In the month since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the world has looked on with alarm, horror, and a rising desire to help in any way possible. Funders in the West are eager to deploy their resources in a way that will help defend Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty, protect civilian lives and livelihoods, and support a strong, stable future for Ukrainians in the years to come. At Arabella, we have fielded numerous questions in recent weeks from clients, partners, and colleagues alike, all looking for ways to deliver swift and impactful philanthropic support to the region.
To support our donor community in this effort, Arabella hosted a private donor briefing on March 18 to share to-the-minute updates on the situation in Ukraine and provide concrete guidance for donors looking to support the country’s fight for democracy. Co-hosted by Arabella’s founder, Eric Kessler, and Chief Impact Officer Hilary Cherner, the briefing featured four guest panelists with deep expertise in the region and its current needs:
- Denys Ganzha, EDYN Ukraine ambassador and board member, Ukrainian youth delegate to the UN, and member of the Ukrainian Council for Youth Affairs
- Tom Daschle, former Senate Majority Leader, co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center, and vice chair of the National Democratic Institute
- Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to the Russian Federation, international affairs analyst for NBC News, and New York Times best-selling author
- Patricia McIlreavy, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy
Ganzha joined us live from just outside Kyiv to speak compellingly about the bravery and patriotism of everyday Ukrainians living through and resisting occupation. “My family right now is the 40 million people of Ukraine,” he said. He emphasized the importance of prioritizing long-term, future-focused solutions as well as short-term humanitarian relief.
Daschle and McFaul drew on their joint decades of experience to answer some of the most pressing questions about the situation on the ground, including the motivations behind Russian President Putin’s invasion, the strength of Ukrainian civil society, and the threat of potential nuclear escalation. Both also spoke about the urgent threat of disinformation in this and other worldwide conflicts. “Disinformation is the atom bomb of democracy today,” Daschle said.
McIlreavy closed the discussion by providing concrete advice for funders to maximize the impact of their giving during the Ukraine crisis, including:
- Look to organizations that center Ukrainians as the creators of their own solutions
- Focus on long-term, flexible funding, so that people on the ground have the freedom to use funding in the way it is needed most
- Invest in organizations with established track records in the region, rather than those establishing new branches in response to the current crisis
We are grateful to all four of our guest experts for sharing their time and energy with our donor community—especially Denys Ganzha, who displayed extraordinary generosity in joining us from the site of active conflict. If you were unable to attend the donor briefing, a recording is available, which we invite you to view and share with friends and colleagues. We also invite you to view and share the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s resource page on the Ukraine humanitarian crisis, which details critical on-the-ground needs and provides a list of suggestions for donors wishing to get involved. This article by our CIO Hilary Cherner and the head of our Advisory practice, Lydia Guterman, also provide concrete advice for donors looking for a place to begin.