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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Showing the Way to Fledgling Russian Charities

For the past two years. United Way International has been quietly tracking the rebirth of charities in the former Soviet Union.


Now, with the emergence of about 300 charities, the organization has taken on the task of confronting obstacles that hinder local charities here.


"We realized that there is a new and very different task here", said Mary Yntema, director of programs at the United Way Moscow Liaison Office. "There are no laws to operate tax-free charities. and there is a deeply-rooted distrust of such groups


in this country, where charities were prohibited for more than 70 years".


In the United States, United Way raises funds every autumn that are dispersed to a multitude of charities. The organization is launching a fund raiser in Moscow this month, but the money will be used to pay for programs that support local charities.


Despite the difficulties of operating charities here, more than 130 new charities were registered in Russia between March and June of 1992. "The movement is at a grassroots level now, but the charities are significant because of their goals and enthusiasm", said Yntema. "It's the same situation as the businesses are in here - they have a lot to learn".


United Way has been working on several fronts to help the charities catch up. Last June, about 60 participants attended the first non-profit management training conference held for Russian charities. Sessions focused on defining goals, planning strategies, raising money, managing volunteers and addressing legal and tax questions.


United Way in Moscow is also working with two other charities to create a data bank of information about charitable organizations in Russia. The system will be available to interested individuals or organizations.


But Yntema believes that United Way's most vital contribution is the draft of a new Russian law on charity. Now in the committee stages, the law will probably be finalized this year.


"It will make it easier for charities to function and for foreigners to donate, which is very difficult to do now", Yntema said. "We've heard from many foreign businesses here who are very concerned about the drastic social conditions here and want to contribute. But there is no tax stimulus, and there are no assurances that the needy people will get the contributions". While there have been reports of corrupt charities, Yntema vouches for most of the existing charities. The survival of genuine charities, she believes, is essential.


"It is the nonprofit sector that will keep the Russian people from being dominated either by the market economics or by politics", she said.


For information about contributions, contact Yntema at 217-6021 or Fax 217-6033. Or contact members of the steering committee: Alexander Kapustin of Intourcreditcard, Bruce Macdonald of BBDO Marketing, Paul Melling of Baker & McKenzie, James Kober of American Express, Robert Schenk of Dresser Marketing, and Jeff Zeiger of Zeiger International.