Radio Poland Interview: Q&A with CEO Ted Hart

July 27, 2023
Image: Ted Hart presenting at the Polish Philanthropy Summit, May 31, 2023. Image courtesy of Marcin Skiba

Recently, the CAF America team traveled to Poland, where they met with government officials, grantees, and partners across the region to discuss philanthropy in Poland and the ongoing state of humanitarian relief and long-term assistance for Ukrainian refugees. While there, our President and CEO, Ted Hart talked with Radio Poland about the international community’s philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine and Poland’s key role in that response. The following radio interview was recorded with Radio Poland and published on June 27, 2023. You can access the audio recording of the interview here.


Radio Poland Host, Ada Janiszewska: This is Q&A, a program showcasing news and views of trends and phenomena in Polish society. I’m Ada Janiszewska, welcoming you to the show. This week’s Q&A focuses on philanthropy in light of the first Philanthropy Summit 2023 in Poland. However, this also corresponds to the current situation in Ukraine. In the months following Russia’s invasion, Poland has become a humanitarian superpower as it keeps providing assistance to Ukrainians.

According to Ted Hart, President and CEO of Charities Aid Foundation America, Poland’s philanthropy has amazed the world. In this addition of Q&A we will discuss the multi-dimensional complexity of contemporary and future charity in the face of world crises. Speaking of philanthropy, I think that it has always carried a significant value but now it has become even more important for society in general. Do you think that it has really changed over the years and how we see it?

Ted Hart: I think it’s more visible. I think more people are aware of the power of philanthropy and what it can do for communities. So, it is more important in that regard, but it’s been important for a very long time. Here in Poland, in Warsaw, you’ve been so generous and have opened your arms, helping in that process and accepting so many Ukrainian people to the community.

Janiszewska: Speaking of those changes, do you think that maybe also our approach has changed, especially in the face of the ongoing war in Ukraine?

Hart: I think the attention to the needs of other people is certainly heightened, because of the very unfortunate war. But, there are also a lot of causes around the world and CAF America contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to 135 countries, so we have very generous donors who care about a lot of different causes, and I think, in that regard, people recognize that they can have a hand in making a better community. Well there are tens of millions of quiet philanthropists every day all the time, but thankfully, when there is a crisis like the War, more people come to the forefront, it’s more visible in terms of what they can do. And I think that for anybody, whether you have a lot of money or or a little money, whether you can volunteer a lot of time or very little time, I think what you can accomplish is what’s most important for people. They want to see themselves in making a difference.

Janiszewska: Do you think that the main goals of modern philanthropy, let’s say, have also changed because, you know, this is the 21st-century, but we still fight wars, social feuds, or even environmental cataclysms?

Hart: Well, I think it’s easier for the average human being, if you will. To be able to find a cause online, to be able to identify with other people, to connect with a community than it’s ever been before. So, it’s always been there; I think it’s been harder for people to feel connected. And that’s really the secret to philanthropy, is being connected to a cause. Of course, here in Poland, with Ukraine and the needs of people, and many of them relatives, being able to witness and experience that, I think for everybody is very front of mind. But, after the war, and hopefully there will be a successful end to the war for Ukraine and people will be able to go back and rebuild Ukraine, there will still be lots of philanthropic needs even after the war.

Janiszewska: Were you surprised when you noticed how much you know Polish people sort of like involve themselves and through the whole war in Ukraine and how they really wanted to help their neighbors?

Hart: Well, I think anyone who knows Polish people were not surprised, but I think the entire world was quite amazed at just how universal it was across the country. Open arms, opening your doors, opening your pocketbooks, just the way that you welcomed Ukrainians at the time of their greatest need. They needed a good friend, and they found it in Poland, so for all of us, it’s heartwarming to see that. But, quite honestly for those of us who know Polish people, know that that’s not surprising.

Janiszewska: Is philanthropy always the same?

Hart: There are, thankfully, experts that are able to get on the ground very quickly to help people; there are philanthropists and supporters who will be there immediately for those immediate causes, but you raise a very important point, and it is something that is going to be true for Ukraine. Of course, we all hope for a successful, and that they will win the war and maintain the integrity of their country, but then that country’s going to have to be rebuilt and that will be many, many years. So, we have this immediate, urgent need for people to have assistance right now, just like in the Turkiye–Syria earthquake. People know of the largest earthquake in the history of Turkiye and Syria. Many, many more people died and so the immediate need was there and everybody could see that. So, food and shelter, but there’s that long tail of having to rebuild those communities—hopefully there will be philanthropists there. It’s always harder in the long term but the needs are there.

Janiszewska: And, is education important in that regard because like how can we educate people on these matters so that that they could be better or just helping because for example, here when the war hit I’ve noticed that there was a lot of chaos and people didn’t really know how to cope with that and how to help. They were trying their best, but still it was very, very chaotic.

Hart: Well, it takes a while for things to get organized and no one was expecting the war, so people weren’t really prepared for a war, and particularly, a war of this magnitude in Europe was thought to be unthinkable, that it just wouldn’t happen again. And here we are, literally on your border—a major conflict here in Europe. It’s not surprising for people to immediately see that need and want to be part of that, but you mention education and I think we do have to do the best job we can to educate people and let them know the long-term needs of people after a large conflict or a large disaster.

Janiszewska: I heard a quite an interesting statement, saying that “where there is poverty, someone always earns,” and piggybacking on that, can we consider philanthropy as a business or maybe that’s just like a stretch?

Hart: I think that you ask that, and it is an interesting question to ask, because there are certainly aspects to it because we want it done well, right? We want it to be well accounted for, we want to make sure there’s good ethics and good leadership. In that regard, there has to be a strong business aspect to it. Certainly, corporations are very supportive of philanthropic causes. Around philanthropy, there are lots of business aspects to it. The very nature of being a nonprofit or not-for-profit means that these are causes, these are things not meant to make a profit.

Janiszewska: So what do you think about Poland’s philanthropy because I’m quite interested in your take on that one. Do you think that maybe there is still a room for us to develop, to maybe look for different options and initiatives, how can we organize them to help and be better?

Hart: There are lots of terrific charities here in Poland—we actually have 94 charities that are eligible with CAF America that can receive money from the United States already. I think that surprises people, that there are so many causes here.

But in terms of the Polish people, the Charities Aid Foundation each year puts out the World Giving Index which indexes all the countries in the world in terms of generosity. And, of over a hundred countries that are listed in the World Giving Index, Poland is number sixteen.

Janiszewska: Wow, we’re high.

Hart: You’re very high and it may also impress your listeners to know that the United Kingdom is number seventeen.

Janiszewska: My final question is, do you plan to further cooperate with Polish charities, and maybe do something here for a long run?

Hart: We’re very supportive of the philanthropic sector here; it’s a strong one, one that’s growing. It’s very impressive, as I shared with you, you’re very high ranking in the World Giving Index, and that really speaks to the heart and soul of the Polish people. In terms of the philanthropic aspect, giving of yourself and giving of your money, we can all do better.

Janiszewska: Future additions of the Polish Philanthropy Summit will serve as a platform to bring together all parties interested in Poland’s philanthropy and systematic development. The guest of this week’s Q&A was Ted Hart, the President and CEO of Charities Aid Foundation America. That is all for today’s show.

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