Grants are awarded at the local level in open grant competitions, organized each year by a network of Act Locally Centers (ALC) which encompasses associations and foundations in localities with up to 50,000 residents. Their area of activity may cover from four communes up to several districts. The ALC network has successively expanded from 15 centers in 2004 to 74 organizations in 2019. At present, it involves 624 communes. There are at least two Act Locally Centers in each voivodship. They cooperate with other NGOs as well as local authorities and entrepreneurs. New ALCs are selected in an open recruitment procedure by the Competition Committee. The beneficiaries of local competitions are NGOs and informal groups of citizens on whose behalf applications may be submitted by organizations and local public institutions (schools, community centers, libraries) operating in localities of less than 20,000 inhabitants.
In the first three editions of the “Act Locally” Program 356 projects were supported in the national grant competition, involving more than $1 million from PAFF funds. In 2004 local competitions were launched as well through the agency of Local Grant Organizations (currently known as Act Locally Centers). In the years 2004-2012, grants were awarded in nationwide competitions to 99 projects, while 4,886 grants were provided through the Act Locally Centers’ network. In 2013-2014, in two competitions, 1578 grants were awarded. In the next edition of the program a total of 1720 projects were supported with grants. In January 2017 the 10th edition was launched. To date, 891 local projects have been funded.
All told, over 3.8 million participants including more than 220,000 volunteers joined forces to carry out more than 10,500 projects. The financially assisted initiatives mainly center around strengthening local community cooperation, creating new personal-development and leisure-time opportunities as well as enhancing the attractiveness of a given region. The common denominator of the assisted projects has been local involvement enabling residents to acquire news skills, learn how to self-organize better and react to new problems.
For those implementing financially assisted initiatives, a “Tell me…” competition has been organized. Prizes are presented for the most interesting ways of promoting and communicating about the undertaken activities. The best films are presented at the program’s website. Also, for several years a competition has been organized awarding the most creative ideas for carrying out campaigns informing about the possibility of peoples’ submitting 1% of their income tax to a public charity organization.
Improvement of the Act Locally Centers’ operation is served by training sessions, workshops, regional meetings, study visits and webinars organized under the program. They make it possible to share best practices, improve knowledge and qualifications and strengthen cooperation within the network. ALCs meeting the highest standards in the implementation of the program are awarded with certificates. This is a form of appreciation for outstanding involvement and professionalism in carrying out activities aimed at the development and stimulation of local communities, which can serve as models for other organizations. So far, 23 Centers have been presented with certificates.
The acquired experience is put to good use by the Act Locally Centers in other Foundation’s undertakings such as “PAFF Local Partnerships”. There they can play a leadership role in coalitions with participants different Foundation programs jointly engaged in projects benefiting the local community. In the “PAFF Leaders” Program, ALC representatives serve as leaders and tutors, and in the “Sector 3.0” Program they belong to the network of mobile advisors assisting other organizations in ICT use.
In 2016, the FIMANGO Local Advisors School was opened. It is based on two PAFF programs – “Act Locally” and “Financial Management for NGOs” (FIMANGO). The school offers an intensive training program to improve the competencies of ALC representatives in financial management counseling to smaller, local organizations cooperating with them. Additionally, in 2017, the Advisory Board for Development of the ALC Network was appointed. The Board is composed of representatives of the most experienced, certified ALCs and two independent experts.
“Act Locally” experiences are also shared with Ukrainian NGOs. “Act Locally in Ukraine”, the initiative being currently implemented and aimed at inspiring Ukrainian NGOs to build a network modeled on ALC, is a continuation and extension of the Global Challenges Local Solutions pilot program funded by PAFF as part of the “Region in Transition” (RITA) Program in 2016-2017. The project is managed by the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland in cooperation with the Ukrainian ISAR Ednania Foundation. In September 2018, 10 Ukrainian NGOs participated in Act Locally in Ukraine Summer School held in Warsaw. Ukrainian NGOs learned about functioning of Act Locally Centers in Poland and the methods of fundraising and building local partnership networks.
Within the program, PAFF supports the “Benefactor of the Year” Competition and maintains patronage of the “Local Involvement” category. The Competition promotes civic engagement of companies, many of which contribute to long-term local changes in cooperation with ALCs. The Foundation is also the main partner of the “Civic Leader of the Year” Competition, organized by “Newsweek Polska” (the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland is the strategic partner). The aim of the Competition is to award pro-civic attitudes and to promote the activities of individual people and organizations, backing them in solving various social problems.
The Foundation also supports the “Charity Stars” plebiscite organized by the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland. It awards well-known people for their charitable activities.
The Foundation has disbursed $15,578,061, including $1,988,854 for the current edition of the program.