How GSBTB turned down a major grant

€ 200.000 or organisational values? Give Something Back to Berlin chose the latter.

By Annamaria Olsson and Ragıp Zık

It was February. We included some beautiful art pieces made during Open Hearts Space afternoons to the donation receipts and sent them with thank you letters to all individuals and organisations that donated to us last year. These big and small sums mean the world to us. The year 2020 was globally very, very difficult due to the pandemic. Many NGOs like Give Something Back to Berlin struggled to survive financial hardships that came along, but that’s not to say that those hardships are over in 2021. Despite the pandemic, GSBTB worked hard to serve our community through difficult times of constant challenges, distance, and digital fatigue. But we rely on big and small contributions to stay true to our values and mission while offering our activities to everyone and for free.

Just a month ago or so, we turned down a € 200.000 grant from one of Germany’s most prominent public institutions working with migrants and refugees. This grant would have covered a big part of our expenses and been a great relief for us. It would have provided us with the safety we need through these turbulent pandemic times, but it just didn’t sit right. The grantmaker wanted us to deliver passport copies and the asylum status of every person who would have participated in our activities. We found this contradictory to GSBTB’s values and principles as an organisation. At GSBTB, we don’t make a difference where you are from, your status in Germany, or what your passport tells about you. There are people in our community who are, in fact, stateless or, at times, have been without papers. Forcing people to copy their passports to attend a guitar class or German language café is nothing GSBTB wants to be part of. There are enough institutions in the world that demand passports to welcome people and provide access to various spaces and experiences. Give Something Back to Berlin will never be one of them. We suggested several solutions to the grantmaker to circumvent this critical condition, but it was not possible. We decided to turn down this major grant – instantly and unanimously. We were upset but proud.

Then, there are community donations like the one we received from ChartMogul. This Berlin start-up, which went global a while ago, contacted us to donate € 10.000. The amount was much smaller but was just right to raise our spirits. It was much more in line with how we tick and was encouraging to keep the freedom of GSBTB being an open and inclusive space. Other donations, such as that of Ben Owens, who ran a marathon and raised more than € 2.000 for GSBTB, are so precious to us as well. We have been fortunate to have many partners and donors to make our work possible since the time we started. Not only do they support our projects and activities, but they also become part of our diverse community and network. We create tons of possibilities for interaction where our community members meet and find opportunities to collaborate. This diversity and interaction is what makes us strong.

If your employer, company, or you as an individual want to contribute to keeping GSBTB’s work going, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss partnership opportunities.

Join us to imagine a world where migrants, refugees, and locals co-create in a spirit of solidarity. Together we can make worlds meet for a better city.

Images by Markus Winkler and Annette Fischer on Unsplash