In 2012 Maria Bulygina applied for the Endowment Growth Strategy Program announced by the Foundation and won the competition becoming a Program’s participant. According to Maria, the knowledge and fundraising skills she received during the Program really helped when working in the field in her region to increase public awareness of endowments, which is quite a new sphere and venture for Russia, as well as people’s willingness to support philanthropic projects. The proof of it came in October 2013 when Vladimir Potanin donated one million rubles to the Tomsk State University (TSU) endowment fund, which Maria took upon as a project she was developing and improving during the Program. This donation came as a recognition of the project she developed as one of the best projects of the Endowment Growth Strategy Program.
The first donations for the university endowment came from university alumni, staff members and several local enterprises; but this was obviously not sufficient. “The public was not familiar with endowment funds and that was a major hurdle, because they were reluctant to donate not knowing how the money would be spent. In Siberia, the tradition of charitable giving is a thing of the past”, says Maria Bulygina. “The Foundation gave us enormous motivation to further develop our endowment. We received valuable information on public fundraising and promotion techniques”. For instance, in order to simplify public fund-raising, TSU signed an agreement with local Tomsk banks to process donations free of charge and created a system to accept contributions online. That really boosted the donations as it turned out that many people were ready to contribute but simply were not willing to spend so much time lining up in a bank. So based on the first year of operation results it became obvious that these innovations helped to involve ‘mass audience’ in the process. The TSU endowment managers put to good use the knowledge and experience gained through their participation in the Endowment Growth Strategy Program.
The Tomsk State University Endowment helped to support and solve many issues, and one positive example of that is the Siberian Botanical Garden. It was founded back in 1880 as the first botanical garden in Siberia where over 6,000 plant species, many of them being unique, grow on 128 hectares of land. It is no wonder that a botanical complex of such scale needs continuous renovation and funding, which Tomsk State University could not regularly provide. So the funds from the endowment helped to start the renovation process the Botanical Garden had long needed.
Unfortunately endowment assets are not enough to fully implement the Siberian Botanical Garden renovation project however the endowment covered the project of the recreational zone which the Garden had lacked before 2013. And the Foundation’s Program gave a real boost to the Tomsk University endowment. Maria says that the initiative is still making its first baby steps, but they have already managed to collect enough funds to create a recreational area within the Botanical Garden, and that’s a good start and encouragement to implement the whole project and see the Botanical Garden renovation come true in the years to come.