20.12.2008 UNDP/GEF Project “Conservation of Wetland Biodiversity in the Lower Volga Region” and the ecological center “Zapovedniki” in the Astrakhan oblast organized a workshop on fundraising in December 2008
On December 16th and 17th, 2008, an interregional workshop on fundraising and project planning was held in the Astrakhan oblast, organized by the UNDP/GEF Project “Conservation of Wetland Biodiversity in the Lower Volga Region” and by experts from the ecological center “Zapovedniki”(lit.“Conservation Area”).
“Fundraising” is a relatively new economic term not yet listed in dictionaries, referring to the collection of funds for not-for-profit and charitable organizations to support social development projects and initiatives. This concept, still unknown to many, can also be used in the context of collection of funds for projects aimed at the development of ecologically balanced types of business. The “Fundraising and project planning” workshop was organized by the UNDP/GEF Project with the participation of the expert-facilitator Dmitry Voitovich, and was conducted as part of the social and economic component of the project.
It should be highlighted that the main objectives of this event were not merely fundraising skill building among local entrepreneurs, and tenders and projects design for an eco-friendly management of natural resources, but also the provision of information to local communities regarding the very idea of ecological business.
Participants from the Astrakhan and Volgograd oblast who joined the workshop included representatives of economic committees of regional administrations, of protected natural areas, businesses, and representatives of agricultural credit cooperatives.
The beginning of the seminar was devoted to introducing the participants, creating a friendly atmosphere inside the group through basic notions in social psychology and communication, and outlining the conduct of the workshop. Needless to say, it is quite difficult to convince professionals, municipal officials and employees, to forget about their status for a few days. However, after a few seconds of perplexity among the participants, the task to “become students for a while” was accepted, notebooks distributed, and the learning process started.
On the first day of the workshop the attendees were introduced to the concept of “fundraising” and to its core principles, and detected potential reasons why donors would want to contribute to the implementation of a project.
Based on the provisions of the Small Grants Programme, participants made a list of projects that in their opinion would appeal most to fund providers. A task that was met with great enthusiasm was the trainer’s instruction to compare the requirements, efficiency and benefits of several potential sources of funds. The following sources were chosen for the discussion: the loan program of Rosselkhozbank and the Small Grants Programme of the UNDP/GEF Project “Conservation of Wetland Biodiversity in the Lower Volga Region”. As a result of this exercise, it became clear that the joint UNDP/GEF Project’s Grants Programme prioritizes projects encouraging the development of eco-friendly businesses. On the other hand, the study of Rosselkhozbank’s loan portfolio led the participants to the unfortunate conclusion that ecological business is not a priority in the lending policy of the banking sector.
At the end of the first session of the workshop a role-play was conducted, in which three “activists” made a presentation of their projects in front of members of the Grants Committee, whose part was also played by participants of the seminar. The role-play was a good opportunity to practice newly acquired skills and to get some ideas for existing and potential projects, which were discussed on the second day of the seminar. Some of the performers proved to be such talented actors and dealt with their roles so realistically that the audience burst into applause at the end of the game.
Although only a few of the participants had previously had an occasion to design their own project, it is very important that they could not only strengthen their skills, but also share their experience with their colleagues. An exclamation from the audience that “Hopefully [their] region would soon have such wonderful projects too!” gave them praise and above all a strong incentive to move forward. In addition, the expert trainer, who had often taken part in grants committees' meetings, could answer all the worried questions and give some advice on where to start, how to avoid mistakes and what to emphasize in order to give the project a good chance to receive funding.
A questionnaire was distributed at the end of the event, and it showed that the seminar turned out to be topical for many participants. The respondents confirmed that finding financing for small and medium-sized businesses is one of the most problematic issues for the majority of rural entrepreneurs (especially those working with eco-friendly types of business). The majority of the attendees pointed out that the goals of the seminar were reached thanks to the active involvement and the strong interest of people with very different characters, but at the same time with very similar levels of competence.
Evidently, the choice of participants was very appropriate, and the representatives of regional administrations and agricultural credit cooperatives who attended the workshop will later be able to share all the useful information with their colleagues, all active and inspired entrepreneurs.
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