Where it all started ...

How did the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF) come into being? Well, in the beginning was The Supper, and The Supper was with the Hungarian Scottish Society, and The Supper was The Hungarian Scottish Society. Except that it’s all a little more complicated than that…

What is clear is that the history of the RBIF is intrinsically linked with both the Budapest Burns Supper, which dates back to 1998, and the Hungarian Scottish Society. It might be more accurate to say that they begat the foundation.

The RBIF, indeed any foundation, needs a founder, someone who actually gets the ball rolling with a donation of money. In our case, that man was Zoltán Magyar, whose initial input in 2005 of HUF 1.1 million (around EUR 3,800 at the September 2012 exchange rate) set up the organisation.

Magyar is President of the Hungarian Scottish Society, and, with Jock MacKenzie was involved from the start with organising the Burns Supper. Magyar has had a long-time association with the Hungarian Football Federation (Magyar Labdarúgó Szövetség), which also provides a link to the foundation’s Honorary President, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Manchester United boss Fergie agreed to take up the role on 23 January 2007, when he was in the country to give a lecture to Hungarian football coaches. He had breakfast with MacKenzie and Magyar, after which he joked in an exclusive interview he gave me for The Budapest Sun that he had been “press-ganged” into joining. Describing himself as “a good Scot, a proud Scot”, and “a real aficionado of Robert Burns”, Ferguson said he wanted to spread the fame of Scotland’s national bard, adding that the RBIF’s charitable work was “exceptional”. The football legend presents the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy each year before a Man U home game at Old Trafford.

Ensuring that the books are all above board and that everything is transparent, accounting services are provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers and PwC Partner David Williams sits on the foundation’s Curatorium. In addition, KPMG makes an audit of the financial statements, a task organized by Partner David Thompson. Neither PwC nor KPMG charge for their services, providing them instead as a form of sponsorship. “It is an extraordinary thing to have two such organizations so willingly contributing,” says a grateful MacKenzie.

In addition to its fund raising activities, the centrepiece of which remains the Burns Supper, the RBIF also uses its highly developed networking skills to source funding and other support for cultural and Corporate Social Responsibility projects. BT sponsored a feasibility study into providing a Centre of Excellence for Autism in Budapest, for example, Develor continues to support the cancer rehabilitation centre in Bakonyszücs and the RBIF continues to support the work done by Starwoods Hotels (represented locally by Le Méridien Budapest) at SOTE. “These are but a few, as there have been many more over the years,” explains MacKenzie.

Ties with other organisations such as Csodalámpa (or the Wonderlamp Wish-Fulfilling Foundation, which aims to answer the wishes of extremely sick children) and the English Speaking Union (which organises, among other things, and international public speaking competition and the Small Burns Supper) extend the range of what RBIF is offering.

“The RBIF is not short of missions, but with a fully dedicated, no overhead staff [costs are met through sponsorship deals], just short of time for implementation of ideas to fulfil our objectives,” says MacKenzie.

(By Robin Marshall)


For a history of the Budapest Burns supper, click here.


For more on the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy, click here.