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Basic definitions concerning the third sector

The non-governmental organization was first defined legally in April 24, 2003, when the law on public benefit activity and volunteerism came into effect. It defines non-governmental organizations as legal persons or units without legal entity, created on the basis of legal regulations, but not units of the public sector as defined by the public finance regulations. They are non-profit-making and include foundations and associations. The law adopts a broad definition of the non-governmental organization; defined in this way, beside associations and foundation, the third sector also includes other subjects such as trade unions and economic or professional self-governments.

At the end of April 2004 the REGON register listed:
· 45,891 associations
· 7,210 foundations

Yet, if we want to estimate the size of the whole non-governmental sector, the following should be added to this number:
· fire brigades, (14,000)
· grassroots organizations (parent-teacher associations, hunt clubs and public committees), (3,524)
· trade unions (17,113)
· units of the catholic church, other churches and religious associations (15,244)
· organizations of economic and professional self-governments (5,515)
· smaller groups of employer organizations and political parties.

Thus, if we want to treat all the above mentioned types as subjects of the "third sector", it would amount to close to 109 thousand registered subjects.

Study "Situation of the non-governmental sector in Poland in 2004", conducted by Klon/Jawor Association, 2004.


Associations operate according to the Law on Associations, which came into force in 1989, enables the existence of:
• associations with legal entity (majority),
• associations without legal entity,
• federations (umbrella-type organizations).
Association with legal entity is the main form for citizens' activity in Poland. A court registration is a must. The main part of my presentation will be devoted to these organizations.

To establish an association without legal entity one doesn't need to register it in the Court, but has to inform local government administration, instead.
The operation can begin if the local administration doesn't raise an objection within 30 days. The Association without legal entity is not very popular in Poland even though it is easy to establish.

It is caused by the fact, that such associations face a lot of limitations; for example they don't have bank accounts, cannot conduct economic activity, accept donations nor organize public collections.
The only sources of their income are membership fees.

A Federation in Polish law is an association of associations and other non-profit, legal entities.
Nowadays, this type of NGO becomes more and more important in the development of the third sector, especially for the purpose of policy advocacy.
Besides, it is the only legal way to gather a lot of separate organizations into bigger "umbrella" structures.

Foundations in Poland operate according to the Law on Foundations, which came into force in 1984.
Any individual and legal person (including an association) can establish a foundation. In order to operate, foundations need to be registered in the Court.
From the legal perspective, there is only one type of foundation, but referring to their function - only few are grantmaking (and even fewer are endowed) and most of them are operational ones (which means that they don't posses any significant capital and have to fundraise, constantly competing with associations).
The most common are foundations with initial capital equivalent to 250 Euro.
Basic characteristics of foundation are:
• Court registration,
• legal entity,
• lack of legal requirement for the minimal initial capital,
• possibility of conducting economic activity.

Study "Situation of the non-governmental sector in Poland in 2004"

Below we present basic results of the study "Situation of the non-governmental sector in Poland in 2004", that was conducted in 2004 by the Klon/Jawor Association on a representative sample of 950 associations and foundations. In the following text you will find facts concerning the non-governmental sector.

The research conducted in 2004 was a continuation of a similar one carried out in 2002, and like "Situation of the non-governmental sector in Poland in 2002", it provided basic, reliable data on the structure, functioning, needs, opinions and problems of the organizations in the third sector. Using the same methodology, it was possible to compare the basic index concerning the state of the sector in 2002 and 2004 and to observe the changes in its situation.

In the following publication, you will find basic data from the research about volunteerism and philanthropy carried out by SMG/KRC at the request of the Klon/Jawor Association and the Centre of Volunteerism in Warsaw.

The Klon/Jawor Association carried out the research within the Third Sector Programme, financed by the Trust for Civil Society in Central & Eastern Europe and Stefan Batory Foundation. The research "Situation of the non-governmental sector in Poland in 2004" was co-financed by the Ministry of Social Policy and the NGO Office in Brussels. The realisation of the research was also supported by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.

The Polish Voluntary Sector In Numbers

There are 45,000 associations and more than 7,000 foundations registered in Poland (April 2004).
Almost half of the registered organizations have their seat in a big city.

Most non-governmental organizations in Poland work within the field of
• sports, tourism, recreation and hobby (38.6% of the organizations mark this alternative as the most important area of activity).

The other most frequently marked fields of activity are:
• culture and art (11.6% of the organizations),
• education and upbringing (10.3%)
• social service and social aid (10%)
• health protection (8.2%).

People In The Sector

• Two thirds of the organizations do not employ permanent, paid staff. The total number of employees in the organizations can be estimated at almost 64,000 full-time jobs.
In half the organizations that employ paid staff, the average wage did not exceed 1,000 zloty (amount without the contribution to insurance). The highest wage amounts in average to 1,600 zloty gross.
• The total number of members of organizations in Poland in 2004 can be estimated at about 8 millions.
• The total number of volunteers contributing to the work of organizations in 2004 (and who are not their members) can be estimated at about 1 million persons. Almost every second organization has such cooperation (44%).
• Those who work for the organizations are well educated - more than half of those sitting on the boards of directors (61%) and of the paid employees (59%) of the organizations have higher education.

Money In The Sector

• Half of the organizations' revenues did not exceed 13,000 zloty in 2003. That is less than in 2001, when half of the organizations had revenues larger than 19,000 zloty.
• Financial sources used in 2003 by the largest percentage of the organizations are: member fees (60% of the organizations), regional sources (45%), donations from private individuals (40%) and donations from institutions and firms (39%).
• Public sources (local and national) constituted the largest part of the revenues of the whole sector in 2003 - 30% of the total receipts of all organizations.
• More and more organizations have business activity - in 2004, such activity was declared by 16% of the organizations.
• Slightly above 20% of the organizations have some kind of financial reserve.

Polish non-governmental organizations have great expectations of European funds - more than 70% of the organizations declare that they plan to apply for subsidies from the European funds.

Problems And Needs

Two thirds of the organizations use computers in their work; half of these have access to more than one computer. Representatives of almost four fifths of the organizations declare that they use the Internet (in their seat or outside) in issues related to their activities, every second does in at least a couple of times a week.
The most frequently reported problem was difficulty in obtaining funds - 77.3% of the organizations experience it on a daily basis. The second most frequently reported problem (53.8%) was a lack of people willing to work selflessly for the organization.



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