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The road to financial sustainability of civil society organizations – is there a recipe?

A school child asks the teacher…
– Master, are we going to wait long for the change?
– If we wait, it will be long, the teacher replied.

This is probably the best advice of how to address the problem of financial sustainability of civil society organizations (CSOs) – they need to act!

Financial stability is a topic of primary importance for most CSOs in Moldova, where around 80 % of CSO funding comes from foreign sources. And this is probably also true for many countries in the Eastern Partnership region where civic activism had been halted under the socialist rule. And while the problem is pretty clear, the answer is not so clear. The new 2% designation mechanism, state grants, donations from individuals, service contracts, and social enterprises could serve as alternative and sustainable sources of funding for CSOs to be able to continue their work and services.

On May 15-16, 2018, ECNL and FHI360/Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society Program, together with the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova organized the conference “The Road to Financial Sustainability of Civil Society Organizations”. The event was attended by more than 100 representatives of CSOs, public authorities, development partners and foreign experts from 12 countries in Europe and Eurasia to explore examples and lessons learnt from other countries, as well as new models that could be adopted in Moldova.

The conference focused on five topics related to CSO funding: (1) the percentage mechanism, (2) philanthropy, (3) social entrepreneurship, (4) social contracting and (5) state grants to CSOs. In each of the areas Moldovan experts and organizations took a leadership role to ensure there is local capacity that can move reform recommendations forward. Some of the issues raised by participants could be relevant and applicable to most former socialist countries:

  • Has the first year of percentage mechanism reached its goals in Moldova?
  • Can private philanthropy develop in a country like Moldova?
  • Is social entrepreneurship a real opportunity for CSOs to become financially sustainable?

Of course, it is not all about the money, as behind the lack of funding you will always find a multitude of other issues that need to be addressed: the lack of real involvement of people in CSO activities, the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to try something new, the lack of CSOs’ knowledge about how to address the problem of funding and many other issues.

Florean Dumitru – Generatia Mea: The best day of play / Cea mai tare zi de joaca. Winning photo of the competition organised as part of the conference. Scroll down for further photos.

The conference sought to achieve three things:

  • Help people hear about various examples and methods, and get inspired that if this is happening in some other (not so distant) place, it can happen in Moldova as well.
  • Engage people in a discussion of what needs to be changed and help them come up with a set of clear and practical recommendations that could be implemented in the coming months;
  • Give people practical tools that can help them start to address the financial sustainability problem. That is why we have called one of the sessions ‘It all depends on you’.

As a result, the conference ended with 25 specific recommendations about both legislation and practice that address each of the five topics. You can find the complete list of recommendations here. The first steps in implementing the recommendations have already been taken by local organizations. For example, in June there will be a discussion of the necessary legal changes in the area of philanthropy. ECNL will continue to support any actions aimed at improving the CSO environment in Moldova.

See #road2sustainability hashtag on Twitter for more about the conference.

The conference was supported by USAID through the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society and the European Commission through the Monitoring Progress, Empowering Action project.

Agenda of the event  EN / Agenda  RO

Recommendations made by the participants of the conference that address the five areas EN  / Recomandări RO


Financial sustainability: it all depends on you EN / Totul depinde de tine…  RO

Percentage mechanism

  • Impact and evolution of percentage mechanism in the CEE  EN/ Impactul și evoluția mecanismului de desemnare a unui procent in ece RO
  • Give or not to give- this is the question EN/ Să dăm sau să nu dăm – iată întrebarea! RO
  • 1 an de 2procente in Moldova RO
  • Campanie de informare 2%. Avem sau nu nevoie de ea? RO


  • 4 pillars of NGO´s funding EN / 4 piloni pentru finanțarea ONG-urilor RO
  • Nikica Kusinikova – Promoting philanthropy in Macedonia EN / Promovarea filantropiei în Macedonia: context, susținerea de către stat și auto-reglementarea RO
  • Private donor fundraising EN  / Atragerea fondurilor de la donatori privați RO
  • Philanthropy in Ukraine EN / Filantropia în Ucraina RO

Social entrepreneurship

  • Government support to social economy EN /  Susținere acordată de guvern economiei sociale RO
  • Social Enterprise and Social Value The UK perspective EN / Întreprinderea socială și valoarea socială: Perspectivă a Regatului Unit  RO
  • Social impact measurement – brief introduction EN / Măsurarea impactului social – introducere succintă RO
  • Economia socială RO

State funding

  • Finanțarea directă de către stat a OSC în Republica Moldova RO

Social contracting

  • Identificarea barierelor și lacunelor în procesul de contractare de către stat a serviciilor furnizate de OSC-uri RO


Photo competition – “What do we do at our organization?”

We thank for all CSOs that captured their most important moments and shared with the other participants of the event!