A Look at Estonia's Nonprofits

laine uudised-laine
25. Jul 2012

Estonia's third sector is surviving but not quite thriving, according to an analysis.

At the beginning of July, 28,600 nonprofits and 730 foundations were registered in Estonia, but there is no publicly available statistical overview of Estonia's third sector. To gain a better understanding of the sector's economic situation, the newspaperPostimees looked at last year's financial reports of members of the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations.

The group includes around 100 member organizations.

Two-thirds of members finished 2011 with a positive balance. Annual turnover ranged from a few thousand euros to a few million, and about half of the members have an annual turnover of over 100,000 euros.

Most nonprofits have fewer than 10 employees; only a tenth have more than 10 employees. Organizations may have several employees whose combined hours are equivalent to one position, and many use volunteers.

“This reveals a typical problem of Estonia's third sector – organizations are small and much of their steam can for that reason be spent on simply keeping the organization alive,” Postimees wrote.

In the financial reports, providing detailed listings of sponsors is voluntary. It is clear though that the biggest funder of Estonian nonprofits is the public sector, whether it be ministries directly, civil society endowments or municipal funds. The largest of organizations can also find funding from EU programs and other countries such as Norway and Switzerland.

The biggest players in the nonprofit sector are Estonia's 67 taxpayer-funded foundations, but according to the author of the Postimees article, the largest of these can't really be considered part of the third sector as they mainly carry out government services. Their annual turnover may extend to the tens of millions of euros, such as with the University of Tartu Hospital, which last year had revenue of 114 million euros and more than 3,300 full-time employees.