No. 20




The roles and funding of non-governmental organizations

  • Marek Meelis Puust

    Ph.D. student, Tallinn University Institute of Political Science and Governance

The article is based on Marek Puust’s master thesis, “The Priorities of Funding Estonian Civil Society”, and recent developments in re-arranging the funding mechanisms for civil organizations in Estonia.

The research focuses on the non-governmental organizations’ project-based funding in the past three years and also tries to explain the social outcomes of this type of financing. The data needed for the analysis were gathered from the websites of the Estonian Gambling Tax Council, the National Foundation for Civil Society, the Baltic-American Partnership Program and the Norwegian Fund for Non-Governmental Organizations. Those organizations can be considered to be the most important project based supporters of civil society organizations. This article also shows a clear difference between the latest civil society funding research and this particular study.

The topic of funding NGOs is important in any society because it affects the citizens and indirectly forces them to act in a certain way. For example funding may focus on self-improvement activities or on citizen involvement in political activities.

The analysis in the master thesis revealed that project based funding in Estonia that receives the most support is by far the educational/self-improvement role of the civil organizations. The roles of both political and socio-economic actors do not receive as much support and appear to be secondary.

Recent progress in the politics of funding shows that state based funding will for the most part start treating civil organizations as a socio-economic phenomenon that helps support and execute the national development plans through services. According to the roles that the organizations fulfil in society, that change will affect the structure of civil society and the role of the political actor will be left far behind the others. Many authors have come to the conclusion that preferring certain organizations over others at the state level is not the best solution. They say that the best way to support a pluralistic society is to equally support all roles and types of civil organizations.

Full article in Estonian