Bulgaria’s Top Investors with a Cause

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They pay their employees to mentor youth for free. They donate food to those who can’t afford it. They organize concerts and sports marathons to fundraise for breast cancer research. They budget for road, park, and school reconstruction in their communities. And none of this is their main job.

They are socially responsible companies and philanthropic leaders, and these are just some of the ways they help remedy social ills and support Bulgaria’s development.

The Bulgarian Donors Forum has made it its mission to encourage and promote the best examples of corporate philanthropy. So, on November 21, 2019, the Forum’s fourteenth annual awards recognized the companies with the most significant contributions in the field and the most successful partnerships between nonprofits and businesses forged in the name of advancing social causes.

The Forum’s individual contribution award went to US investor Robert Gipson and his wife, Bulgaria-born Nellie Gipson, for their longstanding support for Bulgaria’s education, culture, and historical legacy. Since 2004, the family has donated more than 2 million Bulgarian levs ($1,142,000) in student scholarships. They have also given generously to the Bulgarian Hristo Botev School in New York over the years. With their help, the Bulgarian General Consulate in New York acquired a Steinway grand piano and now hosts the Bulgarian Concert Evenings in New York, a series of events promoting Bulgarian music and culture there and managed by the noted Bulgarian pianist Lora Tchekoratova (featured in the December issue of the ABF newsletter).

The Gipsons gifted equipment to the National Historical Museum in Sofia and the Geo Milev National Archaeological Institute in Montana, supported the restoration of the Lyaskovets Monastery and icons in the All Saints Church in Teteven, and funded the conservation of important historical photo archives.

“Philanthropy is not just providing financial resources; it is having a conscious approach to the problems of others and to the development of society as a whole,” said Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, who hosted the awards ceremony. He talked about the inspiring examples of nineteenth-century Bulgarian entrepreneurs whose generous contributions helped build the modern Bulgarian state. “Financial wealth is meaningful only when it is used in constructive ways, in the service of society. Public figures and statesmen at the time were preoccupied with giving, not taking,” he said.

“It is extremely important for the Bulgarian Donors Forum to encourage not only donor investments but also their sustainability over time. This is why the sustainability of giving was the focus of this year’s award ceremony for the winners of the Largest Corporate Donor competition,” a statement on the Bulgarian Donors Forum website said.

With its contributions to charitable causes totaling 464,000 Bulgarian levs ($265,000), Kaufland Bulgaria was named Largest Donor of 2018. In the same period, Danone Serdika donated 35,280 kg dairy products, worth 255,000 Bulgarian levs ($146,000), to senior citizen homes, orphanages, soup kitchens, and others, making it the largest contributor of nonfinancial gifts for 2018.

The best volunteering program award went to Hewlett-Packard Bulgaria, whose employees spent more than 5,900 hours volunteering, a contribution worth 158,651 levs ($91,000). Trace Group Hold received the Most Generous Donor distinction for donating 1.91 percent of its profits to causes in culture, the arts, historical legacy, science, education, and sports.

The Best Donor Program award went to TechnoLogica, the creator of TechnoMagicLand, an innovative children’s science and technology center, which opened in 2018. In one year, TechnoMagicLand received 14,000 visitors from Bulgaria and abroad. TechnoLogica is not new to giving in Bulgaria, though: it has supported educational projects in the country since 1993.

NOVA Broadcasting Group’s program “The Change” helps social entrepreneurs develop their ideas for a better future for Bulgarian youth, earning it the sustainability award of the Bulgarian Donors Forum.

You and Lidl for a Better Life raised 390,000 levs ($223,000) in funding for 51 projects in education, environment conservation, culture, historical legacy, and active lifestyle promotion. The initiative is a collaboration between Lidl Bulgaria, the Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, and the Bulgarian Donors Forum.

The America for Bulgaria Foundation is a partner in the Forum’s mission to encourage responsible, sustainable giving among the country’s largest donors.