Cluj Donor Circle – a new way of engaging the community to support youth initiatives in Romania

Simona Serban, Executive Director of the Cluj Community Foundation, reports on the first Donor Circle event on Youth in Romania

We had a full house of exceptional people and a level of generosity that surpassed all expectations. Together we numbered more than 60. Together we donated 25.500 lei (around US $7,500) for three projects supporting educational values-based projects for youth, promoting entrepreneurship and capacity-building.

On 20th November 2013, the Cluj Community Foundation organized its first Donor Circle on Youth Civic Engagement in Cluj, the first of its kind in Romania. The idea of a Donor Circle is to bring people together at live crowd-funding events to raise vital funds, transform lives and create lasting social change.  

Cluj Donor Circle

Our event was organized in affiliation with the Founding Network UK, in partnership with the Association for Community Relations and with the support of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

It brought together a community of donors and organisations working with young people. Participants included young entrepreneurs and disadvantaged youth; international private funders and local donors, the “Share” local youth Federation and many other partners.

“The atmosphere was electric and everyone was so enthusiastic about being able to give a relatively small amount which together could have a big impact on making our city a better place through investing wisely in our young people. It’s amazing how a well thought out framework can help us achieve so much in such a short time!”  Bita, Cluj Donor Circle member

Three teams of young entrepreneurs will STEP UP and benefit from mentorship to implement their ideas. 14 youth will practice their powers of expression at ACTitude – Impromptu School and 17 youth will Edu Practic(e) the jobs they would like to learn.

STEP UP is a project developed under Cluj HUB concept, in which young entrepreneurs’ teams are helped by mentors to develop their own initiatives from idea to prototype over a three-month period. The project will target skilled young people with initiative and audacious ideas regarding technological entrepreneurship. Three teams will have the opportunity to go through steps which will bring them closer of implementing the idea and bring together resources in order to become sustainable businesses. Ten mentors are prepared to offer the support they need through weekly sessions and trainings. They were granted US $1,600 raised from local donors.

ACTitudine – Impromptu School is a project initiated by another local NGO, Dreams for Life. The project advocates for the development of a alternative learning space for young people that fosterspersonal development and community engagement. Two trainers Dreams for Life and two actors from the Create.Act.Enjoy Theatre will work with ten youngsters between 18 and 26 years old by using non-formal educational techniques and impromptu theatre techniques. They were granted US $2,000 in cash and $1,500 in-kind donations.

PracticalEdu”, a project of Danis for Managerial Development Foundation, aims at supporting disadvantaged youth to learn crafting from the energy and building local business’ employees. The young people will take part in activities of business and entrepreneurial education such as trainings and consultancy for developing sustainable business plans but also growing into financial independents adults, responsible for themselves and their families. They were granted US $2,500.

“I wish to acquire as much knowledge as possible in this field. My main incentive for being part of this program is proving my parents and my friends that I am skilled and responsible to be financial independent.” (Vlad, project participant)

Not only did the donors give, but they also engaged in conversations centered around the projects. Education was raised as a topic. People discussed the importance of giving young people the opportunity to learn practical skills and develop abilities that are shaping their future professional and personal life.

Most importantly, it was fun! The potential to extend the Circle was also clear as more donors expressed their interest in becoming members.

“I was impressed with the generosity in the room and the fact that so many people felt like I do that together we can make a difference in our city.  I didn’t really expect this because so many people are pessimistic about the future. Even though I’m not, you don’t hear many people agreeing that we can make a change. It touched me and I was thinking what a smart group to invest in the future by investing in the youth!” Maryam, young donor

From one on one conversations to social media, we have found the whole process of organising a donor circle event to be very rich: it allows us to open up conversations about philanthropy and collective giving, about engaging young people in social change and as a way of acquiring new contacts and cultivating relationships. Most exciting of all has been the opportunity to witness the diversity of reactions and feedback from those of participated. We learnt a huge amount from this event: the future has a collective author and we love being able to promote it!

Over the last five years the Cluj Community Foundation has awarded 1 million lei (US $300,000) to 150 projects and 130 scholars. And now we have introduced a new approach to fundraising through the Cluj Donor Circle (CDC). Twice a year, groups of donors who will be a part of the future CDC Network will promote projects from different areas and will gather to support them during the CDC events.

Video highlights of the event can be found here

Many thanks to our Donors and Partners, including the Funding Network, UK, the Association for Community Relations, Share Federation – Cluj Youth European Capital 2015 and the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Simona Șerban – Executive Director, Cluj Community Foundation

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