"We have to keep going": Fundraising in wartime Ukraine

Luda Kryzhanovska is a Ukrainian fundraiser and one of the speakers at this year’s International Fundraising Congress: IFC 2022. She will be speak in a workshop on crisis fundraising and how to prepare for what you hope will never come. You can read more about the workshop here.

Luda spoke with Petra Hoogerwerf for Vakblad fondsenwerving and what follows is a translation of Petra’s article. You can find the original piece here.

Liudmyla “Luda” Kryzhanovska was the last speaker at the fundraising day, speaking about her work in Ukraine setting up an impact hub in an old factory. During her talk, the air alarm went off and the screen went black. People in the room held their breath: this is what it is like to live in wartime. After a few minutes, Luda came back on screen from her hiding place, with her four-year-old son at her feet. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, she continued her explanation of her organisation, Promprylad.Renovation organisation. At the end of August, the Trade Journal asked her how the situation is now in Ukraine.

“Around Independence Day (24 August), there was a lot of panic. There were about 170 bombings from Russia. The situation now seems ‘stable’ again. The good news is that our army has received better weapons to deploy in the occupied territories. We still ask the USA, Europe, UK, and Israel for efficient air protection systems. Cities in the east of the country are attacked so often, every day, that our protection system cannot cope. And even though we are located in the west of Ukraine, more than 1,000 kilometres from the front, there are days when the alarm sounds eight times and we have to go to the shelter. These rockets are fired from Belarus or the Black Sea. This week, civilian targets were also hit, such as a train station. If there were more security through good air defences, we would have more time for our work and the fight.

“We can no longer make long-term plans.”

The first weeks after the invasion we were in shock. I remember a meeting with partners from Europe and Africa and I expected an escalation in the east, but I did not see the scale of the invasion coming.

You ask what has changed since the invasion. It is so much, it is difficult to name. The most important thing is that we can no longer make long-term plans, while at the same time we see that our work is very important for the construction of our country. We were working on the biggest project in the field of industrial heritage, to use it for community building in our city Frankivsk. After this, we planned to set up similar projects in the east of the country because there are a lot of old industrial factories there. That is no longer possible.

The first three weeks, we stopped our activities to establish a local fund to support the military and territorial defence. We did this together with local communities, companies, and NGOs. We bought things that I would never want to buy, such as weapons. These activities have now been placed in a separate organisation.

Before the war, we had about 6,000 square metres that we used in the factory; at the end of the year it will be 17,000 square metres, for companies and NGOs. We decided to help them move from eastern Ukraine and Kiev to our premises. The companies in the east are losing their markets, including those in Russia. They need advice on exporting to and cooperating with other organisations in Europe. At one point, we had as many as 500 requests. The staff of US Aid, the big aid organisation, is also housed with us. We also support employees in finding housing, for example. We look for work for people who have lost their jobs and who may be able to do freelance work. There is a lot of IT expertise here, for example. We do stay true to what we can and cannot do. We are a platform and know many organisations that we connect. For example, the Office for the Promotion of Export of the Ministry of Economy is also based here and gives advice on exports.

“If we leave, we lose our country.”

In that first period, there were quite a lot of officials from organisations who wanted to convince us that all of Ukraine would be occupied in a few days and we should go abroad. We think we should stay in Ukraine to keep the economy going and to keep our knowledge. If we leave, we will lose our country. We want to stay here and we want to win the war. We have to keep going.

We found out that we have to keep doing the same thing but work faster. We wanted to bring together companies and organisations as an impact hub for issues in society and we were already working on the Ukraine that we dream about. About the new economy, new forms of urban development, and creating meeting places. In short, we want to help people in their development. The new economy is no longer about the mentality of factory workers, but about other skills such as learning English, learning to work in teams, and setting up other forms of education.

One of our activities is to promote book reading, especially among children. Now we organise discussion groups for refugees and people living here, which contributes to their integration. Some of them only speak Russian and therefore still have to learn our language. We help veterans returning from the front by getting better physically in our gym and we provide mental support through psychologists who work at the university.

Our fundraising approach has changed due to the situation. There are many international organisations in Ukraine that now give grants to NGOs for basic needs. But we are not an NGO. We are a platform and revitalise an industrial factory. We need ten million dollars for this. For the reconstruction and heating, for example, but also for our impact goals such as a makers space and food hub. Before the invasion, we appealed to corporations but we realised we couldn’t do that anymore because they want to support the military. We are working on a new case for support. We appealed to the European Union, but such a process takes two years. That’s why we don’t have the time for that. Our course now is to raise funds internationally from major international organisations and foundations. We discuss our plans with them and see if their policy is in line. We are also looking for partners for joint applications. We started with online fundraising, but we have little experience with that. And for material we are looking for sponsors in kind.

“Large NGOs should work with local organisations.”

People and NGOs from abroad can help us in different ways: we seek cooperation with similar or complementary organisations in Europe for applications. Keep talking about the war, don’t let it become ‘normal’. I call on humanitarian organisations to buy resources here because the money must stay here and people must continue to work here. Do not send water or food: we have no shortage of them. Large NGOs should work with local organisations. These better understand the needs of our people. People do not want (emergency) help, but rather support to be able to continue to take care of themselves.

We are optimistic about winning the war. Everyone is very willing to commit themselves to the military forces and people follow various training courses to prepare themselves, for example on the use of weapons or the provision of medical care. We fight for freedom and development of our country and are prepared to die for it.

Hear Luda speak and meet her in person at IFC 2022 this 18-21 October. Find out more and register here.

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