Marija Mitrovic, Director of Philanthropy and Partnership, the Trag Foundation: The most important thing is to follow your heart

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Perhaps the word philanthropy has not yet been widely accepted here, but it is deeply rooted in us, not only through history but also today in modern era. There is a great need to talk about people who just want to quietly change the world, by improving the lives of others and empowering the community in which they live. Marija Mitrovic, Director of philanthropy and partnerships at the Trag Foundation, draws attention precisely to such individuals and companies Marija Mitrovic.

What were the reasons for establishing the VIRTUS award for and to whom the award is intended to?

In 1999, the Trag Foundation was established with the aim of strengthening the civil society and development of philanthropy in Serbia. We wanted to highlight the best examples of charity here in Serbia in order to pay tribute to those who through their work and dedication contributed to the development of their communities. We hope that by highlighting their example, other people and companies could be encouraged to support their good work and start their own actions. The prestigious VIRTUS Award is awarded to those companies and individuals who have made their communities a better place to live in a meaningful and lasting way, so the good doesn’t stay hidden.

To what extent and in what way do Serbian citizens participate in humanitarian actions?

According to a survey conducted by IPSOS for 2018, the number of citizens participating in humanitarian activities has grown since the establishment of the VIRTUS Award. Even two-thirds of the citizens stated that they participated in humanitarian actions, and they choose to donate more often. Most of the citizens donated their money, but the other types of donation are also registered and the citizens devoted more time to those kinds of activities. They also stated that they provided psychological help and support to people in distress. Those who donated money did it most often via text messages, which show that channels for providing help have to be easily accessible.

What should be done to increase the number of citizens who participate in charities and forge a positive opinion on humanitarian actions in Serbia?

Most citizens of Serbia think that humanitarian actions should be more represented in the media. Those who want to provide help often do not have access to the information on how to do that, and media rarely follow humanitarian actions all through the process, from start to finish. The biggest obstacles to greater citizen participation in charity actions are the lack of funds and the lack of confidence due to the fear that donated funds could be abused. Citizens want to know how their donation has been used and in what way it helped someone. There are people among us who do good, who care about others and about their community. Those examples must be promoted. We must learn from them and be inspired by them.

Could you cite some examples of good practices that you have encountered in the past 12 years?

I have encountered a lot of examples of good practice. For example, Milorad Jurkovic from Beocin is a good example of individual contribution. He makes baby chairs and regularly gives them to the families for free, which made him a household name in Serbia, and he is known as the Carpenter Mile. He produces other pieces of furniture, and collects other kind of donations for those who need it. He has engaged his family in his initiatives as well as thousands of followers of his Facebook page. We can also point out the company Yumis from Nis, which won the VIRTUS Award for small and medium-size business for its financial support to the University of Nis, sports associations, scouts and various cultural events. The Yumis donated his goods to various associations such as the Association of Single Mothers, NURDOR, nursing homes and associations of people with disabilities. The company also organized professional practice for high school and university students.

How many VIRTUS Award categories are there and who can compete for the award?

Award nominees can be domestic and international companies, branches of international companies operating in Serbia, private small and medium enterprises, public and state-owned companies, media companies, corporate funds and foundations as well as individuals.

The award categories are following:
• VIRTUS Main Award for corporate contribution at the national level
• VIRTUS Award for contribution to the local community in which the company operates
• VIRTUS Award for small and medium-size enterprises
• VIRTUS Long-term partnership Award between profit and non-profit sector
• VIRTUS Award for individual contribution to philanthropy

Members of this years’ VIRTUS Award Jury are: Ana Tozzi (Foreign Investors Council), Galjina Ognjanov (Faculty of Economics at the University of Belgrade), Katarina Obradović Jovanović (Ministry of Economy), Radojka Nikolić (NIRA Press) and Robert Čoban (Color Press Group).

The competition was opened on January 21 and the deadline for submission of applications is February 19th, 2019.
More information, detailed conditions of the competitions and application forms are available on the official website of the VIRTUS award www.tragfondacija.org/virtus16

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