2001 NGO Sustainability Index
Capital: Warsaw Foreign Direct Investment: $9,299,000,000
GDP per capita (PPP): $8,500 (2000 est.) Inflation: 10.2% (2000 est.)
Population: 38,633,912 (July 2001 est.) Unemployment: 12% (1999)
OVERALL DESCRIPTION: 2.1
There are nearly 45,000 NGOs in Poland, 7
approximately two-thirds of which are active.
PUBLIC 5 ORG
Almost one-fifth of these are based in Warsaw.
The NGO sector is still quite young; 25% of NGOs 3
are less than four years old, and 80% were 1
founded after 1989. It is estimated that the third INFRA FIN
sector accounts for approximately 1.1% of total
non-agricultural employment in the country.
NGOs actively provide valuable services to their
constituents, as well as advocate on their behalf.
The majority of NGOs work in the fields of health
care, social assistance, education, and culture. Annual Scores
NGOs have successfully advocated on issues
ranging from children’s rights to environmental 1
protection to the legal framework under which 2
Local support for the NGO sector is increasing. 6
24% of Poles report that they work with at least 7
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
one NGO in their spare time and 87% of NGOs
utilize the services of volunteers. 77% of NGOs P LAN
O D 1.8 2.0 2.1 2.1 2.1
consider funding from local and central
government bodies to be significant sources of
funding. Financial support from businesses and
individuals is also growing.
Despite these advances, NGOs continue to face serious problems: financial viability
remains elusive for many organizations; relationships with the government require
strengthening; and the general public still does not have a solid understanding of the role
of NGOs. However, there is a well-developed network of organizations dedicated to
addressing these problems and advancing the development of the sector in the future.
LEGAL ENVIRONMENT: 2.0
NGOs in Poland can register either as The court recently set a dangerous
associations or foundations. In 2001, precedent by ruling that resources used
new registration procedures for both to increase the endowment of a
forms were introduced, requiring all foundation do not directly support the
NGOs to re-register. As a result of strict organization’s statutory goals and
procedures, many NGOs have been therefore should be taxed.
denied registration, thereby discouraging
the establishment of new organizations NGOs are required to submit financial
and disrupting the work of many active statements to the tax authorities.
organizations, particularly small ones Foundations are also required to present
located outside of Warsaw. In particular, narrative annual reports to the relevant
the new registration procedures require Ministries, although many neglect this
NGOs to have an office, which poses obligation.
serious problems for NGOs just
beginning to operate. Furthermore, A draft law on NGOs and volunteers is
fifteen members are required to set up an being formulated within the third sector.
association, which is considered to be This legislation will regulate access to
too high by many leaders. At the same public funding, introduce the concept of
time, it is almost impossible to unregister Public Benefit Organ-izations, and
an organization. As a result, there is regulate the status of volunteers. NGO
almost no movement of NGOs in to or leaders hope to submit the law to
out of the sector. Parliament during the present term.
Grants and donations received by NGOs Both NGOs and the government need to
are tax exempt. Polish law also provides improve their understanding of current
tax exemptions for individual and legal regulations. NGOs often have legal
corporate donations that support certain problems because they misinterpret the
aims. However, there is a need to better law. Additionally, there are very few
define what constitutes a public benefit lawyers with sufficient legal expertise on
purpose. There are also problems with NGO issues, despite significant demand
the regulation concerning endowments. for such advice.
ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY: 2.0
While NGOs are increasingly skilled at remuneration. The Asso-ciation for the
defining missions and developing Forum of Non-Governmental Initiatives
strategic plans, this is still far from (FIP) is helping organizations to
common. NGOs often change their operationalize these values.
missions statements in order to increase
their chances of securing funding. Volunteerism is becoming increasingly
more common; 87% of Polish NGOs
In 1996, the National Forum of Non- report utilizing volunteers. There is an
Governmental Initiatives adopted a active network of 18 Volunteer Centers
Charter of Principles as a self-regulatory that organizes numerous activities,
measure. The Charter calls for including volunteer data systems and an
management and supervisory functions inter-sectoral coalition for the
to be separate and precludes members International Year of Volunteers.
of the supervisory body from receiving
2001 NGO Sustainability Index
There is a growing understanding in the Sector in Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania,
sector that quality is more important than and the former Yugoslavia. Polish NGOs
quantity. A number of public awards are are also actively engaged in EU
made to NGOs such as the accession issues. Since 2001, Poland’s
government’s “Pro Publico Bono” award leading NGOs have had a representative
and the “Quality Outside Government” office in Brussels to improve
award granted by the Stefan Batory communication between Poland’s NGO
Foundation. community, NGOs in the EU member
states, European network NGOs, and EU
It is estimated that the Third Sector officials and parliamentarians.
accounts for approximately 1.1% of total
employment in Poland. The NGO sector NGOs in the major cities are fairly well
has difficulty attracting and retaining equipped technically, although NGOs in
employees, due to the lower salaries and smaller cities are generally cut off from
lack of stability in funding. Nevertheless, online resources. To some extent this
leading NGOs generally have paid staff, situation is caused by the fact that many
usually well-trained and skilled elderly people, who are not computer or
professionals. Many organizations, Internet savvy, are engaged in the third
however, operate without any outside sector. One fourth of NGOs have email
funding, and therefore can not afford to and 15% maintain their own websites.
have any paid staff. 46% of NGOs do not The NGO portal maintained by
employ any staff. KLON/JAWOR (www.ngo.pl) is
becoming popular: the number of visitors
Polish NGOs increasingly cooperate with rose from 1,745 in January 2001 to
and support the development of the Third 47,087 in October 2001.
FINANCIAL VIABILITY: 2.5
NGOs are increasingly raising funds from tives have been developed to generate
local sources. Models of consistent and local sources of funding for NGOs. The
transparent funding of NGOs by local Academy for the Development of Phi-
government are slowly developing, but lanthropy in Poland develops and pro-
still insufficient. Access to local public motes philanthropy through its “Bene-
funds depends on particular interests factor of the Year” competition a program
and political ties. Additional work is aimed at creating and developing com-
needed to develop a consistent, nation- munity foundations. A pilot program for
wide mechanism for local governments the contracting of services to NGOs by
to fund NGOs and devolve responsibili- local government has been initiated in
ties for service delivery through con- selected municipalities.
tracting. Budgetary constraints also limit
local governments’ ability to support Poland has good training programs and
NGOs. consulting services available in fund-
raising. As a result, fundraising skills are
Statistics show that one-fifth of NGO fairly well developed in the sector. Al-
revenues come from individual and cor- though still limited to a small group of
porate donations. In 2000, small and NGOs, many innovative techniques of
medium companies donated an average fundraising - including modern Internet
of 5% of their gross profits to charities. technologies, telethons, and lotteries –
have been tried in Poland.
Over the last three years, several initia-
Many NGOs are beginning to charge Many organizations have problems man-
fees for their services, but some NGO aging their finances and are not able to
activists remain concerned about the afford professional advice and assis-
need to maintain a clear separation in tance in this regard. Furthermore, the
the minds of the general public between number of accountants with knowledge
not-for-profit organizations and busi- of NGOs is limited. As a result, financial
nesses. reporting practices are weak.
The number of public advocacy activities
being initiated by NGOs continues to in- There remains a need to legitimize the
crease. There are a number of coalitions organizations that represent the interests
and umbrella groups working on issues of the third sector. To date, organizations
such as children’s rights, the rights of the such as FIP have played this role as the
disabled, human rights, environmental result of a tacit agreement, rather than a
protection, cooperation between NGOs formal mandate.
and other sectors, and the legal frame-
work for NGO activities. FIP is working Cooperation with local administrations
with existing federations to build a exists more on paper than in reality. Lo-
stronger national coalition of NGOs to cal governments usually do not have a
address sector-wide problems. FIP also policy regarding interaction with NGOs,
provides the Parliament with information so there is limited opportunity for NGOs
on the Third Sector and with input con- to influence local decision-making.
cerning the proposed law on public
SERVICE PROVISION: 2.0
NGOs actively provide basic social recently in education, health care, pub-
services, such as education, health care, lic administration, and the pension
and social assistance. In addition, many system. As a result, NGOs often have a
organizations are engaged in efforts to hard time securing a steady stream of
promote culture, and protect the envi- funding. For example, NGOs working
ronment, the rights of underprivileged with the homeless may only receive
groups such as women and minorities, funding at the end of the year, when
and human rights. Other organizations the problems are the most severe.
are involved in job creation and other ac-
tivities. In essence, NGOs are stuck in a vi-
cious cycle: NGOs do not get contracts
The lack of a nationwide system for local for services because of their poor stan-
governments to fund NGOs means that dards, but they are unable to improve
most NGOs provide services that are their standards until they begin con-
outside of the public social safety net. tracting services. There is a great need
For example, the role of NGOs was not to build mechanisms for the contracting
addressed in the major reforms passed of services for all three sectors.
2001 NGO Sustainability Index
NGOs in Poland benefit from a well- financing continues to be a problem.
developed infrastructure. The “SPLOT” The centers are largely dependent on
network, consisting of 11 NGO support donors, primarily foreign funders. Local
centers located in major cities, provides funding only accounts for 20% of
information, training and advisory budgets and the resource centers
services in fund-raising, NGO generally provide their services for free.
management, cooperation with local There are serious concerns that
government, and promotion and indigenous sources of funding might
cooperation with the media. Some of the not develop quickly enough to fund the
achievements of the network include centers before foreign funding
creation of a national information bank disappears.
on NGO directories; numerous
publications, including NGO directories, NGOs increasingly understand the
guidebooks and newsletters; Internet importance of coalitions. There are
services for NGOs; and, centers currently coalitions of NGOs working on
promoting volunteer work. Most of the children rights, the rights of the
support centers in the network have sub- disabled, human rights and
networks operating in smaller towns. environmental protection. Further-
more, in every big city there is an NGO
Another network, Centers for Local council or similar structure.
Activity (CAL), was created in 2000 to
encourage activism within local NGO trainers are professional, but both
communities. Network members include access to training and the scope of
NGOs, schools, cultural centers, social training is limited, especially outside of
clubs, and others. There is also a Warsaw. A further problem is that
network of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux foreign support for NGO training has
(BPO) providing information and ceased, and NGOs rarely participate in
counseling to individuals and Volunteer training if they have to pay for it out of
Centers to encourage volunteerism in their own funds.
NGOs and public institutions. Finally,
community foundations often provide Inter-sectoral partnerships are develop-
technical support to NGOs as partners in ing with foreign and local business,
the SPLOT sub- networks. local government and the media. The
Academy for the Development of
Over the last four years, NGO support Philanthropy in Poland and FIP both
centers have substantially increased work to develop links between the third
their capacity to serve NGOs. However, sector and business.
PUBLIC IMAGE: 2.0
Media coverage of NGO activities con- to focus on scandals in the NGO sec-
tinues to improve. Many articles are tor, now there are often articles por-
written about NGOs and there are three traying people involved in public benefit
TV programs and several radio programs activities. Unfortunately, these individ-
that cover NGO issues. Local media ual positive stories about NGOs do not
covers NGOs more closely than national seem to influence the image of the
media. Press coverage has also become whole sector, whereas negative stories
more favorable. Whereas coverage used do.
ducted in 2001 indicated that 41% of
Although coverage has improved, the the population considers the influence
general level of understanding of NGOs of associations and foundations on
by journalists remains low, and there are solving important social problems to be
few journalists who specialize in third small, and only 29% responded that
sector issues. To address this need, these organizations solve problems in
NGOs organize training programs and their neighborhood. However, 73% of
conferences for local journalists and in- Poles believe that NGO activities are
form them about activities in the sector. more important now than they were five
There is a very successful NGO Internet years ago.
press agency, "Fipress", which prepares
and distributes information among NGOs The third sector tends to be perceived
and the media. narrowly as involving charitable activi-
ties, and less frequently as conducting
The general public still does not have a lobbying or representing particular in-
solid understanding of the non-profit terests. Politicians have been “trained”
sector and often has a negative image of to consult with NGOs, but do not nec-
NGOs. Foundations are generally per- essarily do so in practice. NGOs still
ceived as suspect, if not dirty, busi- need to develop more effective ways to
nesses, although individual well-known publicize their activities and promote
organizations are recognized as trust- their public image.
worthy and necessary. Research con-