For the Common Goal, or How Financiers Become Charity Volunteers
And where the charity work requires the management experience of a businessman
During three months of the war, owners and managers of Ukrainian companies learned to convert their skills and ability to organize into genuine help to those in need. Both IT firms, delivery services, and retailers got engaged. Even financial companies joined volunteering initiatives. Andrii Volkov, Investohills Group’s founder and managing partner, explained to Mind how the company manages to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Territorial Defense Force, and internally displaced persons.
First Reaction to the War
Of course, we were in shock – like everyone was – during the first week of the war. But we had to do something. At that time, there was unallocated profit from one of our projects on the group’s account, so we concluded that providing financial support to our Armed Forces was the most obvious thing to do. The company transferred UAH 10 million to accounts of Ukraine’s Armed Forces with the National Bank of Ukraine.
Organizing Coordinated Activity
With time, our volunteering evolved substantially. The evolution was supported by the effective suspension of our business. We are a financial and legal company specializing in collecting and restructuring problem debt. Within one day, it became impossible for us to work without a functioning judicial system.
However, our employees did not go away; instead, they came together by setting up a mutual assistance chat. We used it whenever someone needed help getting out from Chernihiv or Mariupol or getting to the border, evacuating relatives or providing medicines, or just some cash.
After several weeks when the situation became less chaotic and tense, we realized that our activities needed to be adjusted for us to become more efficient. Firstly, we set a target for the financial aid that can be accumulated for volunteering and channeled where it was needed.
Helping Ukraine’s Armed Forces
Commanding officers of one military unit asked us for a car through our former employee. By then, we had hardly any corporate cars left (we had already handed over one minibus to the Territorial Defense Force and the other one to the police), so we bought a car for the military and handed it over to the military unit.
After that, we joined the procurement of personal equipment because there was a massive shortage of quality helmets and body armor at the start of the war. Of course, we would not be able to quickly find 300 or 500, or 1,000 helmets or armored vests. However, we have already established contact with one of the local military units in Kyiv and decided to concentrate on meeting their needs.
At some point in time, there were too many volunteers who could help by providing helmets and body armor. So, we decided to concentrate on more technically complex products for Ukraine’s Armed Forces that are the hardest to get and most expensive.
Helping people who had to flee from the war became one more area of our work. It started the same way, with our relatives and friends. Later on, we expanded the scope of our work by helping refugees cross the border with Moldova or evacuating people from the hotspots of fighting.
The evacuation was not systemic but rather an ad hoc effort. Anyway, our organizational and financial potential is much higher than that of any particular person, volunteer, or family.
We managed to evacuate several dozens of people from Mariupol, several families from Kyiv Oblast, and several families with many children from Kharkiv.
Often, one doesn’t need much money to help. For example, evacuating a family frequently was a matter of mere UAH 10,000. Once, we found people prepared to go to an occupied region but had no fuel. So, we managed to contact a fire brigade via our friends; they provided us with some fuel, and we paid for it.
Providing Shelter for IDPs
Recently, we realized we could do much more for the internally displaced persons if we organized a full-fledged shelter for them. Unfortunately, too many Ukrainians stay in hotspots of the fighting because they do not understand where to go and how to live.
Based on this, we decided to transform an office building owned by Investhills in Zaporizhia into an IDP shelter.
It was an idea of our employees, and the company owners only funded it. They transformed the office into a comfortable “shelter” for over 100 refugees, where they can get enough sleep, take a shower, change clothes, recover their breath, and decide what to do next.
Who Else We Help and How
In fact, the engagement of our employees is the greatest in everything related to the procurement for the army and volunteering initiatives because everyone has a relative, a colleague, or a friend who is now fighting for the motherland or has to evacuate a family from an area of combat activities.
Nevertheless, our company has projects where the management and owners are engaged directly. It is, for instance, our hotel in Kyiv we reequipped to meet the needs of the Territorial Defense Force and the Army, having transformed it into a state-of-the-art barracks with comfortable rooms, showers, laundry room, and canteen.
Furthermore, the company management and owners enabled the relocation of a Ukrainian body armor manufacturer. The production facilities located in Kyiv Oblast were blocked because of the temporary occupation.
We got in touch with the manufacturer and organized relocation to Ukraine’s west by helping them move the equipment, negotiate with local authorities, and finance metal procurement abroad. Today, the firm makes 10,000 armor vests per month for Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
All in all, by late April, we spent UAH 35 million on volunteering, considering the first UAH 10 million for the army, the money used to re-launch the body armor production, help refugees, and procure personal protection items.
We are not going to stop. Soon, we will launch another large-scale initiative directly related to the company’s profile. We will focus on helping businesses recover losses caused by the russian army. I am certain our lawyers can be very efficient and helpful in dealing with this issue.