Report on Survey of CivilSoc Members
Feb 12-17, 2003
Civil Society International wishes to thank the 74 CivilSoc list members who
took time to read and answer the recent survey sent out to all members. In many cases
their responses were very helpful and creative.
This report has two sections:
A. Survey and Responses
A. SURVEY AND RESPONSES
74 CivilSoc subscribers responded to the survey, which was e-mailed to the list
twice, on February 12 and again on February 17. The responses were as follows.
Question 1. Volume of e-mail that comes from CivilSoc?
Findings: A large majority of respondents thought the volume was fine. A small
number thought it was too much, and an equally small number, too little. Several
respondents remarked that receiving messages in digest form, that is, “bundled”
into a single e-mail at the end of the day, made managing the CivilSoc “inbox”
Question 2. Mix of information that comes from CivilSoc? Too many job
announcements? Too few?
Findings: On this question, answers varied more. Some respondents complained
about too few job announcements, but more respondents felt there were not
enough. Some wanted to see more information on grant opportunities, conference
announcements, or news of NGOs. Some wished CivilSoc carried more postings that
related to their particular country (e.g,. Ukraine or Bulgaria) or region (e.g.,
Eastern Europe). A large number of respondents expressed an interest in
receiving more general news and analysis on issues of civil society.
3. Splitting CivilSoc into two: (a) job announcements and (b) all the rest,
e.g., news and analysis on civil society in the Eurasia and Eastern Europe
Findings: One respondent felt that the way this question was put biased the
answers. A large majority of respondents indicated that they preferred keeping
the list as one. Many thought that a quick scan of an e-mail’s subject line
rapidly indicated whether a message was about a job opening or not, allowing the
subscriber to decide quickly whether to read or delete.
4. How to improve the financial condition of CivilSoc?
Findings: A number of respondents suggested engaging a professional fund-raiser.
a. Subscription fee for CivilSoc?
Findings: Many respondents, including some from the NIS or CEE region, indicated
a willingness to pay a subscription fee, but many also indicated they would or
could not. Some expressed a concern that if a fee were imposed, many of the NGOs
from the region—“the greatest asset of this list”—would have to leave the list.
Others worried that students and other younger members of the list would have to
leave, leaving only “post-doctorates and professionals.”
b. Periodic (say, semi-annual) appeals for donations from members?
Findings: Most people who answered this question thought that asking for
donations once or twice a year was a good idea. Two respondents disagreed. One
felt there are “too many abusive beg-a-thons all around already.” Another
thought that appeals for donations might work “eventually,” but at present
“CivilSoc does not have a focused enough identity.” This respondent recommended
a series of steps, including developing a stronger mission statement, a board, a
“strategic plan,” and a method for measuring success and informing others about
it. Then we could “ask for money and get it.”
c. Suggestions of foundation or corporations that might like to be a sponsor of
Findings: One or two respondents suggested working with Russian NGOs to ask for
support from corporations that have invested in Russia, e.g., Caterpillar, Ford
Motor Co., American Express. Others expressed some concern should CivilSoc find
a corporate or commercial sponsor, since so many subscribers are “very
independent, third sector nonprofit types.” Several suggested organizations to
approach. These included: Ford Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations,
Heritage Foundation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, IREX, Carnegie
Corporation, Soros, World Bank, Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Microsoft, Eurasia Foundation, USAID, “one of the credit card companies,” etc.
4. Other ideas?
Findings: This section had numerous encouraging statements of general support
for CivilSoc. For example:
“I can't imagine being in the field without CivilSoc as a resource, and I
imagine others couldn't either”
“I certainly think that you have been extremely successful in becoming one of
the premier information exchange points for a very diverse group of people with
interest in the former Soviet Union and the development of civil society there.”
“This digest has been an invaluable help to our graduates as they seek jobs
regarding issues in civil society. I hope that many of our graduates are
prepared to meet the challenges that these positions present. We post these jobs
on our web site (www.gspia.pitt.edu) and in our e-newsletter, Career Clips, so
that the students see these opportunities. Thank you so much for providing this
help and connection.”
“So, I am as a subscriber interested in many informations regarding education,
financed by international organizations. I think it will be interesting not only
for me, but for many, many other young people of the world. I wish CivilSoc many
successes and prosperity. You are very important for each of your subscribers!
Thank for your work and efforts.”
Based on the survey of CivilSoc list members conducted in mid-February 2003,
Civil Society International has concluded the following:
1. CivilSoc is generally viewed positively as a useful service to many people
concerned with the NIS region (and to a less extent Eastern Europe). It may only
be partly an exaggeration to say, as one respondent did: “I can't imagine being
in the field without CivilSoc as a resource, and I imagine others couldn't
2. Subscribers in general feel that the volume of announcements, which averages
between 1-3/day, is acceptable—not too high and not too low.
3. As to the “mix” of announcements, or the content of CivilSoc postings, CSI
will attempt to respond to that sizable number of respondents who wrote that
they would like to see more news and analysis of civil society issues, and more
information about the NGO sector, in addition to the job announcements. (Others
suggested giving more emphasis to, for example, Eastern European countries,
economic issues, and information on grants and scholarships.)
It needs to be pointed out, however, that any enriching of CivilSoc content
comes down to a question of time and resources: time to seek out appropriate
items, time to research and check them, and time to write them up. If CivilSoc
subscribers, many of whom are themselves in “the field,” would themselves
occasionally contribute news, stories, and analysis about developments in their
field of activity or their country, this would be one solution to the time and
4. As to methods for improving the financial basis of CivilSoc, it is decided
that instituting a fee-for-subscription requirement on any list members is not
desirable, as it could drive too many people off the list who may not be able to
afford to pay--and yet who benefit greatly from being on the list.
5. Civil Society International (CSI) will make appeals for donations for
CivilSoc twice a year to all members. To the extent that we can discover who has
benefitted materially from being on the list—by finding jobs, sources of grants,
partners for projects, etc.—we will especially target them for donations.
6. CSI will approach foundations and organizations working in the NIS about
becoming sponsors for CivilSoc. Since it does not appear likely that bi-annual
appeals for voluntary donations will bring in the approximately $15,000--$20,000
that CivilSoc costs to run—especially a CivilSoc that gives more attention to
NGO developments, news and analysis about civil society, and economic
developments that affect the third sector in different countries—finding such
support will be essential to the improvement of CivilSoc content. If funding can
be found through a short-term ad hoc grant, CSI will consider engaging a
professional fundraiser to help find long-term sponsorship for CivilSoc.
If any list members have further ideas to contribute, please send me an e-mail