As the next part in our global leaders series, we sat down with Masha Chertok. Masha is one of the leaders behind #GivingTuesday in Russia. Here’s what she had to say about her experience so far championing GivingTuesday in Russia.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?
Masha: I am from Moscow, and I have been living here all my life. I actually started working at Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) Russia 21 years ago. Before my time at CAF, I worked for a short while for the Ford Foundation at the time when there was a lot of anticipation of change in Russia. It was an exciting time of hope for a better society and I wanted to be a part of working towards positive change in our country.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?
Masha: A few years ago in the social sector there was a lot of pessimism in Russia. There was skepticism and growing division between NGOs providing social services and social justice sector, and it felt like we needed something big and positive to bring fresh ideas and a new platform for people to come back together again and work towards a better society. We saw what CAF was doing in the UK with #GivingTuesday and I met Henry and Melissa from the global team in London in 2015. The following year, we decided that it was time to launch the movement in Russia.
Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Russia so far?
Masha: In Russia, #GivingTuesday has been quite a contagious idea, as it was supposed to be. We invested the time in speaking at many sector events and had a communications campaign, and we saw this viral effect make its way throughout the nation. In the first year we had 900 partners across Russia. In year two we had close to 2,000 partners. Interestingly, some of these organisations were not the typical ones that we would expect to find ourselves working with. They spanned NGOs and schools to museums and other cultural centres; from large companies to small businesses in urban centres and rural communities.
Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Russia off the ground?
Masha: From the very beginning we realized that we needed to get big players on board, and this has proved challenging. Some of the largest organisations in Russia have played a very active role, but we’re still waiting for some household name charities to join. In year two, we really wanted to activate community campaigns. So we engaged the community foundations across the country and in some places we saw really active campaigns, such as in the city of Arkhangelsk in the North-West of Russia.
Q: What’s the potential or impact of the movement in Russia?
Masha: I think the potential for impact is unlimited given the size of our country. There is so much more we can do. It’s a challenge to think creatively about how to make things new and exciting every year, but when new people hear about the movement and get on board, you organically see great things come up. #GivingTuesday is changing our mindset as an organisation too; the idea that you can’t control it is not easy but we’re learning, and we’re grateful for that.
Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?
Masha: We’ve got a partner in Moscow called Blagosfera – a community centre, where NGOs and community groups and volunteers can come together and share ideas and run events. In 2017 Blagosfera provided space by hosting an event for any sort of organisation or group to come and share what they were doing on #GivingTuesday. It was a joyful day, and really allowed people to come in and get exposure to the various charities in the city working towards good in our communities. This year they will specifically focus on schoolchildren and students, engaging various NGOs who work in this space with younger audiences.
Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Masha: For the first two years as a run up to #GivingTuesday we held Confession Week where we encouraged people to share that they were giving or doing something for charity. We discovered that about 70% of the Russian population was involved in giving and philanthropy in some way, but that they weren’t talking about it online. We thought that we should probably do something about it to leverage the generosity we know is out there to create awareness and encourage more people to give back. Last year we watched what the US did with #MyGivingStory and we are looking forward to trying that out this year in Russia alongside Confession Week to give people two different ways to easily share their stories of how they’re participating.
Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?
Masha: For CAF, it’s important that we are thought leaders and that we come up with new ideas and opportunities and stay on the innovative front of the social sector. CAF is one of the oldest organisations in Russia, and to stay relevant we are working on championing the movement to really pave the way and strengthen the fabric of the social sector while promoting a culture of philanthropy.
Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?
Masha: I think that it’s important not to be afraid to think big. Imagine your whole country being involved – aim there!
Q: What is a quote by one of your favourite leaders? Or Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?
Masha: I always liked the expression “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Only recently I learned that it was Gandhi who said that.