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As an NGO that demands transparency from the government, we are also transparent ourselves. Below you find information about our finances and structure.

The Society for Civil Rights (Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte or "GFF") was founded on 14 September 2015 in Berlin as a registered association and granted non-profit status in 2016.

1. Where does the money come from?

Financial independence is crucial in order for the GFF to be able to work politically independently and to enter into protracted obligations related to litigation. For that reasons, the GFF does not accept any government funding or corporate sponsorship. The GFF is open to donations from companies, but decides on their acceptance on a case-by-case basis, which may in no way lead to any influence on the GFF's work.

The three pillars of our financial independence are:

  • supporting memberships
  • individual donations and
  • institutional donations, especially by foundations.

Supporting memberships are particular important. By virtue of their regular contributions, our supporting members enable us to plan our finances over the long term and to enter into protracted obligations related to litigation.

We publish an up-to-date breakdown of our finances as well as the development of our number of supporters each year in our annual report. You can find the links for the downloads below.

Below you can find a list of institutional support of our work. Further information can also be found in our annual reports.

List of institutional grants

2. Organizational structure

The GFF's Board works on a voluntary basis and is closely involved in the work.

In order to secure the work of the GFF in the long term, the establishment of an office and the employment of permanent staff were indispensable. Without such an organizational and personnel infrastructure, our work would not be possible, as the professional monitoring of proceedings in line with our objective of strategic litigation requires staff for legal work, for cooperation with our partner organizations, for public relations, fundraising, policy and advocacy as well as for strategic and organizational development.

Thanks to the financing structure described above, we were able to rent our first small office space from summer 2017. As our team grew significantly in 2020/2021, we officially moved into larger premises at Boyenstraße 41, 10115 Berlin in September 2021.

Generally, up to 40 people, including interns and trainee lawyers, work in our office. You can find more information about our team on our team page here. We are also supported by other freelancers in the areas of communications, fundraising, press relations and graphics. Specialized companies, which we have selected after comparing prices and quality, handle our bookkeeping (Schomerus), payroll accounting (Taxmaro) and IT support (KicksApps).

3. What is the money spent on?

The GFF uses its financial resources primarily for strategic litigation aimed at realising fundamental and human rights as well as public relations work related to the lawsuits, thereby contributing to the promotion of democratic governance in accordance with the GFF's statutes. You can find details on the use of funds in the annual reports (in German, click here for Annual Report 2023).

3.1 Costs of cases

The costs of cases vary greatly. Depending on the case, they consist of the court costs, which depend on the value of the dispute, the costs for representing the plaintiffs we represent in court, our own personnel and office costs, as well as the costs for related measures (e.g. press work).

If we win a case, the other side covers the court costs and part of the costs of our legal representation. If our side loses, we have to bear these costs ourselves, as well as the costs of any legal representation of the other side. This creates a cost risk that, depending on the proceedings, can range from several thousand to several tens of thousands of euros. Even in the event of a victory, we have to bear the non-refundable part of our costs (share of the legal representation, internal costs).

It is therefore very important for us to build up sufficient financial reserves. In addition, we need to be able to decide quickly whether we want to take a case to a higher judicial instance, which involves further costs. That is why we have to keep replenishing our financial reserves over the entire duration of the proceedings - which can take up to ten years.

When we win our cases, we use the reimbursed funds directly for new cases or add them to our litigation reserve.

3.2 Personnel costs

The decisive prerequisite for the GFF's successful work is a strong team of professionals. At the heart of this is the legal team, which handles the legal aspects of our cases. In addition, we have a communications team which manages public relations work, an administrative team, as well as staff for fundraising, policy and advocacy and IT. Depending on funded projects, project coordinators are hired on a temporary basis.

The GFF is a popular training station for legal trainees. In addition, we offer work opportunities to interns as well as to young people serving a voluntary social year. Student assistants also make valuable contributions to our work. A general secretary manages everyday business, coordinates the work of the entire team as well as the broader strategy and liaises with the board.

The basis of remuneration is an internal salary system based on TVöD Bund. It is important to us that the GFF offers a professional working environment with fair compensation. We are committed to good and fair working conditions, because the values and principles of the GFF are incompatible with precarious employment or self-exploitation.

We also want to offer fair compensation to lawyers and litigators. We welcome support and lawyers who handle cases on a pro bono basis, but we also want to be able to reward excellent work with fair compensation, in order to ensure that cases are handled in the best possible way.

3.3 Organisational costs

High-quality work requires professional and modern working conditions. This includes, above all, the rental costs for the office and the technical equipment for the workstations. We have outsourced our bookkeeping and payroll accounting and only carry out the preparatory work.

As our work takes place in a very sensitive area and many of our complainants and partner organizations rightly expect a high level of confidentiality, we have decided to set up our own IT infrastructure to a large extent. This allows us to control our systems independently and ensures a high level of IT security, but also involves increased investment requirements and higher basic costs (e.g. due to our own servers and fiber optic connection).

3.4 Other costs

A central concern of the GFF is to make the potential of strategic litigation for fundamental rights in Germany known and to raise awareness about the content and significance of freedom and human rights. To this end, we work closely with non-governmental organisations and scientific institutions, amongst others, and hence also promote science and research in this field - another one of the GFF's purposes as stated in the bylaws. Here, costs are incurred for the organisation of events or the promotion of smaller projects. A positive side effect are the many direct contacts to students, the future lawyers.

4. Financial Transparency and lobby register

The GFF demands transparency in many areas – this of course also includes our own work. In our annual reports we provide information about our work as well as details about our income and expenditure. Each year, an auditing company audits our annual accounts.

In our annual reports you will find all the information about our finances:

Annual Report 2023

Annual Report 2022

Annual Report 2021

Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2018/2019

Annual Report 2017

Since February 2022, we are registered in the lobby register for the representation of interests vis-à-vis the German Bundestag and the German government (link: https://www.lobbyregister.bund...). Therefore, we are obliged to disclose donations from third parties (for example, donations or sustaining memberships) by name if each exceeds 20,000 euros in the past fiscal year.

5. Transparent Civil Society Initiative

In order to make our work transparent according to uniform criteria, we have joined the Transparent Civil Society Initiative and are committed to making the information below available to the public and keeping it up to date. In some points we refer to our most recent annual report, which we will usually put online six to nine months after the end of the respective year.

1. Name, registered office, address and year of foundation

  • Society for Civil Rights, Berlin, Boyenstraße 41, D-10115 Berlin
  • Year of foundation: 2015

2. Complete bylaws and information on the objectives of our organisation

3. Information on tax concessions

  • The GFF’s work qualifies for tax concessions due to support of science and research, support of consumer advice and consumer protection as well as general support of democratic governance according to the last notice of exemption we received from the Tax Office for Associations I, Berlin, dated 21.05.2024.

4. Names and responsibilities of key decision-makers

  • You can find an overview of our board and our team here.

5. Annual report

6. Staff structure

7. Information on funding sources

8. Information on the use of funds

9. Affiliations with third parties under company law

  • None

10. Names of individuals whose annual donations exceed 10% of the total annual budget.

  • No individual exceeded this limit in the years 2018 till 2023. Other organisations that support our work are listed above or in the respective annual reports.
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