Development Program

NENO’s Development Programs for CSOs

Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (NENO) supports and empowers Estonian civil society organizations (CSOs) by analyzing their needs, preparing plans for solving these needs and finding new partners to advance the organizational development of the CSOs and increase their capacity to achieve greater impact and actual results.

The aim of the program

The aim of the development programs is the improvement of the capacity of CSOs to influence processes in the society. With development programs, we want the participating public benefit CSOs and their leaders to maximize their organizational capacity and to work systematically with their own practical content and aim so that they would be more effective and achieve greater impact in the society. Effective CSOs mean more powerful advocacy and more professional and quality services (or other activities) which are beneficial equally to the end user as well as to the society. Influential and strong CSOs are able to increase citizen activism and, in so doing, strengthen civil society.

About the program

Here are some of the reasons why NENO has been and continues to be successful in carrying out such development programs :

  • Our programs have a tested methodology, best experts on CSO capacity building and a network of volunteer partners;
  • Participation in the program is open for all CSOs acting in public interests;
  • Program offers expert advice, which is otherwise expensive and thus often not available for CSOs;
  • The program takes into account the special needs of each participant;
  • The needs and possibilities for capacity building are analysed and an activity plan composed together with an expert;
  • The CSOs take responsibility for their own development and following their activity plan;
  • A number of CSOs benefit from one program;
  • People from civil society and experts from other sectors are brought together;
  • The program offers possibilities for mutual learning and knowledge transfer.


The process of the program

1. Choosing the participants

An open competition with two public calls for CSOs willing to participate in the program was organized. The final participants are chosen according to the following criteria:

  • CSO has been active at least two years and follows the code of ethics of Estonian CSOs;
  • CSO acts in public interests (public benefit);
  • CSO is dedicated and the capacity, time and will necessary for participation and for addressing its developmental needs, it has to have readiness and patience needed for change;
  • CSO has a leader or a group of leader capable for leading the process and taking the responsibility for the development of the CSO.

Those interested need to submit a letter of interest and describe briefly their accomplishments so far, their problems and goals to be achieved by the end of the program. The program team makes the final choice.

2. Evaluation activities and agreement on individual activity plan for each participant.

Once the participants are selected, the program team meets with them all, interviewing the leading staff and board members, analyse relevant documents (e.g. statue, strategy, activity plans, budgets, reports, etc.), a strategy, activities, budget and the structure of the organization. As a result of the evaluation, developmental needs are listed and prioritized together with participant. Usually, the team and a CSO meet twice before to an agreement on the organizational goals to be reached within the program period. Based on the evaluation, a CSO prepares and discusses its activity plan that is a road map for the two-years process. The plan will be revisited and updated as the progress is made. The participants are divided between the team members and the meetings continue throughout the program.

3. Training seminars and joint counselling sessions

In addition to individual counselling all participants receive from the team members, we organize training seminars and joint counselling sessions on issues that are common to several of the participants. Therefore, the training seminars are planned as part of the program on issues relevant and brought out by participants. Topics include financial planning, strategic planning, members’ engagement and networking, communication, advocacy and policy making, issues concerning personnel or something else found as a common interest or need of participants. Altogether 6 trainings are planned, two of them on professional leadership.

Joint counselling sessions include 2-4 participants and a panel of professionals giving advice on specific topics raised by the participants, i.e. how to communicate a difficult or non-interesting topic, how to re-structure an organisation, etc.

4. Introducing partners

If the participants have specific needs and are ready with their basic development work, we will find and introduce them potential volunteer partners. Not all participants need partners and they are introduced only when relevant. Partners are specialists and professionals from business sector, public sector or other CSOs and their role is to support a participant to solve a particular issue or give advice. A partner has to plan at least 10 hours for working with the CSO, but may volunteer for more hours if convenient for both sides. So far, the partners are for developing a communication plan, designing a new budget and cash flow, working on (s)electing a new board, helping in personnel development and designing a new service, to name just a few.

5. Monitoring the implementation of the activity plans and evaluation

The program team provides continuous support for the participants and keep an eye on the process and progress of their activity plans. We also carry out mid-term evaluation to monitor the program and its impact and discuss changes if relevant.

6. Meeting(s) for mutual learning are planned to the very end of the program

Occasional meetings bring together the participants of the program and the CSOs willing to go through similar process. In addition, we also bring together the participants of the previous years program and the ones from the current program.

7. Final evaluation of participants and recommendation for follow-up conclude the program.


If you want to know more, please contact the team.