In honor of the Austrian National Day, Global Philanthropy Environment Index’s Austria expert and native Austrian Ruth Gabler-Schachermayr highlights some of the key philanthropic trends in Austria today.
In addition to her role as the Austria expert, Gabler-Schachermayr is also an Indiana University alum, graduating from Indiana University Bloomington with a master’s degree in public affairs with concentrations in public and nonprofit management.
Austrian Ruth Gabler-Schachermayr found her passion working with youth and education. After initiating and working for the Youth University Krems for several years, she jumped at the opportunity to participate in The Fund Raising School courses in 2009 in order to learn funding strategies that would benefit Austrian youth.
“It was my first time learning practically how to raise funds, and it was an exciting time to participate in those courses,” she explained.
Soon after, Gabler-Schachermayr was accepted into the Fulbright program, which gave her the opportunity to work on her master’s degree in the U.S. She went to Indiana University (IU) Bloomington, a school she had become familiar with through her experience with The Fund Raising School.
During her two years there, Gabler-Schachermayr focused on public and nonprofit management.
“I wanted to study on how nonprofits function, how you create a case for support, how you can create strategies for nonprofits, and other tools and techniques to improve nonprofit practices,” she said.
She stayed busy, volunteering as the vice president for the Graduate Student Association, working as an International Student Coordinator at IU, and helping create a new service learning abroad program in Kenya.
After she graduated, Gabler-Schachermayr worked for the Indiana Department of Education and Kiwanis International, where she raised over $20 million to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. During this time, she moved to Brussels, Belgium and then to Frankfurt, Germany in order to head the fundraising efforts for Kiwanis Europe and the youth programs.
In December 2016, she returned to Austria to work as an independent consultant. Gabler-Schachermayr now works with the Austrian-American Educational Commission (Fulbright Austria) as the organization’s fundraising and development officer. During this time, the IU alumna became reconnected to Indiana University, specifically IUPUI, with the help of Dr. Leslie Lenkowsky.
“I was involved with Dr. Lenkowsky through a number of courses at IU. He reached out to me about the Global Philanthropy Environment Index (GPEI) project, and asked me if I wanted to contribute,” she said.
Gabler-Schachermayr agreed, and over the next several months, spent time combing previous versions of the GPEI and other various reports that were used to measure philanthropy in Austria. She also conducted online research in several academic databases, and scoured articles published about Austrian philanthropy.
“I also worked closely with the association Fundraising Verband Austria (FVA). They have a lot of useful information on current nonprofit-focused laws and trends in Austria,” she said.
She compiled that information, as well as her extensive firsthand experience working in the philanthropic sector, into a comprehensive 11-page report that discussed fiscal issues, individual participation in nonprofits, government rules, regulations, and laws, cross-border flows, and the general philanthropic environment in Austria.
She shared some of that information here:
“The Austrian philanthropic sector has evolved over the past 10 years. The market is growing—there are new ways of fundraising being established, from crowdfunding to different forms of face-to-face fundraising. Face-to-face fundraising has been very important in Austria—now there’s a mobile form that people collecting donations on the street can use that stores information about individuals who donate in a database. Then, you can send them a thank you note immediately or a text message when they walk away.”
Gabler-Schachermayr also pointed out the growing number of people donating, volunteering, and participating in the philanthropic sector as a whole, although she exercised caution when it came to recent laws passed.
“Recently, new nonprofit laws and regulations were passed that demand that nonprofits have to collect the first name, last name, and birth date of every donor and register them through a portal with the finance ministry if they want to have the donation deducted from that individual’s taxes,” she said.
“They’ve also made it more complicated for donations to be processed from other countries in order to restrict financing. It hinders foreign donations not only in Austria, but we’ve seen that law more closely monitoring cross-border donations enacted in other countries as well.”
However, Gabler-Schachermayr points out that access to philanthropy in Austria has been evolving over time.
“It’s quite easy to establish an association, and that’s wonderful to see. There are many different causes that exist for people to support,” she said. “Civil society is also stepping up to the plate. Regulations do exist, and it is our goal to reduce those so that people can more easily donate to philanthropy. Overall though, it’s a good landscape to work in.”
She also stressed the importance of distributing knowledge about international and comparative philanthropy.
“The philanthropic landscape is international. We have to consider donations going across borders, so it’s important to know what’s happening in other countries, including their legal environments and laws regarding philanthropy,” she said. “Questions such as ‘how easily can nonprofits form in other countries?’ and ‘what are the markets like there?’ are very important to ask in order to fully understand how the sector operates.”
Not only was Gabler-Schachermayr able to dissect philanthropy in Austria, she was also able to meet other individuals studying and working in European philanthropy across the continent. Meeting and sharing data with those GPEI experts at a European convening organized by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy was a “wonderful” experience for her.
“We were able to share how engaged we were in the topic, while learning about how philanthropy works in other countries and how individual experts are engaged in it. That was really valuable to see,” she said.
“Overall, the experience working with the school was really great—to be able to contribute to the GPEI and see the final product come out was very exciting.
“As an IU alumna it was especially delightful to come back to IU and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and be able to contribute academically; bringing back knowledge from my home country and current residence across borders to my alma mater.”