Close to 2.8 million EUR will be invested in civil society by BFW, BCNL and IDF with EC’s support
Close to 2.8 million will be invested in civil society organization’s (CSOs) sustainability within a three-year-long partnership initiative between Bulgarian Fund for Women (BFW), Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) and Impact Drive Foundation (IDF), supported by the European Commission. It aims at strengthening and developing the non-governmental sector via strategic and long-term funding and capacity-building based on studies of the specific needs of small and local CSOs in Bulgaria that work for social change, the defense of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and European values.
“The Bulgarian civil society sector is under threat and constant pressure even though non-governmental organizations are always at the frontline whenever we need to overcome crises – from helping to combat COVID-19 to providing shelter to Ukrainian refugees. Over the past years, we have been witnessing increasingly aggressive attacks against CSOs, and as a result, the trust in them is decreasing. Whereas it should be the opposite – the active civil society sector is an inseparable part of every truly democratic state and its first corrective. BFW’s understanding is that small organizations, especially those outside Sofia, regardless of their often-limited financial resources, are the foundation of civil society and they specifically need more trust and support in order to achieve social change in their communities. We know that the two aspects – funding and capacity building, are inextricably linked and with the current initiative we will implement them even more effectively because we unite efforts with the right partners”, shares Nadejda Dermendjieva, Executive Director of BFW.
1,645,000 EUR or nearly 60% of the total amount of the initiative will be directly invested in the organizations and the activities they develop via three funding mechanisms within which every organization can apply for a total of a maximum of 60,000 EUR.
At the end of April 2023, a new open call for the “Mission: Possible” Program will be announced – the only donor program in Bulgaria that provides flexible free of restrictions funding for administrative needs and organizational development of CSOs (the so-called core funding) with a duration of 24 months. It is crucial for organizations’ sustainability as it allows them to plan strategically and long-term and focus on achieving their mission and aims.
At the beginning of June 2023, “Open Opportunities” Program will be open. Within the program, organizations can apply on a rolling basis all year round, without having to compete with each other for urgently needed funding for overcoming unpredicted external factors and crises, security issues, or newly emerged opportunities for advocacy that require immediate reaction as well as participation in events and international cooperation.
In 2024 one more program will start under the name “Values”. It will fund projects of organizations that focus on defending human rights and gender equality, affirming rule of law, democracy and European values, and counteracting the shrinking space for civil activities.
“The funding mechanisms of Bulgarian Fund for Women have always been flexible and adaptive to the capacity and needs of our partners. In particular, the three upcoming programs continue our strategic work to support the sector and respond to the shared by more than 110 organizations from across Bulgaria challenges in the “Study of the Needs of Organizations Working on Women, Girls and Vulnerable Groups’ Rights in Bulgaria” published by BFW in 2022. During the selection process the Fund will continue to prioritize the so-called grassroots partners – organizations led by the communities whose rights they work for, with small budgets, without a long project history, newly registered or implementing their activity in remote settlements – because our philosophy is to support and give a chance to the most underprivileged who have no capacity to apply for other funding but know best the problems and the possible solutions”, explains Gergana Kutseva, Deputy Director of BFW.
524 160 EUR or nearly 20% of the initiative’s total budget will be invested in special programs for building or upgrading the capacity of organizations in Bulgaria that were designed by proven experts – Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law and Impact Drive Foundation. The initiative will support the sector’s efforts for cooperation with the state and local administration when it comes to defending civil causes, will allow for the funded organizations to achieve a higher level of institutional and financial independence, and develop an organizational culture for strategic activity planning as well as capacity for attracting more and diversified in type financial resources.
According to BCNL the successful development and affirmation of civil society in Bulgaria are directly dependent on the sustainable capacity building of each active organization for timely and adequate reaction in response to threats to the democratic values in our society and the attempts for restricting civil activity. The capacity programs within the initiative will be directed toward supporting organizations to increase their skills for advocacy activities focusing on defending European values, human and civil rights, improving the operational and administrative processes, and the effectiveness of their activity.
BCNL will provide opportunities for participation in different capacity building formats adapted to the needs of the organizations. Part of them will include complex training (Civil Academy) on the most important topics for the functioning and activity of each civil society organization (legal framework, funding, for-profit activity, financial sustainability, advocacy and defense of civil causes, publicity, transparency, and activity popularization as well as attracting supporters and resources for successful causes). Another part of the planned activities for capacity building will examine a variety of topics related to defending and popularizing European and democratic values, protecting activists and independent journalists from threats that put pressure on them to take a more conformist position. The capacity building initiatives will also include innovative formats (Civil Creative Laboratories) for the inclusion of artists and different forms of art in the preparation of campaigns for advocacy and popularization of the organizations’ activities.
Impact Drive Foundation will combine different methods – training, individual consultations, and networking events – for increasing the organizational capacity of professionals in different areas such as strategic and operational planning, program and project management, impact assessment, and upgrade of competencies and confidence when working toward affirming European values.
“The organizations and people dedicated to causes in Bulgaria have been left alone for too long. The dynamic of crises and changes today imposes the need for 360-degree support for those people who have ideas for a change and a better tomorrow. Very often these people do not have experience with managing organizations and projects and those who do are overburdened and pressed by everyday tasks. At Impact Drive we share the belief that civil society organizations and their teams need combined support that will give them knowledge and most importantly practical solutions that will help them optimize their work. This will create a space for more ideas and efforts directed towards developing advocacy, activism, research, design of solutions, policies, and other, specific to civil society organizations activities. For us, it is very important to work on topics related to European values, which even though are an inseparable part of the civil sector, today are under attack, face skepticism and require to be affirmed every day”, shares Theodora Ivanova-Valeva, Executive Director of Impact Drive.
The official start of the partnership will be given at the beginning of April 2023 during an event held in Sofia and will allow for online participation of organizations from across Bulgaria. For timely information about the event, follow the websites and informational channels of BFW, BCNL and IDF.
The joint initiative of BFW, BCNL and IDF is implemented within the framework of the project Building an Inclusive Resilient Democratic Society in Bulgaria (BIRDS in BG), realized with the financial support of the European Commission.
BIRDS in BG project is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.