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NGOs & Civil Society

Guidelines for Civil Society Organizations

About the Program

The Civil Society Fund (former Small Grants Program) supports activities related to civic engagement by providing small grants administered through World Bank Country Offices.

Guidelines for Civil Society Organizations (doc) Albanian

Guidelines for Civil Society Organizations (doc) Serbian

The program seeds and supports activities that empower and enable citizens to take initiatives to enhance and influence development outcomes. Activities strengthen mechanisms for inclusion, accountability, and participation. Activities also strengthen partnerships with public sector, other civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Outcomes of Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement can . . .

  • Promote public consensus and local ownership for reforms and for national poverty reduction and development strategies by creating knowledge-sharing networks, building common ground for understanding, encouraging public-private cooperation, and sometimes even diffusing tensions;
  • Give voice to the concerns of primary and secondary stakeholders, particularly poor and marginalized populations, and help ensure that their views are factored into policy and program decisions;
  • Strengthen and leverage impact of development programs by providing local knowledge, identifying potential risks, targeting assistance, and expanding reach, particularly at the community level;
  • Bring innovative ideas and solutions to development challenges at both the local and global levels;
  • Improve public transparency and accountability of development activities, contributing to the enabling environment for good governance.

Before You Apply

The World Bank Civil Society Fund is able to fund only a very small percentage of the requests it receives. Many requests are declined, not because they lack merit, but because they do not match either the current objectives, or the criteria of the Civil Society Fund as closely as the selected proposals. Your activity may fall within the objectives and criteria, but the demand far surpasses the availability of funds.Before applying, please take time to read the Guidelines to determine if there is a match. Also, please determine (by calling the World Bank Country Office or checking the World Bank website) whether the country in which your program operates has a Civil Society Fund.

Who Can Apply?

  • Civil society organizations based in a developing country and working on issues of development can apply for a grant.
  • Civil society organizations must be in good standing and have a record of achievement in the community and record of financial probity;
  • Priority will be given to organizations not supported by the Program in previous years (organizations are not eligible for more than three grants from the Civil Society Fund within a five-year period).

What Kinds of Activities are Supported?
The Civil Society Fund supports activities whose primary objective is civic engagement. In addition:

  • Activities may include, but are not limited to workshops and seminars to enhance civic engagement skills and/or knowledge; appropriate communication campaigns to influence policymaking or public service delivery; or innovative networking efforts to build the capacity of the particular sector.
  • The activity should be completed within one year of the date the grant is awarded.
  • Priority shall be given to organizations that have not been supported by the Program in previous years.

What Kind of Activities are not Supported?

Small Grants cannot fund: Research programs, formal academic training programs, operational projects, provision of basic services, ongoing institutional core support (such as equipment), scholarships, fellowships, study programs, individuals applying on their own behalf, or non-legal entities. Proposed activities should not compete with or substitute for regular World Bank instruments; the activity should be clearly distinguishable from the Bank’s regular programs.

What Size of Grants are Awarded?

Most grants are in the range of $3,000 to $7,000 with a maximum of $10,000. The Civil Society Fund rarely funds more than half of the proposed budget for an activity, and therefore prefers that its grants help leverage additional contributions from other sources. Applicant organizations are asked to describe how a grant from the World Bank might help them to raise matching funds from other donors.

How to Apply for a Grant?

The Civil Society Fund is administered out of participating World Bank Country Offices. Not all Country Offices administer the Civil Society Fund. Requests and proposals should not be sent to the World Bank Headquarters, as decisions are not made at the Headquarters.

Guidelines and application forms are available from the participating World Bank Country Office in about January. The Civil Society Fund makes decisions only once a year. Applicant organizations should apply at least four to six months in advance of the date of the grant activity. Applicants are advised to read the criteria and the application form carefully before submitting an application to the participating Country Office.

Grants are usually awarded by a Small Grants Committee, convened in the World Bank Country Office. Applications are screened and reviewed to ensure that the criteria are met. The Civil Society Fund gives full consideration to all proposals. The review may take up to four months to complete. Given the very large number of requests, personal visits and phone calls to the World Bank Office by the grantees are discouraged.

Additional resources for CSO’s are available from the World Bank website,


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