Active non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria in 2017: a report of Open Society Institute - Sofia


April 2017


The typical active non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bulgaria is small, based in the capital city or another district city, with limited financial resources, dependent on available project financing, with a small team of few but highly skilled members, who often do voluntary labour and who are ready to uphold the democratic rights and freedoms of citizens. These are some of the observations reflected in the report titled Active Non-governmental Organizations in Bulgaria in 2017 that has been prepared by Open Society Institute – Sofia.
The report finalized in April 2017 is based on a range of information sources including data from a quantitative survey carried out among 785 active NGOs in the period January - February 2017 as well as from the analysis of documents in the Central Register of Public-benefit Non-profit Legal Entities with the Ministry of Justice.
Almost half of the active NGOs interviewed for the purpose of this report shared that in 2016 their annual expenditure accounted for less than BGN 20 000. Two-thirds of the organizations altogether had annual expenditure of up to BGN 100 000. Organizations with an annual budget of more than a million BGN account for less than 1% of the respondents.
Almost 60% of the active NGOs have most of their team members do voluntary labour.
Most of the paid employees have been hired under part-time employment contracts. Remuneration in most NGOs, according to the assessment of representatives of the sector, is lower than the average pay in the public sector, even though NGOs employ mainly people with higher education degrees who often have command of foreign languages. Almost half of the interviewed organizations (45%) share the opinion that they are faced with a risk of turnover of highly-skilled experts in the upcoming 3 years.
The Bulgarian NGO sector is highly feminized. More than 50% of the interviewed active NGOs have more women in their personnel and 35% of the organizations have equal number of male and female employees. The findings from the survey show that two-thirds of the active organizations have employees aged below 29. Organizations where people over 60 account for more than a third of the staff are just 10%.
The majority of the people employed by the active NGOs share common values related to the protection of fundamental civil rights and freedoms. The interviewed representatives of active NGOs would concede to a less degree to a compromise with the rights and freedoms of citizens in the name of some other political, social or economic goals compared to the public in general. More than 57% of the representatives of active NGOs claimed that they would not have agreed to have democratic rights and freedoms in the country restricted for some time for the sake of greater order and security. In contrast, only 32% of the citizens gave a negative answer to a similar question.
NGOs identify the current legal, media and public environment in Bulgaria as not particularly conducive to their work. More than half of the interviewed active NGOs report that in the last 5 years they have been affected by negative attitude towards their work. At the same time the data quoted in the report shows that the activity of NGOs remains largely unknown to the public. Almost 25% of the adult population in Bulgaria surveyed in a nationally representative opinion poll carried out by Open Society Institute – Sofia in the spring of 2016 share that they cannot decide whether to trust NGOs or not. Such large share of people without opinion has not been observed in the evaluation of any of the other types of organizations included in the survey. 33% of the citizens have trust in NGOs and 39% claim that they do not.
More than half of the surveyed representatives of active NGOs in Bulgaria (55%) believe that citizen participation and involvement in the activities and causes of NGOs has increased compared to 5 years ago. The areas in which civil society organizations have greatest influence include volunteering, work with children and young people, ecology and environment protection as well as protection of human rights. The respondents believe that NGOs have relatively more limited influence in such areas as Roma integration, social justice and monitoring the work of the institutions. Active NGOs are of the opinion that providing expertise, advocacy for people’s rights and representation of the interests of various social groups account for the three main sources of legitimacy of their work.
Two-thirds of the interviewed active NGOs in Bulgaria believe that EU membership has a positive impact on the status of civil society in the country. At the same time, though, one in three organizations is concerned that the development of global political processes in the last 3 years will have a negative impact on the Bulgarian civil society sector.
As of the beginning of 2017, more than 14 600 NGOs have been recorded in the Central Register of Public-benefit Non-profit Legal Entities with the Ministry of Justice. The data reviewed from the Register shows that more than 800 new public-benefit NGOs continue to be registered annually. The conclusions from the linguistic analysis of the statutes of public-benefit NGOs are that the majority of these organizations are active in the area of education, culture and sports. In addition, high spatial concentration can be observed. Quite a few of the organizations are registered in the capital city and in district cities in the country. 900 locations in Bulgaria have at least one registered public-benefit NGO. 108 localities have more than 10 similar organizations and only 20 populated areas have more than 100 organizations.
The full text of the report titled Active Non-governmental Organizations in Bulgaria in 2017 can be downloaded here.
Contact details:
Elitsa Markova
phone No.: 02/930 6612
The report titled Active Non-governmental Organizations in Bulgaria in 2017 has been drawn up by Open Society Institute - Sofia under a project for the carrying out of a survey and drafting a report about the status of civil society in Bulgaria, financed by Complementary actions fund under the NGO Programme in Bulgaria supported by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009 -2014. The authors of the report shall be fully responsible for the content of the report and by no means can it be regarded that the report reflects the official opinion of donor states and the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area.
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