The knowledge that the bad weather is gradually receding and giving way to better weather is what keeps us going during these long winter evenings. Recently the staff of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice have been kept going by something else as well: the attention paid to our hospice by the public.
Let’s hope that this attention, (which expresses itself in various ways, not always financially) and the positive changes it brings, should continue to grow. I’m not a forecaster, but it does seem to me that the fashion for supporting charities has gained a foothold in Belarus. There are lots of articles now in newspapers and on internet sites, blogs and so on, inviting people to help charities or to attend charitable functions which are now becoming quite common in the cities. Shops hold charitable events, taxi drivers, musicians, actors and lots of different people raise money. I am not sure why this has suddenly taken off, perhaps it is a natural stage in the development of a society, or maybe it is at least partly due to the activity of BCH which has encouraged other charities to get moving and start raising public awareness. Whatever the reason, there are more and more people in Belarus today who are trying to engage in philanthropy in some form or another.
A fortnight ago I was in Moscow where I visited an organisation which helps children with Down’s Syndrome. I looked at how their fundraising works and I noticed that they are much more keyed into the business world than we are, in fact almost all of their programmes, almost every single room in their headquarters bears the name of a corporate sponsor. This is splendid proof of their success; we are just embarking upon the same road today. Yesterday our hospice was visited by some people from a major international bank, they asked us all sorts of questions about our budget, our programmes and asked for lots of statistics. I am hoping that they were sufficiently impressed by our organisation and that I will have some good news to tell you in my next missive.
Speaking as someone whose work is directly linked with figures and statistics, I have to say that the hospice’s statistics continue to grow positively despite the economic crisis. We have never received so much funding from Belarusian companies and other organisations as we did in December 2009. The figure was £7,636, of which £4,922 was private donations. Of course, December’s figures are always boosted by Christmas and New Year. Nevertheless, it is proof that people are willing to support us, that they trust us. There was one phrase that particularly stuck in my head in Moscow: ‘Generally people do not give money to charity simply because they are not asked for it…” It could be that this is the key to the situation in Belarus today.
A new fundraising method we have adopted is donations via a special telephone number. We were a little hesitant about trying it out because it is associated with considerable costs. It costs £600 to set it up and then there is a monthly payment of approximately £200. That is why we were glad to accept the offer made by a Belarusian fund to pay for a special number for us for one month, from 15th January to 15th February. As turned out, this was a very popular scheme and a good money spinner. I am writing this on 10th February and over the 25 days that this number has been up and running, there have been over 3,500 calls. Each call made generates a donation to the hospice of £1, so it is easy to work out that this means a gross income of £3,500. Once costs have been subtracted, this gives us approximately £2,700 net income for the month. Of course, the wide advertising that the press, television and radio gave us, for free, was of considerable help and we would not be able to rely on this as a permanent feature, but we have decided that if we go about it in the proper way, a permanent line could represent a significant contribution to our income. So we have decided to do it.
I hope that I have not overwhelmed you with figures and details. Personally, I find figures more revealing that general phrases. That is why, in conclusion, I will leave you with a few more statistics from our Annual Report for 2009, which I am in the process of writing. In 2007 there were 114 families with terminally ill children under the care of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice. In 2008 there were 128 families and in 2009, 151 families. Yet there are more who need our help. We are expanding even as I write and thanks to you we are able to do more than we could before. We do still need your support to keep us pushing ahead, to offer even better care and to offer it to more of those who need it.
Thank you very much for supporting the Belarusian Children’s Hospice, for your interest in and concern for our children!