Defending democracy

Uncertain times for democracy

For years, various projects on the definition and empirical measurement of democracy have been pointing to a dangerous trend: starting around the year 2000 - and accelerating from 2015 - the global spread and deepening of democracy came to a temporary halt. Instead, there has been a mostly creeping, sometimes rapid relapse into illiberal or autocratic forms of government.

According to the dataset "Regimes of the World", in 2004, approximately 17% of the world population lived in a highly developed "liberal democracy" (similar to what we have cherished in Germany for many years). However, by 2022, this proportion had decreased to only 13%. The percentage of the population living in a so-called "electoral democracy" – a form of democracy in which various structures, processes, and rights that we take for granted are already limited – declined from 36% in 2004 to only 16% by 2022.

At the same time, many liberal democracies have experienced a gradual but noticeable deterioration in various components of democracy over the past decade.

The publication of the CORRECTIV investigation "Geheimplan gegen Deutschland" (Secret Plan Against Germany) on January 10, 2024, has made it clear to the public that Germany is also directly affected by these developments. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people nationwide have taken to the streets to demonstrate against right-wing extremism.

Defending democracy effectively

Deciding which organization to donate to can make a significant difference (up to a factor of 100). Our goal at Effektiv Spenden is to make effective giving as easy as possible for you. Unfortunately, there is currently little transparency regarding the nature and effectiveness of the measures used by pro-democracy organizations worldwide in defending and advancing democracy. Concrete assessments, explanations, and evaluations of the actual expected impact, that is, the effectiveness of the respective measures, are difficult to find and typically not comparable with each other.

Since 2021, Effektiv Spenden is committed to establishing a non-profit international evaluation think tank focused on "Defending Democracy". Based in Berlin, Power for Democracies will build an evidence base to provide answers to the most important questions in the defense of democracy: Where are the greatest threats to democracy - or opportunities to strengthen it? What pro-democracy measures are most effective? Which organizations are most successful and efficient in implementing these policies? In short, where can we make the most difference with our pro-democracy giving?

As Power for Democracies is currently still under development, no binding recommendations are available at this time. Accordingly, we are not yet able to draw on external analyses and evaluations that are as well-founded as those in our other areas. Due to the high topicality and urgency of the topic and not least due to numerous requests from our donors, we would still like to share the knowledge we have gathered so far and the findings of our network of experts with you and offer you the opportunity to contribute to the defense of our democracy. To this end, we have set up the Giving Fund: Defending Democracy.

Who have we supported so far?

Allocation of funds from Q1/2024

The donations were forwarded to the organizations in April 2024. Read more on this in our blog article here .

Your personal advice

Everyone who gives wants to make a difference. We want to help you make the biggest impact possible, in line with your ideas and values. Simply make an appointment for your personal advisory session.

Anne Schulze,
Founder & Managing Director

Your personal advice

Everyone who gives wants to make a difference. We want to help you make the biggest impact possible, in line with your ideas and values. Simply make an appointment for your personal advisory session.

Anne Schulze,
Founder & Managing Director


About the donation fund Defend Democracy

How confident are you with your recommendations?

Compared to our other cause areas, we are less certain. This is due to the fact that, unlike the other cause areas, on Defending Democracy, there are few clear funding recommendations from external experts who evaluate and compare the effectiveness of democracy promotion activities. We therefore have to rely on these few external evaluations as well as on our own expertise and that of our network. As a result, we are fairly certain that we have identified organizations with above-average effectiveness among those we support through the Donation Fund. However, we are less certain that they are among the most effective, i.e., in the top 10%.

Why the focus on Germany and on short-term measures?

This focus is temporary. We expect to be able to draw on external recommendations from around the end of 2024 / mid-2025, which - as in our other topic areas - will in principle address the question of effectiveness across many countries. It is very likely that these recommendations will focus on organizations and policies outside of Germany. 

However, in view of the current developments in Germany, particularly in connection with the research by CORRECTIV, we were increasingly asked by donors for funding recommendations specifically for the short-term protection of democracy in Germany. We therefore had to weigh up whether we did not want to give an answer to this or whether we wanted to deal with the increased uncertainty about the effectiveness of measures in the area of Defending Democracy . As we have been working with major donors on the protection of democracy for several years, often in Germany, we are in a position to identify organizations for our donation fund that we have known for years and whose effectiveness we consider to be high.

Why is there only a giving fund in the field of democracy?

We are convinced that the topic of democracy in Germany will be characterized by a high level of dynamism over the next two years or so. Depending on our ongoing research but also, for example, on the outcome of critical elections - such as the European elections or the state elections in Thuringia - it is likely that further projects and organizations will prove to be worthy of support in addition to the organizations currently included in the "Defending Democracy" donation fund. The fund puts us in a position to react quickly to this dynamic and to use the funds where they can have the greatest impact in the respective situation. We report on which organizations these are in detail in our quarterly fund update.

Will the fund also support international projects in future?

In the medium term, yes. Stephan Schwahlen and Stefan Shaw, together with Markus N. Beeko - former Secretary General of Amnesty International - founded the independent evaluator "Power for Democracies" in 2023. Financed by donations from major donors, Power for Democracies will make concrete funding recommendations for the defense of democracy worldwide with a team of around 10 people from around the end of 2024/mid-2025. Our "Defending Democracy" giving fund will be guided by these recommendations. It is very likely that these recommendations will then focus on organizations and measures outside Germany.

You recommend organizations, some of which explicitly oppose the AfD. Should I expect my money to flow into party politics?

Our work is fundamentally non-partisan and independent - in other words, we do not support political parties or vested interests. Instead, we look for the most effective solutions to the biggest problems of our time that can be supported with donations, regardless of how third parties may try to politically appropriate these solutions.

In the case of defending democracy, one of the greatest challenges is that clearly anti-democratic parties, groups, or individuals often come to power not through coups, but through democracy itself - only to damage it so permanently that the next transfer of power often becomes impossible. For this reason, the AfD is no longer a party like any other: parts of it - as well as individual representatives of the party - have already been classified as clearly right-wing extremist and anti-constitutional. For this reason, all possibilities of the constitutional state to prevent such a group from coming to power are now being discussed. The protection of our democracy against right-wing extremist efforts is not a "left-wing project", but a fundamental pro-democratic concern, as representatives of all democratic parties have made increasingly clear and public. For us, this means that effective measures or NGOs that attempt to contain the dangers to democracy posed by the AfD and the broader right-wing extremist spectrum in the short term and effectively are fundamentally worthy of support. The same applies to anti-constitutional groups of other hues or origins.

General questions about donating to Effektiv Spenden

How much should I donate?

How much you want to donate is of course ultimately your own personal decision, but perhaps you will find something in the article "How much should I donate?" and "Why and how I donate.

Can I deduct my donation from my taxes?

Yes, you can make your donation in Germany and Switzerland tax deductible, even if the recommended organizations are based abroad. We will automatically send you a donation receipt for all your donations by e-mail at the end of February of the following year. You don't have to do anything else.

I don't want to donate online, can I also transfer the money?

You are also welcome to make a traditional bank transfer. Please use our donation form under "Payment method", select the "Bank transfer" tab, enter the details we need for the donation receipt and register your donation. You will then receive an e-mail with our donation account and a reference that will enable us to allocate your donation correctly as soon as you have transferred the donation.

What are the fees? Will you forward 100% of my donation?

We process donations free of charge, i.e. we do not keep any of your donation for ourselves. However, credit card or PayPal fees are charged by the payment providers we work with. These depend on the chosen payment method and are calculated as follows for Germany:

  • Bank transfer: Free of charge within the SEPA payment area
  • SEPA-direct debit: 0,35 €
  • Credit card: 1.2% + 0.25 € (for European cards)
  • PayPal: 1,5% + 0,35 €

Therefore, for donations with amounts < 10,000 euros, we recommend for donations of up to €10,000SEPA-direct debit". For security reasons, the only option currently available for amounts of €10,000 or more is the "Bank transfer" are available.

Comparable fees would also be incurred for a direct donation to the respective organizations. We have already negotiated with all payment providers and obtained particularly favorable conditions for non-profit organizations.

We also finance ourselves through donations, but completely independently.

You can find out more  here.

How can I change or cancel my permanent donation?

If you want to increase or decrease the amount of your donation, simply contact us by e-mail with us. We are also happy to change the organizations/projects/funds you donate to if you wish. Unfortunately, we cannot change payment methods without further ado. To do so, you will need to cancel your donation and then set it up again.

You can cancel your permanent donation at any time and without giving reasons. Simply send us an informal e-mail to or call us at +49 (0)30 / 260 355 19.

How do you cover your costs?

Effektiv Spenden is made possible by private sponsors. This support enables us to cover all administrative costs. This allows us to pass on your donation in full to our top organizations. Of course, we also appreciate your donation to us as a platform. You can find out more about our funding here.