Student Philanthropy Council, the diverse activities demonstrated the university's thought leadership on philanthropy.

On May 18, the seminar, Maximizing Engagement with American Philanthropy in Europe, addressed those who wish to engage US philanthropy to build lasting partnerships, advance institutional aims and meet fundraising ambitions. The dynamic group of leaders in attendance represented organizations including Teach for Austria, International Press Institute, UNICEF Austria, War Childhood Museum - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, Vienna Science and Technology Fund and Eurozine. The seminar offered insight into the role of American philanthropy in Europe and was moderated by CEU's Director of Philanthropy and Strategic Partnerships, Jason Weedon.

Following opening remarks from Stephan Kropf (Fundraising Verband Austria) and Ruth Williams (Austrian Fundraising Association), Olga Tarasov, Director of Knowledge Development at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, provided a summary of trending focuses and approaches in the United States. Among the reported areas on the rise are climate change, racial and social justice, public health, democracy, public education, as well as inclusive economies and poverty reduction, with ethical artificial intelligence and digital rights also increasing.

According to Tarasov, direct grantmaking continues to be the leading instrument among approaches currently being deployed in the US. With the pandemic in particular, participatory and trust-based philanthropy rose giving access to funds via flexible and unrestricted gifts with low administrative burden. Tarasov added that other approaches include individual giving and donor advised funds, accelerated spending and spend down funds, as well as impact investing, systems change scaling solutions, place-based philanthropy and funder collaboratives.

Sarah Murray, a Financial Times contributor specializing in philanthropy, augmented the picture of the field, noting, "In the EU, you don't have an immediate culture of giving and yet government funding is diminishing really rapidly... There's an awareness that right now is the time to diversify sources of funding - but without the US resources to do that. This was very strong in my research regarding the European context." Another illuminating data point she shared was that in the US, low income donors give a higher percentage of their income than higher earning individuals.

Murray pointed out that competition is increasingly global for funds given the financial crises and austerity policies which hit educational and cultural institutions significantly. "Raising awareness from private citizens regarding philanthropy is challenging given the EU's history of government being responsible for education and culture," she said, emphasizing that the level of donor care in the US is much more developed. This European mindset regarding philanthropy was also echoed during the student-led event, Should philanthropy fill in the gap left by government? – a debate co-hosted by the CEU Debating Society and the Debating Society at University of Vienna, where several participants argued that funding should not be left to private individuals and entities.

The final seminar presentation by Claire Bens, Assistant Vice President of CCS Fundraising, focused on strategies for engaging US funding bodies. Bens advocated for fund seekers to develop relationships with US champions and noted that since the pandemic, many donors are more comfortable with video calls for contact. She also reported on the high percentage of both volunteers who are additionally donors, as well as volunteers who eventually become donors. "Getting people engaged with your organization benefits you from a fundraising perspective. Think about how you can involve people," she encouraged.

In terms of volunteer participation, CEU's Philanthropy Week was an opportunity for alumni volunteers to reflect on what continues to make engagement with CEU meaningful. Here you can watch Esther Ebimoghan (LEGS '20), Kossi Atchrimi (IR '19) and Anna Bara (Kharlamova) (HIST '03) share their stories of how volunteerism with CEU permeates their lives well after graduation.

Coming full-circle to inspiring CEU alumni who now work as changemakers in philanthropic organizations across the globe, Doing Good in a Changing World, a virtual roundtable on May 19, reflected on current trends in the sector and opportunities and challenges ahead. Speakers included Frode Dal Fjeldavli (IRES '02, EEA & Norway Grants), Mladen Joksic (SPP '09, Council on Foreign Relations), Marta Lejkowski (ENVS' 99, The Nature Conservancy), Elena Ryabova (POLS '02, Chess in the Schools) and Eric Schmelling (POLS '95, Rotary International). Their discussion concluded with a look at recent shifts in philanthropy panelists hope will last: flexibility; innovation, mindful of the digital gap; and inclusivity, both in terms of who is being supported and how, and who is at the table leading change. Across the diverse engagements throughout Philanthropy Week, participants illuminated numerous ways to cultivate a philanthropic mindset.

"One of the bright spots of a painful year is how quickly thinking expanded from 'how can I survive this; how do I protect my family', to 'how can I help'. This most human instinct has always been at the heart of CEU's mission," said Trisha Tanner, CEU's Vice President for Development. "This week's events illuminated the daily difference our community is making, and the urgency with which our students and alumni, faculty and staff, our non-profit partners, and the philanthropic sector as a whole are taking action, not only to meet today's needs, but working forward on systemic and localized issues alike to build a better tomorrow."

Building the tradition of philanthropy at CEU and around the globe ensures the sustainability and impact of vibrant organizations doing good. CEU's discourse on philanthropy will continue with a roundtable featuring media funders on June 8. For upcoming event information visit here.