Fundraising in Azerbaijan

By Nigel Wallace

Recently I travelled to beautiful Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to give a fundraising workshop to Caritas Azerbaijan and Caritas Georgia, who travelled on a gruelling 14 hour train ride from Tbilisi to be with us.

My fundraising background has been over 20 years of practicing the art (or is that science) of raising money in North America which, arguably, has the most robust, most mature, most successful fundraising in the world. This state of philanthropy derives from a continent of pioneers who had to help each other to survive in a hostile and unforgiving environment and a culture of “giving back”, when you have made it, to those who haven’t or, in general, to improve the community within which you live due to a sense of pride and belonging.

It doesn’t hurt either that, relatively speaking, the United States and Canada are wealthy, stable countries packed full of natural resources. However, despite this tendency to give, the culture of giving back has been religiously cultivated and stewarded by professional fundraisers and major philanthropists alike as well as by some enlightened governments that have often promoted giving by offering generous tax incentives to donors and encouraging a spirit of volunteerism that fuels the philanthropic sector.

So how, I asked myself, does one adapt the lessons learned in North America to a country like Azerbaijan that doesn’t yet have a culture of giving engrained within the population and lacks government encouragement in this endeavour?

Well, you need to start from 4 basic facts: (1) There is a “need” – a case for support; (2) the number one reason people don’t give to charity is that they haven’t been asked; (3) People give to People and (4) as Michael Norton says in his best-selling The Worldwide Fundraiser’s Handbook – “ It is not a very satisfactory situation for any organisation to make itself the victim of the whims and practices of foreign donors who are often in a position to determine whether an organisation continues and to exert a great deal of control over the nature and style of its work..”

Bearing this in mind, it seems that the principles and processes of fundraising in countries that have a successful track record of raising money are equally applicable anywhere. The difference is that you must learn to walk before you run and as the Italians would say go “piano piano” (slowly, slowly). Create the foundation of a strong fundraising infrastructure through putting the building blocks in place, recruit volunteers with community access and influence and become masters in the art of volunteer and donor cultivation. If these fundamentals of your strategy are in place you will start to successfully develop the fundraising function within your Caritas.


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