De-LAB’s interviews: Giovanna Bonora

Let’s see what December will bring around: this month our “key person around” is Giovanna Bonora , fundraiser 🙂


1) In your many years of experience you will certainly have been confronted with the most varied motivations that drive companies to philanthropy. What are the most common ones?
For companies, as well as for individuals, there are two main reasons: you give to position yourself in relation to a social problem that you feel is urgent and that you want to help solve, or to “give back” something to the community and the territory in which you work and have relationships.
2) In a difficult period like the one we are living in, how are companies, foundations and large donors in general reacting to philanthropy?
The change has changed the tendency towards the much criticized “overprojecting” of foundations, which instead have concentrated on direct support to non-profit organizations, no longer through individual projects, as is normally the case. Very fast and efficient calls for proposals and funding have been put in place (even, often glossing over basic requirements such as the presentation of a budget or the identification of KPIs). In addition to making donations, companies have often gone so far as to reconvert their production activities. In addition, for many donors, public bodies such as hospitals, traditionally unfamiliar because they are perceived as inefficient, have become the partners of choice despite the lack of central coordination in Italy, such as the NHS-related charities in the UK. Finally, many have thought for the first time of testamentary bequests as a form of philanthropic support.
3) Covid has undoubtedly had a strong impact on fundraising but also on donors’ priorities. In your opinion, what will characterise the world of post-Covid fundraising?
The second Covid wave is not yet over and there is a lot of uncertainty, it is difficult to make predictions in such an unstable socioeconomic scenario. The issue of disintermediation has certainly emerged again: the volumes of donations, but above all of donors, collected by the Ferragnez are just the latest and brightest example.
4) In recent years there has been more and more talk of “Donor Love”, the approach according to which it is necessary to take care of and involve the donor, putting him or her at the centre of history. In your experience, what are the best ways to do this?
Being spontaneous in the relationship with the donor is the only key. It means, for example, not using the “project” but the donor’s language, so that he or she can fully understand how his or her contribution will make a difference.  Consider the donor for what he or she is, i.e. a person and not just a donor, put him or her at the centre, hear him or her without always asking him or her for money, for example for a phone call. This also applies to people in a company: it is always possible to be spontaneous and speak from the heart, if you have passion for that project and especially for that donor.
5) How does fundraising in the North of the World differ from what happens in the South of the World? (Different themes, different ways of disbursing funds)?
Each market has its own characteristics. My direct experience as a fundraiser is limited to the European and Anglo-Saxon context (UK and US). I feel, however, that in the North of the World our perception of superiority is decidedly unjustified and does not take into account important traditions of philanthropy such as Islamic philanthropy, rarely mentioned in doctrine or in conferences (ed. very active in post-war recovery, as in the case of Bosnia Herzegovina), not to mention that of the Asian type, almost completely invisible in the international debate. In Italy, in particular, our gaze is too often limited to the national scenario, while opening the horizon could help us to be more innovative and inclusive.
6) What is the biggest limit of corporate philanthropy?
The lack of courage of fundraisers and NGOs: companies are often braver than us in fighting certain social battles. We only ask for money when we can ask for contacts, expertise, relationships.
7) In the last few years we have witnessed a very strong diffusion of crowdfunding, a participatory and widespread fundraising tool: are there any projects that are more suited to that tool, rather than to classical philanthropy?
Certainly it is suitable for very specific and finished projects, which have a beginning and an end close in time, perhaps linked to a common territory, not only physical, or to a specific community. It is not necessary to have a long-term strategy or organisational structure behind it, which is why crowfunding is used not only by charities but also by individuals, social enterprises, start-ups…

8) What are the characteristics of Italian philanthropy, compared to that of other nations? In other words, how do Italian donors differ from all the others?

They differ by default because both in quantity and quality: in recent years Italy has always been around halfway in the World Generosity Index. This has political-economic reasons, due to the existence of a still relatively strong welfare state: there is therefore no culture of donation coming from the private sector because of the strong presence of the state, unlike, for example, the United States. There are also religious influences of a Catholic matrix: in Italy the value of doing good without saying so is still strongly perceived, thus limiting the diffusion of good practices and the “positive contagion” of donation. (Can this be due to the economic crisis that has been gripping Italy for more than 10 years? Ndr) No, also because many industrial sectors – and consequently many people – have grown in double figures despite the economic crisis – which is global, not just Italian. However, there are also positive news, such as the greater knowledge and diffusion of the solidarity bequest.

…see you next month!

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