Dimitar Tsotsorkov is chairman of the supervisory board of Asarel-Medet, Bulgaria’s leading ore-mining company, executive director of Asarel Investment, and cofounder of the Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation. Established in 2019 in honor of the life and work of Dimitar’s father, Lachezar Tsotsorkov, the foundation funds initiatives in the fields of education, culture, and healthcare and supports socially disadvantaged youth and their families. It also joined the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Bulgaria by donating, in cooperation with Uni Hospital in Panagyurishte and the Bulgarian Medical Union, 300,000 levs’ worth of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, diagnostic tests, and financial aid to Bulgarian hospitals. Through an additional donation to the United against COVID-19 Fund, the Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation also helped support 112 local initiatives reaching 700,000 people across Bulgaria.
America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF): Why did you decide to support the United against COVID-19 Fund? What appealed to you most in its mission and goals?
Dimitar Tsotsorkov (D.T.): The situation we were facing was changing daily. Our team worked tirelessly, with the help of external and international experts, to filter and assess the incoming information so that we could make timely decisions that were as useful as possible. It quickly became clear to us that this crisis could not be adequately resolved by any one donor or organization alone. Although we acted on our own, we felt that we also had to join efforts with others to achieve the necessary results. We decided to take part in the campaign because we trusted the organizations behind it and their capacity to mobilize resources at the national level. We liked that the process was structured in a way that met the specific needs of the recipients. When we spoke with the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum [a cofounding member of the United Fund, ed.], we were won over by their long-term thinking, which went beyond the immediate and visible needs.
We were also guided by the hope that our participation would encourage others to join and would lead to a greater impact.
ABF: The Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation is a relatively new organization, but your philanthropic activities are not. You have supported causes and organizations in the area of Panagyurishte for years. Is the establishment of a foundation in your father’s name an effort to expand your commitment nationally?
D.T.: My father’s philanthropic work has always been a sign of his commitment to the entire country. He supported many charitable causes and initiatives for the development of culture, education, health, sports, social services, and youth activities throughout Bulgaria. His vision for the development of Panagyurishte was an expression of his vision that one should never forget one’s roots as well as of his gratitude to the people of Panagyurishte. With the foundation we intend to continue and build upon his work.
ABF: What is the history of the Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation, and what are its goals?
D.T.: The foundation was established in 2019 by my sister, my mother, and me. For us, this is a natural continuation of and a tribute to the example of our father, who was a great patriot, a generous donor, and a deserving Bulgarian. Our main goal is to contribute to the well-being of Bulgarian society by supporting culture, promoting innovation and achievement in education and healthcare, and supporting disadvantaged youth. This is how we keep alive his achievements, hopes, and vision, which through our work can be channeled to meet current and future needs.
ABF: The foundation’s motto is “Dare to fly.” What does this mean to you?
D.T.: We are inspired by the tireless efforts and dedication of many of the organizations we interact with. For us, daring someone to fly means showing them empathy and compels us to recognize their potential and give it the necessary support so it can flourish.
ABF: Does the Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation develop its own programs, or is it a grant-making foundation?
D.T.: For now, we are focused on funding the work of other organizations. We are not against starting our own programming, but there must be a well-defined added value in this approach. To prepare for such a step, we need to gain significant know-how, build a network of like-minded people, and strengthen our experience. It all starts with listening and learning from those who have been in the field much longer than us.
ABF: How do you determine what social investments to make? What do you expect from the organizations you support?
D.T.: As a newly formed foundation, we are yet to formalize and develop the processes of how to implement our strategy most effectively. As with many other things, the work process itself builds on and changes the approach. We are currently keeping as flexible and open to different possibilities as possible.
As a Bulgarian foundation, we prefer to support local efforts, grounded in our reality, offering relevant solutions in a sustainable way and applying existing know-how with an innovative approach. We expect transparency, openness, flexibility, and adaptability from the organizations we support. We want to be partners in the cause, not just donors.
ABF: What are the causes that are most important to you?
D.T.: One week ago, we announced our first call for project proposals that focus on developing social and emotional skills in early childhood. As a father of three, I find it extremely important to lay a foundation that enables us to raise conscientious, empathetic individuals ready to be involved in building our future.
ABF: Who is your greatest influence when it comes to empathy and giving?
D.T.: Mostly my father. Even when his pay was low, before the 1989 changes, I remember he would give 10 percent of his salary to help those in need. Subsequently, after transforming Asarel from a failing enterprise into a leading mining company with good results, he ranked among the leading philanthropists in Bulgaria, investing hundreds of millions in support of healthcare, sports, education, and culture. I also learned philanthropy from my grandfather, who lived in the center of town and would help, in his own way, many people who passed through his home.
ABF: How would you like people to remember the Tsotsorkov name?
D.T.: As an example of ethics, strong values, and long-term sustainable development, which can be shared in the context we live in and with all of Bulgaria in order to inspire the emergence of a more ethical society and many successful, good people.