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
- Allianz Kulturstiftung (Conference „LONG LIVE FREEDOM! – 70 Years Basic Law“)
- AllOut (for our work for equal rights for all families)
- Arcadia (for our project control ©)
- Bewegungsstiftung (base funding for organisational formation)
- Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Conference „LONG LIVE FREEDOM! – 70 Years Basic Law“)
- Chaos Computer Club (funding of first court cases)
- Digital Freedom Fund (DFF) (several grants for the promotion of digital rights and the rights of migrants)
- Dreilinden gGmbH (for work to strengthen the rights of trans, inter, and queer people as well as queer parenthood)
- Luminate (base funding)
- Monneta gGmbH (legal analysis on academic freedom)
- netzpolitik.org e.V. (funding of first court cases)
- Open Society Foundations (for a constitutional complaint as well as general funding)
- Foundation Open Society Institute with Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE) and Open Society Foundations (for expanding the scope and opportunities of civil society activities)
- OSIFE/Open Society Foundations (for activities in the field of whistleblowing)
- OSIFE (Shrinking Space Conference)
- Otto-Brenner-Stiftung (study on freedom of the press and conference on equal pay)
- Rudolf Augstein Stiftung (support for expert workshop, freedom of the press fund)
- Shuttleworth Foundation (project funding for work on access to knowledge, academic freedom and fundamental rights issues related to copyright)
- Stiftung bridge (for a campaign and our work in the area of freedom of information)
- Stiftung Erneuerbare Freiheit
- Stiftung Mercator (for the F5 network and the project "Your T&Cs, Our Values" on the third-party impact of fundamental rights on multinational digital corporations)
2. 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.
2.1 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.
2.2 Personnel costs
The decisive prerequisite for the GFF's successful work is a strong team of professionals. At the heart of it is our legal team, which handles all legal matters related to a case. In addition, our communications team prepares complex cases for public relations work
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. Since 2020, a part-time board member has also been working in the team.
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.
2.3 Organisational costs
After five years we had to give up our original office, which had become too small, and moved to a larger office in early 2021. This means higher monthly costs. More staff also requires more technology and more technical support. The same applies to more intense communication work, for example. However, reasonable and contemporary working conditions are essential for high-quality work. We have outsourced our bookkeeping and payroll handling, only doing the preparatory work ourselves.
Since our work takes place in a very sensitive field and many of our plaintiffs and partner organisations rightly expect a high level of confidentiality, we have decided to largely set up our own IT infrastructure. This enables us to independently control our systems and to achieve a high level of IT security, but it also requires us to invest in our IT infrastructure as well as resulting in high bass costs (e.g. because we have our own servers and our own fibre optic connection).
2.4 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.
3. 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:
Since February 2022, we have been entered 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.
4. 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 Liberties, 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 19.04.2021.
4. Names and responsibilities of key decision-makers
- You can find an overview of our executive board and our team here.
5. Annual report
6. Staff structure
7. Information on funding sources
8. Information on the use of funds
- Annual Report 2020
- Independent Auditors Report on the financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2021
9. Affiliations with third parties under company law
10. Names of individuals whose annual donations exceed 10% of the total annual budget.
- No individual exceeded this limit in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Other organisations that support our work are listed above or in the respective annual reports.