Report on Civil Society in Eastern Europe

Sustaining Civil Society: Lessons from Five Pooled Funds in Eastern Europe
by Barry Gaberman, Merrill Sovner and William Moody


Sustaining Civil Society: Lessons from Five Pooled Funds in Eastern Europe report thumbnail



After 1990, US and European foundations and government agencies invested in a series of Partnerships and Trusts to support civil society in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, the Balkans and the Black Sea regions. Analyzing the long-term impact of these investments is crucial, especially as many politicians across these regions increase their anti-civil society rhetoric. Three long-time US foundation staff look back at the legacy and impact of this funding and derive a series of lessons for practitioners seeking to understand how best to sustain civil societies for the long term.

Executive summary     Full report

The report is featured in Inside ISTRAlliance magazine, OpenGlobalRightsEastern FocusPhilanthropy in Focus, and a webinar for Human Rights Funders Network and Ariadne.  The report was also shared at GLOBSEC 2019.  See also authors' discussion of pooled funds in NGOSource.

For inquiries, contact Merrill Sovner at

About the authors


Barry Gaberman

Barry Gaberman joined the Ford Foundation in 1971 and served in various capacities until he retired in 2006 as Senior Vice President. He has served on the boards of the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, Council on Foundations, the Independent Sector, the European Foundation Centre, the International Fellowships Fund, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Oxfam America, and has been the chair of the Foundation Center, WINGS, BoardSource, and the Global Fund for Community Foundations. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin.

Merrill Sovner

Merrill Sovner is a Ph.D. Candidate in political science and a Research Fellow at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. She has worked in philanthropy for almost 15 years, including as Deputy Director of the East East Beyond Borders Program of the Open Society Foundations and on strategic evaluations for the Atlantic Philanthropies. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of Michigan and the London School of Economics and Political Science, respectively.

Bill Moody

William Moody joined the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1968 and served as Program Officer and Director until his retirement in 2007, as documented in his memoir, Staying the Course: Reflections on 40 Years of Grantmaking at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He served on the boards of the Baltic-American Partnership Fund and the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as for International House New York, the Belgian-American Education Foundation and the Woodstock Foundation in Vermont. He holds bachelor’s and law degrees from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan Law School and the Institute of European Studies of the Free University of Brussels.