Dilyana Maneva, CSR and Communications Manager: Clear principles and values make the team of For Our Children Foundation successful in engaging and retaining corporate partners

"There is nothing more inspiring than the transformative power of empathy and generosity that can make an ordinary person become a true changemaker. I believe that each one of us can be that. Just as long as we want it strongly. And take the first step."

November 11 2022

3Working in the non-profit sector is challenging and involves maintaining relationships with various organizations, state and local authorities, donors, businesses, and other partners involved in advocacy activities. Navigating this environment requires a set of specific skills that can only be acquired in the direct process of working in the sector.

For Our Children Foundation is launching a “The Foundation Speaks” column to introduce you to the professionals in its network. Our main aim is to share the experience we have gained, and we hope that you will learn valuable knowledge and be inspired to continue building your professional skills.

Today we will introduce to you Dilyana Maneva, CSR and Communications Manager.

Already since she was a student at the Natural and Mathematical High School in Veliko Turnovo, Dilyana has had an active civil position and organized a number of volunteer and charity initiatives. She graduated with a BA in Political Science and Public Policy and an MA in Diplomacy and International Relations from New Bulgarian University. In her studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium she met representatives of various international organizations such as Save the Children, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, etc. They inspired her to look for a non-profit organization after her return to Bulgaria, and chance (or not) led her to For Our Children Foundation, to which she dedicated 10 years of her professional career.

Tell us about your development at For Our Children Foundation? What do the 10 years of career development in it mean to you?

My work at the foundation started in the form of volunteering, and later as a professional internship, which gave me the opportunity to experience the specifics of the different teams, but most of all the spirit of the people in the organization and the values that unite them. As a young person, just graduated from university, it was extremely important for me to see the potential for development and meaning from my work. I was also looking for a place to be around people who could be role models and actively share their knowledge and experience.

Right after finishing my internship at the Foundation, I was offered to become a permanent part of the team. The decision to accept it is still one of the best I have made. Over the next 10 years, I had the opportunity to grow career-wise, from a partnership development expert, to a manager of the fundraising and events team, to head of the two major portfolios – fundraising and communications.

Working in the non-profit sector is a true calling for me. It also gives young people the opportunity to gain experience and a range of useful and practical knowledge and skills that are applicable in any field. When I talk to students, I never miss an opportunity to encourage them to dedicate their career to a cause close to their heart. Because I know from experience that no matter how difficult and challenging that path may be, at the end of the day there is nothing more satisfying than the feeling that your work is meaningful.

More and more companies want to be socially responsible? How has the attitude towards CSR changed over the years?

While 10 years ago companies donated rather sporadically and chaotically, mainly on holidays, today we notice that most of them follow established lines of their corporate social responsibility related to their mission, vision, values and business goals. Companies are now concerned not only about how CSR initiatives will affect their public image, but also whether and how they will reflect on their employees and organizational culture.

Trends in the field of corporate social responsibility in Bulgaria show that business and the NGO sector are increasingly developing successful models of cooperation with a long-term and sustainable impact on society. Responsible business in our country faces many challenges, but also opportunities to be useful where the state cannot or is not willing to be the main driver.

Thanks to the trust of several corporate and individual donors over the last 10 years, For Our Children Foundation has been able to open two innovative Early Childhood Development Complexes in Sofia and Plovdiv, to expand the activities of the Foster Care Centre and to create the Children’s House where kids separated from their parents receive love, protection and support.

What makes the team of For Our Children Foundation successful in attracting and retaining corporate partners are the clear principles of work and the values we share. At the core of our understanding of sustainable CSR partnerships are a tailored approach, transparency and accountability, and a focus on the overall impact on children, their families, and the community. All our donors receive full reporting every 6 months, enabling them to not only understand where we are directing the funds we provide, but also to experience through the stories and narratives of our work, how social investment is creating positive change. Our goal, although at the risk of being slower paced, is to create long-term partnerships that allow us to reach our full potential – from engaging the company, the management team, to the employees and even their families.

Where is the intersection between fundraising and communications?

The link between fundraising and communications is extremely strong. Most of the time we do both things at the same time – we communicate while we fundraise and we fundraise while we communicate. Our formula for success shows that if we convince even one person to give their time, energy or resources and then show and tell them how their contribution translates into real social change, that person will likely become a long-time supporter.

We actively promote all our CSR initiatives with businesses because we believe that good examples should be shared. Only this can stimulate more people and companies to implement meaningful initiatives to support local communities that need support.

Communications at the Foundation are not just for fundraising purposes. Through them, we raise awareness about the importance of early childhood, the role of professionals who stimulate children’s development and support parents in their care. We also highlight the need for child and family policies, support our advocacy activities and promote synergies between the health, social and education sectors.

The 13th edition of the Evening of the Virtues was a great success. Tell us if there is a successful formula for holding this large-scale event for so many years.

The 13th edition of Evening of the Virtues will go down in the history of For Our Children Foundation not only as the most successful (so far) event in terms of raised funds, but also with the largest number of sponsors and partners attracted. If we talk about a formula, this would be one of the elements without which the Evening could not exist. In order to be able to invest 100% of the funds raised before, during and after the event into our cause, we secure all organisational costs by bringing in sponsors, but also by inspiring other people and companies to donate their skills or services. For example, every year Sofia Event Center donates the hall free of charge and Red Devil Catering gets involved by preparing and serving the dinner for the event. Traditionally, all hosts and program participants volunteer their time, proving that anyone can find a way to support a worthwhile cause with the skills and talents they have.

Another important element of the event has to do with the program and the overall experience we create for guests. Our goal is not just to invite them to support the cause, but to immerse them in the stories we encounter every day. In doing so, people realize the real need for the Foundation to exist and understand how their contributions make a difference in the lives of the children and families we help.

In its 13 editions, Evening of Virtues has stood out as one of the best charity events in Bulgaria because it has succeeded in creating a community of “guardians of childhood”. A community that I dare say is extremely special because it makes the conscious choice to focus its efforts on ensuring a fundamental right – the right to a happy childhood in a safe family environment.

Lastly, I cannot miss the chance to mention the role of the team. No edition of the Evening of Virtues could happen without the commitment, inspiration and long working hours of the Foundation’s team, who start months before the day of the event by preparing the concept, the program, the overall design of the experience, so that it becomes an evening to remember throughout the year.

What are the main goals that the Foundation has set for itself in the coming years related to the development of corporate social responsibility and communications?

Over the next 3 years, our main CSR and communications activities will be focused on promoting long-term donor engagement and leveraging investment in early childhood development by mobilizing key community resources.

We plan to continue building partnerships with corporate and individual donors – implementing various CSR projects, engaging employees in regular giving and volunteering, cause marketing initiatives, charity events and campaigns, etc.

We will be adding two new elements to our existing activities – an early childhood investor network and a children’s philanthropy programme that will encourage civic engagement among the very young.

Of course, we will also continue to tell the good stories of social change – stories that inspire and that remind us that only people can help other people.

There is nothing more inspiring than the transformative power of empathy and generosity that can make an ordinary person become a true changemaker. I believe that each one of us can be that. Just as long as we want it strongly. And to take the first step.

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