The Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) was founded in 2001 as public-benefit foundation.
BCNL is part of the network of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and of the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) which operate in over 100 countries worldwide with the aim to protect the right to association and develop the legal framework for civil organizations.
Mission, vision, and goals
Our mission is providing support for the drafting and implementation of legislation and policies with the aim to advance the civil society, civil participation and good governance in Bulgaria.
We pursue our mission with the strong belief that the improvement of the NGO legal framework is instrumental for the creation of an independent and prosperous civil society.
The values we share in all our actions:
• Professionalism in providing support and services;
• Ensuring fully participatory approach;
• Political impartiality and expert independence.
Our main goals are:
• to support the development and strengthening of an enabling legal and policy environment for an independent civil society, incl. non¬governmental, not-for-profit organizations (NGOs), in Bulgaria;
• to promote transparency, accountability, and proper internal governance of NGOs and state institutions;
• to support better cooperation between government and NGOs;
• to support public participation in decision-making;
• to promote the development of professional skills, knowledge and capacity relating to the enabling legal environment for civil society, including NGOs, in Bulgaria;
• to provide assistance to NGOs with respect to legal problems;
• to provide assistance in civil society legal reform efforts in other countries, where appropriate, and to foster international co-operation;
• to engage in activities to achieve such other objectives as determined by the Board of Trustees not inconsistent with the purposes and the identity of the Foundation
The topics on which we work are:
• Establishment and activities of NGOs;
• Transparent public financing and a supportive tax environment for NGOs;
• Contracting public services (social, health, educational, cultural, providing official development assistance), decentralization of activities and functions by the state to NGOs;
• Civil participation in decision-making processes;
• The role of NGOs in the protection of human rights;
• Development of volunteering and philanthropy;
• Fostering the role of NGOs in drafting public policies, and advocacy; Promoting economic activity of NGOs and social entrepreneurship; Removing barriers to NGOs operations and sustainability;
• Public image of civil organizations.
Our main activities are:
• Legislative initiatives, advocacy campaigns, and support for NGOs and institutions in drafting and applying legislation;
• Enhancing the knowledge of NGOs of the legislation relevant to their activity, and their advocacy and good governance capacity;
• Provision of legal assistance to NGOs;
• Research on topics concerning the framework for NGOs;
• Piloting and studying new models with the aim to improve the environment and introduce sustainable models in the legislation (independent exercise of rights, developing economic activities, fundraising, etc.);
• Trainings with a view to enhancing the capacity and sustainability of NGOs on topics such as:
- Legal framework and tax system for NGOs;
- Organizational development and good financial governance;
- Preparing and drafting business plans, etc.
• Support for sharing experience and knowledge among NGOs through:
- Development of co-working spaces - the Civil Society House;
- Provision of information on key topics regarding the development of the NGO sector (news about legislation, financing, volunteering, public consultations, etc.);
• Regular surveys and dissemination of best practices and approaches in Bulgaria and abroad in BCNL's areas of activity;
• Sharing experience in Bulgaria and at the international level, and participation in networks and coalitions with the aim of achieving the mission.
Specific achievements over the last 16 years
• Passing a modern Not-for-Profit Legal Entities Act(2001) and its improvement (2006 and 2016);
• Introduction of tax benefits for donors to public-benefit organizations (2001) and maintaining them (2007 and 2008);
• Adoption of the first state Strategy for Supporting the Development of NGOs in Bulgaria (2012) and the action plan for its implementation;
• Eliminating VAT on charitable text messages (2012);
• Introduction of mechanisms for contracting public services: social services (2003, 2011, 2015), educational services (2015);
• Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2012);
• Passing amendments to the Law on Legislative Acts which allow broader public consultations (2016);
• Adoption of changes in the law for establishing Council for Civil Society Development and Fund for supporting civic initiatives (2016);
• Positive changes in 15 laws and strategies supporting the activity of civil organizations.
• We supported over 3,000 organizations by providing them legal advice and trainings on topics such as advocacy, fundraising, economic activity, registration, taxation, building public-private partnerships, supported decision-making, etc.
• We organize the only SUMMER SCHOOL FOR NGOs in Bulgaria - an intensive training program for enhancing the knowledge and skills of representatives of the civil sector.
• Within the framework of the SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM we encourage non-governmental organizations to develop business ideas and generate funds which can be used for supporting their causes in order to promote their sustainable development.
• We created in partnership with PACEL Foundation the most visited NGO portal in Bulgaria NGOBG.INFO - with its own unique independent content, a platform uniting active people manifesting interest in civil organizations, and the most exhaustive NGO database.
• We created the THE CIVIL SOCIETY HOUSE - shared space for work and cooperation among active individuals, start-ups and developing civil organizations.
• We developed, together with our counterparts from the Bulgarian Association of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, one of the first pilot supported decision-making programs in the world whose purpose is enabling people with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems to independently exercise their rights.
Our vision regarding the priorities for the next period encompasses three key lines:
a) proposals for the improvement of the environment for civil organizations by building upon the achievements and the workable solutions, and by proposing new goals and activities whereby the challenges will be effectively met;
b) developing the capacity of civil organizations in order to enhance their capacity, expertise, and performance;
c) building BCNL as an increasingly independent, sustainable, influential and recognizable organization.