Points of View: How Do You Pick Those You Will Help?

Supplement Charts of foundations | Should disadvantaged and disabled children or talented students be supported? Should help be provided in environmental protection or in community development? We have approached prominent sponsors and others, asking them to outline their process of deciding on whom to sponsor.

Renáta Kellnerová: We like bold and innovative approaches
My husband and I started to think about philanthropy some 16 years ago when our second daughter was born. We were aware that the Czech Republic was gradually becoming a country in the category of advanced societies in which it is absolutely normal to give money to charity. We were also influenced by knowing that not all children lived in economic circumstances allowing them to receive high-quality education such as our children could. This resulted in our considerations of establishing an educational facility – what the Open Gate elementary school and grammar school is now – that would offer education to children from all strata of society, i.e. both socially disadvantaged children and those for whose education their parents could pay.

A few years after opening the Open Gate eight-year grammar school we set up The Kellner Family Foundation, the core activity of which includes long-term projects geared towards education, science and culture. The main motivation was probably a feeling of certain social responsibility. A stable financial backing was created and both my husband and I come from families that never had any extra money; these facts motivated us to begin developing our family foundation into its current form.

We dedicate most of our energy and funds to educational projects. We believe that support for motivated and educated young people is the future of every nation. But it is also true that the fruits of our endeavours will most probably appear in 20 years, or even later. It is also important for us to abandon the policy of anonymous patronage and keep control over each of the projects, cooperating with teams of experts who pursue the foundation’s objectives together with us.

We like bold and innovative approaches, and this is also reflected in the selection of projects for our foundation. The main directions in education include Open Gate, the school mentioned earlier, and the Universities project under which we provide grants to 50 Czech students every year for taking various disciplines both in and outside the Czech Republic. We sponsor first-class musicians as well as future biologists, physicians, space engineers, economists and mathematicians.

Five years ago, we broadened the range of our ventures to include the Helping Schools Succeed project focused on educating teachers at public elementary schools, to which we also offer support provided by instructional coaches; in general, we seek to improve instruction in these schools, subject to consent by the authorities responsible for state-run schools. Additional, and very important, moments for the foundation are situations where we have to quickly respond to requests for help to families, such as car accidents with tragic consequences when the family’s life turns upside down, or after disastrous floods. In the Liberec Region, we help to improve the environment. We also contribute to surgical operations that are not covered by health insurance.

Renáta Kellnerová | Founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of The Kellner Family Foundation. Upon her initiative, Open Gate, the first purely Czech school to receive certification permitting its students to sit for International Baccalaureate examinations, was set up in 2005. She and her husband also founded the Educa Foundation, which provided need-based grants to Open Gate students and sponsored further education of graduates from secondary schools under the Universities programme. In 2011, Nadace Educa was merged with The Kellner Family Foundation, which is mainly dedicated to education and support for science and culture.

About the author | prepared by Tomáš Wehle

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