I’d like to add something to what the private sector can do. It has the capacity to see the big picture, to identify the problem clearly. It can raise awareness, but one more step is needed to make a difference; it needs to invest, to facilitate cooperation, and to engage with the government, which is not an easy thing to do, I admit. Take our project on education and gender equality at Sabancı University. We’ve been struggling to communicate with the Ministry of Education about this project, and it’s so tiny. I think the private sector would be more successful in communicating and even interacting with the government, since it has diverse ways of interacting with it. That’s why the private sector could focus on improving public goods and services rather than trying to produce them itself.


The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer report offers some findings on the public’s trust in the private sector.[1] It notes that people are increasingly expecting businesses to engage in social projects. Eight out of ten people believe that companies can improve economic and social conditions while increasing their profits and that private sector institutions should play a leadership role in solving social problems. The proportion of people who think that environmental protection initiatives, health and education projects, and tackling poverty fall under the remit of business is on the rise. They also believe that businesspeople and executives focus too much on short-term financial results and lobbying to the exclusion of employment and longer-term social issues. Eighty percent of those surveyed thought that CEOs ought to step forward in debates on social issues.

Compelling as Milton Friedman’s eloquent article was, it doesn’t seem to have persuaded the public. That’s what these trends suggest to me. And when you look at our founding generation, it’s clear that the pioneers of Turkish industry held views that were diametrically opposite to Friedman’s. They regarded every problem as their own, as in, “Here we are; we own this, and we own that, too. The state’s resources are limited. So it’s expected we’ll take care of these matters, and it should be expected of us.” Hence, it might make sense to draw the line somewhere. The other view is of course quite plausible, based as it is on solid tenets. Perhaps we could say this: The real social responsibility expected of business is social leadership. Spearheading ideas. Opening up new horizons and breaking molds. Not just spending money as it wishes, and straying into the state’s domain, as you mentioned. Perhaps this statement might lead to an approach of sorts, notwithstanding the blurred lines there.

Shall we discuss the concept of philanthropy now? Professor Çarkoğlu, you conducted some research in this field.

Would this be a fair summary of the 2016 Individual Giving and Philanthropy Report you prepared for the Turkish Third Sector Foundation (TÜSEV)? The report suggests that charitable donations made by Turkish citizens as a proportion of their incomes aren’t that far behind global standards.[2] It seems our people are not lacking in charity.

1. https://www.edelman.com/trust2017/ 2. http://www.tusev.org.tr/usrfiles/files/turkiyede_bireysel_bagiscilik_ve_hayirseverlik.pdf

No, they’re not.


Except, when you look at how and where these donations are made, you see that people generally prefer direct giving. Donors who do choose to donate through an organization opt for public bodies rather than non-governmental organizations. Isn’t that right?

Yes, it is.


Does this suggest a disconnect between the private sector and civil society? Does it mean there’s an issue with finding the support that’s necessary to maintain the non-governmental organizations they’ve founded? Because there seems to be a problem: it seems people don’t trust these institutions.

People tend to think, “I’ll make my own donation, help the poor, or build a school.” Our fellow citizens have a charitable nature, and they give accordingly. What sort of conclusions should we draw from this report in relation to the non-governmental organizations we set up and support? Should we promote them better? Is there anything we can do to mobilize the charitable traits of our fellow citizens? What would you like to say on this subject?

You’ve made an excellent summary of the study’s principal finding. There was a good deal of interest in the report, as Turkey is proud of its charity. Had the report concluded otherwise, there would have been major controversy and dissatisfaction.

You do have a point, though. The western model of making a donation in exchange for a receipt isn’t as popular here. But when you factor in informal assistance given directly to family, friends and acquaintances, the amount of charitable donations in Turkey is on par with the UK and much higher than Spain, although I don’t think Spanish researchers ask about informal giving. I would assume they don’t.

They don’t, in all probability. 

But that’s the situation here. A significant part of the economy is informal anyway. People don’t keep an official record of all their income. Consequently, there’s no tradition of recording this sort of giving as donations. Similarly, foundations assume they’ll operate on large gifts and sponsorships. They tend to spend ready money. Foundations that fundraise for their causes are countable on the fingers of one hand. The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) does, as far as I know; another that comes to mind is the Foundation for Children with Leukemia (LÖSEV). No other foundation attempts to raise or collect funds. Most organizational structures aren’t suited to this anyway, because they need to be more transparent to succeed. All their accounts must be open, and they must comply with all their responsibilities. That tradition has not yet emerged in Turkey. Which leads me to suggest that any support offered to foundations ought to be in the form of matching grants. Foundations should be encouraged to develop the capacity to raise funds. That would be one practical suggestion I can think of. When they want to and make the effort, foundations are capable of raising funds. That was a key finding in our study.

Examples from daily life include giving alms to a beggar. That was one of the conclusions of our study, that money given to beggars constitutes a major part of charitable giving. When someone asks you for money, you give it, and you never ask where it goes. Chances are you’re giving it to a professional. But you give when asked. Taking that into account, it’s very important to know how to ask for money, and to organize the foundation accordingly.

Turkey’s not lacking in charity. But because it’s informal, it’s a closed system.

When you give money to someone you know, you’re leveraging a network in the sense of “Today I’ll give to you, tomorrow you can help me.” But when you donate to a charity, you’ll never know where that money was spent – or on whom.