Czech civic sector making progress, but slowly

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For seven years the annual campaign "Thirty Days for the Civic Sector" has been trying to promote non governmental organisations in the Czech Republic. Since Czech NGOs still don't enjoy as much support as their European colleagues, this year's campaign is focused on giving people more information.

The campaign logo
The campaign "Thirty Days for the Civic Sector" begun last week. As experts agree, given that there was no such tradition during the communist era, Czech NGOs have had to build a new tradition from scratch. Therefore they are still not as successful as they might be. I asked Marek Sedivy, the executive director of the Information Centre for Non-profit Organisations, if there had been any changes in the sector within the last year.

"I think that there are some improvements, but we still think that people don't have enough information. This year we are trying to make people aware of the new web page, where they can find more information about this sector and about ways of supporting non-profit organisations."

The first study on NGOs conducted in the Czech Republic last year examined their financial management. The report found that they rely too much on state support. But what is more alarming is that many of them are also counting on state money in the future. However, experts warn that they will have to find new financial resources. Also methods of obtaining grants will change markedly. In 2004 financial support from the Czech state is becoming decentralised, and new funds from the European Union will be available.

The budget of many Czech NGOs will be also influenced by the ending of compulsory military service. Such organisations will lose many employees, young men who did not want to join the army and chose to serve in the civic sector. Czech non profit organisations must learn to tackle these new situations. To help them, the campaign introduced a workshop called New Ways to Efficient Fundraising, as Mr.Sedivy explains.

"I think that individual donations are the weakest source of funding for Czech NGOs. Though it may not appear to be when you see all of these people collecting money on the streets, but we were interrupted in history and I think we are building up a new age. People are getting used to giving and helping others. So let us see what I will tell you next year."

Each year, organisers of the campaign use slightly provocative advertising to try to capture the public's attention. This year, they have decided to take the campaign's slogan "Do you need a helping hand?" literally, and have created a spot featuring a plastic hand, which helps people in various situations.