Philanthropy and charitable giving in Russia has been actively developing for the last 20 years: there are over 350,000 officially registered NGOs in the country; about 70% of the population are engaged in giving or volunteering in one way or another; we estimate that people give annually over 140 bln rubles to non-profits and temples - almost  0,4% of the country’s GDP.

Nevertheless, the sector growth is not without problems. It still lacks trust, voice, solidarity – the basic pre-requisites for healthy civil society. On a practical side of things, it means that people still prefer to give directly to individuals in need and regard NGOs as mere intermediaries; that NGOs have very limited ability to tell their stories; that competition between NGOs over access to various resources becomes fiercer by day; and that divide between service provision part of the sector and those engaged in advocacy and rights work is growing deeper.

And this is where #GivingTuesday comes into play. It comes to Russia in 2016 for the first time, and the moment proves to be just right. 10 days to go to the big day, we have 450 partners from over 60 cities and towns – from Kamchatka to Vladivostok to Kaliningrad to Sochi. They are grass-root level NGOs and large nation-wide charities; corporate, private and community foundations; national telecom companies, retail chains and on-line shops, extracting and industrial giants and airports; local bakeries, restaurants, nail salons and yoga studios; schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, museums, local governments and social media based citizens’ groups. They will raise money, run workshops, organize concerts and food drives and do hundreds of other small and big things on the 29th of November.

This first year “GivingTuesday Russia will be opened with #ConfessionWeek – an on-line based flash mob led by Russian celebrities and aimed to motivate people to start sharing their giving with friends. Out of 70% of Russians engaged in giving 58% never talk about it to anyone. This conspiracy of silence around giving pushes it to the margins of public agenda and seriously hinders its development. A week prior to #GivingTuesday will become the time when people feel invited and encouraged to talk of causes and NGOs they care about – and invite their friends, colleagues and family to join in.

I often hear comments that many ideas and concepts that shaped the current Russian philanthropic and NGO sectors have come from the west. #GivingTuesday is not an exception. Still I think that as we invented our own name for the global day of giving - #SchedriyVtornok – we are also creating our original and unique #GivingTuesday experience. And in the same time #GivingTuesday will become that one day of the year when Russia will be part of global celebration of the joy of giving back.          

By Maria Chertok, Director of CAF Russia, country leader of #GivingTuesday