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Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe

Ranking: 6th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Received: $8,522,873
Type: Charitable Organization
Issue: Building “Open Society” Institutions

About: The Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE Trust) was founded in 2001 as a coalition between private foundations including the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, OSI, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, along with the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), a grantmaking institution of the U.S. government that began in 1972 with a gift from Germany in appreciation for the Marshall Plan.

The CEE Trust funds NGOs, non-profits, educational institutions, and individuals. Its goal is to create “sustainable” groups promoting the “public good.” The CEE funds organizations that promote human rights and social services; “watchdog” groups; environmental organizations, and public policy think-tanks. Governments and businesses are barred from receiving funds, with one important exception: educational institutions not only qualify for CEE funds but are the hub of many CEE activities.

A priority of the CEE is to create “transnational” projects promoting “transboundary” cooperation, including scholarships and travel grants. Other regional priorities include environmental protection and rights for ethnic minorities, women, and the handicapped.

Soros began underwriting civil society projects in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s through the Polish Stefan Batory Foundation and other Soros funds. By joining forces with the region’s other large funders, he and they created a power base rivaling the European Union or individual governments in the region.

Mission Statement: The mission of the CEE Trust is to support the long term sustainable development of civil society and non-governmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, including cross-border and regional activities in which they may engage.

The CEE Trust definition of civil society is based on a broader understanding, including registered non-profit non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but also other formally and informally organized citizens, groups, coalitions, movements, representatives of the media and educational institutions, working for the advancement of the public good. The CEE Trust’s task is to encourage them to become more efficient and sustainable, to expand their constituencies and consider the future of their work in times when global, European, and local concerns define the environment.

Our objectives: To fulfill our mission we support people and organizations in CEE countries to take strategic steps with long-term benefits, toward three mutually reinforcing and intersecting objectives:

  • to create a supportive environment for civil society, which includes legal, fiscal and political environments favorable to a strong civic life;
  • to strengthen the non-profit sector through capacity building, advocacy, intra sector and cross-sectoral cooperation and partnership;
  • to enhance the financial sustainability of non-profit organizations by developing public and private sources of support for nonprofit sector and by supporting the operational and strategic development of nonprofit organizations.

Soros Funding: The CEE Trust has pledged to allocate $75 million through 2012 to build “democratic institutions” in seven countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2012, the trust will close down.


  • Lidia Kołucka — Żuk, Executive Director
  • Djema Baruh, Program Director for Bulgaria and Hungary
  • Dolores Neagoe, Program Director for Romania and Slovenia
  • Nathalie Bolgert, Program Director for Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia


  • Chair: Heike MacKerron, Senior Director for Europe, German Marshall Fund of the United States
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Haki Abazi, Program Officer, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Annette Laborey, OSI — Paris Executive Director, Open Society Institute – Paris
  • Jiri Pehe, Director, New York University in Prague
  • Maureen Smyth, Senior Vice President – Programs and Communications, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • Lidia Kołucka — Żuk, Executive Director, (a nonvoting ex officio member of the Board of Trustees)
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