The public sector plays an important role for the Austrian third sector, influencing organizational, financial and personnel structures. Advocacy groups are deeply involved in political decision-making processes. Two special features arise from the close relationship to politics for TSOs in Austria: those organisations that participate in political decision-making often find it easier to acquire public sector financing. Younger TSOs, on the other hand, increasingly aim for political independence from the two main political parties.

Today, 83 % of third sector organizations report a lack of government funding. Almost 69 % indicated problems in finding volunteer board members and 63 % of TSOs expect more difficulties in future.

According to findings based on surveys, literature review and case studies carried out by TSI in the fields of health and social services, culture/ arts, and sports there are several key barriers:

  • A financial barrier stems from a lack of public funding, as this is the main source of resources for most TSOs. In addition, the majority of organizations report a lack of private individual contributions and decreasing profit margins from business activities. Therefore, some TSIs need to increase their revenues from business activities in order to fill those gaps, increasing managerialism. Thus, the financial barrier restricts the organizations to serve their real purposes.
  • The majority of TSOs indicated problems mobilizing volunteers for operative tasks and board activities, as we find more diversity, but less stability and loyalty expressed in volunteering. However, TSOs see themselves as attractive employers with highly motivated and skilled employees, some organizations even deliberately refuse to work with volunteers as they argue that good work shall be paid adequately.
  • Participants of the survey reported an ongoing trend of professionalization, thus increasing costs for professional controlling and evaluation occur. As expectations for the future tend to be negative for most TSOs, the potential of professionalization to solve future problems seems to be restrained. This marks a potential barrier, as TSIs have to develop and apply new strategies in future.

In social and health services there is high dependency on public funding, hence NPOs are looking for new ways of financing. Public procurement does not favour NPOs, excluding smaller organisations from competition for public contracts. NPOs argue that long-term volunteering is getting less and less attractive, which results in more coordination efforts for full-time employees, driving up staff costs.

The two main barriers in the field of sports are an unequal distribution of resources and a lack of volunteers for board activities (due to liability issues). Part of this problem us the fact that contribution to common welfare is at this point not monetarily rewarded.

The field of arts and culture in Austria has weak interest groups. Large parts of the field are highly dependent on public money and on political decisions, even though there is a group of organisations that act outside established institutions, often using new forms of “production” and communication, like the web, crowdfunding etc. So far, there is little knowledge about the significance of these subcultural forms.

Generally, trends in the Austrian third sector are to a wide range reflecting those in other Western European countries, particularly in Germany. You can download the full report below.