Kosovars have a well-grounded history philanthropic work. Over the years the work has changed in shapes and sizes but the essence of improving the lives of others has remained intact. The solidarity and warmness that the Kosovar community has for its fellow men has been a part of its past and continues to be a part of its future. This generosity was clearly demonstrated during the recent extremely cold winter days in Europe. During these snowy days, we experienced how individuals and companies mobilized themselves to plow snow, open up the roads and help those in need. After all, that’s the municipalities’ job but individuals acted as an extended arm to local authorities.
The philanthropic work that is taking place in Kosovo today is a contribution from both the local community dwellers as well as from the Diaspora. A good example of philanthropic work in Kosovo is the NGO Mother Theresa Organization, from Germany. They succeeded to collect 400,000 Euro for a humanitarian project in Kosovo overnight. The donations were made by simple phone calls by giving individuals in Kosovo.
Forum for Civic Initiatives (FIQ) has, since 2009, focused on highlighting, rewarding and creating public awareness on the importance of philanthropy in Kosovo. To acknowledge the work of businesses and individuals and creating awareness on philanthropy, FIQ has established the FIDES award, an award on philanthropy. Four companies working in Kosovo were awarded in December 2011.
As David Rockefeller once said “Philanthropy is involved with basic innovations that transform society, not simply maintaining the status quo or filling basic social needs that were formerly the province of the public sector”, stating that, we as NGO’s need to work harder to channel our own potential in order to transform the society and not only filling basic needs for individuals.
We have found out that the size of the company determines whether the company has a strategy for giving back to the society or not. Usually, larger companies such as banks and telecommunication do not just have a give-back plan, but funds allocated for philanthropic activities as well. Their contributions are mainly allocated to different social issues such as sports, culture, environment and medical care for individuals, while education, infrastructure, and other FIQ important categories of state development, are little or not at all supported.
Despite good traditions and continuous work in philanthropy, FIQ has identified some challenges in this field in Kosovo. Companies are not giving up to the means of their capacity and individual giving is not yet fully developed. We believe that this is due to the financial crises, low socio-economic development in the country and endemic poverty. These challenges can be addressed not only with a thoughtful awareness campaign but by also targeting other geographic groups, for example, Kosovars in Diaspora.
FIQ believes that beside individual and corporate contributions, the state of Kosovo can help stimulate the work on philanthropy. Kosovo’s parliament approved the Law on Corporate Income Tax in 2008; the law acknowledges corporate contribution. According to this law, a company is allowed to declare a maximum of five percent of its calculated taxable incomes prior to subtraction of expenditures as an expense. However, the law states that only public institutions and a small number of organizations, which enjoy public beneficiary status, can benefit from this law. FIQ sees this as a problem and therefore calls on an additional law that would provide fiscal reliefs to all contributing individuals. We strongly believe that by approving a law on sponsorships and donations, or a law on philanthropy, contribution from individuals and companies would greatly increase and this would a potential for larger projects from which more citizens of Kosovo could benefit.
Mexhide Spahija is Executive Director of Forum for Civic Initiatives (FIQ). More on FIQ you can find on http://www.fiq-fci.org/.