With the ongoing socioeconomic crisis in Greece, it is hard to consider the appropriate role of philanthropy. However, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation was trying to cope with this issue since the beginning of the crisis which provided some praiseworthy results. By now, the foundation committed €300 million or $378 million to grants as a response to the crisis. Total grant commitments in Greece are now well over €1 billion. This foundation has two most important principles in their activities. The first one is that philanthropy should not be a replacement for a government’s responsibility to offer public services. The government has obligations to its citizens and has its role in this process. So it is crucial to admit that it is not philanthropy’s role to ensure government´s capacity for their own responsibilities. The second principle is that the priority of the foundation´s supports must be those who are affected by the crisis the most, such as homeless, unemployed, hungry and depressed people or people without healthcare. Addressing to their needs is and should always be the main goal of philanthropy.
This foundation´s commitment of €300 million has been allocated with the help of two major initiatives. The first one occurred in June 2012, as the Foundation committed an initial €100 million to the initiative “Against the Greek Crisis”. The initiative was continued in June 2015 when the Stavros Niarchos Foundation committed an additional €100 million. The second initiative was called “Recharging the Youth” with €100 million directed towards aim to help address Greece’s overly high youth unemployment rate, seeking the creation of better employment prospects and opportunities for the young.
Through that first €100 million for “Against the Crisis” the Foundation provided 377 grants in addition to the supporting social programs and sustainability of hundreds of Greek nonprofit organisations. Their grants primarily supported the Social Welfare and Health, but also Education and Culture.“Recharging the Youth” initiative is still underway.
The Foundation has already announced new initiatives with additional €100 million allocates. Their main goal is to distribute the funds within a year, which should in a way intensify their efforts against the crisis in Greece by simultaneously providing the most important support to Greek society and its most vulnerable groups. The Foundation has provided significant support already for the great number of grants within this new initiative, such as €20 million in total to the Municipalities of Athens and Thessaloniki, € 10 million each for addressing the immediate needs of citizens in these cities. In return these two municipalities will have the chance to perform collaborative hubs, assuming the duty of the coordination and cooperation with the neighbouring municipalities to implement synergistic actions.
Addressing issues of the Greeks as soon as possible with the allocation of these grants means the vital response to the problems and needs of the citizens that are facing different issues including the existential problems on a daily basis.
In addition, the Foundation approved grants totalling €3.7 million as part of this latest €100 million program. With these grants, the Foundation is trying to address urgent healthcare needs through the support of the hospitals as well as other non-profit organisations that experience all sorts of challenges.
In addition to the Foundation’s ongoing funding of the construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens, each one of these €100 million programmes is funded above and beyond the Foundation’s standard grant-making activities. This new centre which will provide new facilities for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, in addition to the 42 acres Stavros Niarchos Park.
This severe ongoing crisis opened the issue of building the SNFCC. Many consider that it should not continue in the presence of other urgent societal needs. Despite that, the Foundation concluded that the finalisation of the project is in the best interest of Greece observing the long term effects. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center can be perceived as an economic stimulus as well as a source of jobs. Finally, it is a testament and a commitment to the country’s future as well.
Broadly speaking, this is all that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation was able to do to provide a necessary answer to the crisis. It is possible that some other philanthropic institutions choose different strategies and priorities to implement, which does not mean it is wrong in any way. However, it is crucial that the philanthropic foundations in Europe and around the world have the insight in the current situation and consider providing the aid of the most vulnerable Greeks, particularly with the rising unemployment rates that are highest in Europe. The role of philanthropy is what make us human, and what we should observe as important part of our lives. Helping those in need within these difficult times should be obligatory.