I know that countless others in the whole world of philanthropy – and here I do mean the whole world because Olga’s work took her to every region – will be as devastated as I am to hear of her sudden and tragic death. Someone to whom I just told the news responded in a way I’m sure will be typical: ‘I was so looking forward to working with her, she is an absolute giant in her field.’ I hope that many of you will leave messages about Olga.
For me, this is a huge personal and professional loss. I have worked with Olga in a variety of ways since the mid 1990s, and over time she became a close and valued friend as well as a colleague. There is really no one else like her.
I first met Olga in 1996, when I went to Moscow to work on a book to be published by CAF on The Non-profit Sector in Russia. She was then director of CAF Russia. Before that she worked briefly as a journalist but she and I always agreed that she was always a journalist at heart. For me as editor of Alliance, it meant that she met deadlines unfailingly and she wrote the most wonderfully expressive and idiomatic prose in not quite standard English.
Olga became a member of the Alliance editorial board in March 1999. Since then she has been part of all our discussions, providing her own sometimes unexpected perspective on every issue. She has written numerous articles for the magazine, carried out interviews for us, and acted several times as guest editor, most recently in September 2010. She was my way of getting in touch with leading philanthropists in many countries. She will leave a yawning gap.
In the meantime her ‘day job’ was as director of CAF Russia until 2005, when she came to the UK to take up the role of head of CAF Global Trustees. It was in this role that her work with philanthropists in emerging market countries really took off, particularly in Brazil and Russia; she also started the Foundation School.
This led directly to her decision to leave CAF and set up her own charity focused on the development of private giving in emerging market countries. In July 2010, Philanthropy Bridge Foundation was founded, and I was privileged to be invited to become a trustee, and then chair. Supporting Olga in her new venture was an exciting role which I was delighted to take on. She was a visionary with an unmatched understanding of the potential and challenges for philanthropy in emerging markets. Talking through her plans was always interesting and fun. Picking up the pieces now that she has gone is indescribably sad for all of us.
Finally, I offer my most heartfelt condolences to Olga’s family, and particularly to her son Nikita.
Please leave your own messages and tributes to Olga below.
Please support a memorial fund for Olga Alexeeva to further her work of developing philanthropy in emerging markets. You can donate online using paypal or a credit/debit card.
A meeting was held in London in late January to decide how best to use the fund. Follow the links below to read the outcomes: