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SIGN Network

In 2012, independent foundations from six countries in the region, gathered in SIGN network, started a project that aims to increase the support of citizens and local partners thus increasing the sustainability of civil society organizations (CSOs) and their impact in democratization processes in the Western Balkans region, by creating a favorable environment for philanthropy development and giving for the public good and openly working on fundraising in local communities.

Until the end of 2016, special attention within the “SIGN for Sustainability” project will be dedicated to the creation of policy recommendations leading to the increase of individual and corporate giving, adoption of Standards for transparency in fundraising by a large number of CSOs, promotion of national and regional cooperation in the development of local philanthropy and establishment of the first regional Sustainability Academy, providing matching grants to organizations that successfully fundraise from local sources for initiatives relevant for their respective communities.

In the first phase of the project that lasted until the end of 2014, with the help of an expert dr Dragan Golubovic, partners developed a Baseline study about legislative and tax framework in six countries of the region and conducted public opinion surveys in all partner countries. Based on this, partners created policy recommendations in five countries that underwent a wide consultation process with representatives of CSOs, businesses, and state institutions. At the end of this process, policy recommendations were submitted to relevant decision-makers and the majority of these proposals were inserted into appropriate Strategies and draft legislation amendments, due to be adopted in 2015.

More information about Trag’s activities in this field can be found within the section of our webpage dedicated to the Public Policy Program.

Besides the policy work, partners conducted the first cycle of the Sustainability Academy program. Selected organizations managed to raise over 92.000,00 Euros in their local communities and receive 77.420,00 Euros in matching grants from SIGN partners. These funds were used for the realization of initiatives that the civil society organizations fundraised for and for the continuation of their fundraising activities. The results of this program were promoted through the video “A Good SIGN” that received significant attention across the region.

Within this project, partners also developed regional “Standards for Transparency in Fundraising” that are based on principles applied in 11 countries of the European Union and consultations with civil society organizations that contributed to adjusting the document to the regional context. These standards intend to set principles of good practice in the process of fundraising, increasing the citizens’ trust in activities of the CSOs thus enhancing their legitimacy, sustainability, and impact. The final version of the Standards was published in mid-2014 and, thus far, it was signed by over 130 CSOs from all countries of the Western Balkans region. Organizations that are interested to apply these standards in their work can sign them by submitting a form that can be found on the SIGN website.

The end of the first phase of the “SIGN for Sustainability” project was marked by a regional conference that gathered over 100 representatives of CSOs, businesses, state institutions, and media from five countries in the region. During the conference, participants discussed the enabling environment and issues of transparency as prerequisites for the development of philanthropy in the Western Balkans region and used the opportunity to form a joint platform for future work on these questions.

In the following phase of the project that will last until 2016, partners will continue to advocate for a more favorable legislative and tax framework for philanthropy development, conduct a Regional Sustainability Academy gathering most successful participants from the first cycle and produce Manual for Implementation of Standards for Fundraising that will provide signatories and other CSOs with a list of indicators, forms, links and good practice examples related to each standard.

SIGN for Sustainability project is conducted in partnership between Trag foundation from Serbia, Mozaik Foundation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fund for active citizenship from Montenegro, Forum for citizens’ initiatives from Kosovo and Balkan Trust for Democracy as an associate on the project. Foundation VIA from the Czech Republic and Institute for Contemporary Studies from Albania are also involved in the realization of the above-mentioned activities.

The project of the SIGN Network is implemented with financial support from the European Union and Balkan Trust for Democracy.