Beginner’s guide to EU funding

Main funding sources

Main funding sources

Some 80 % of funding sources are managed by the EU countries themselves in a decentralised way. Each country provides detailed information about the funding and the application procedures on the websites of the managing authorities.

NGOs working in the fields of social inclusion, gender equality and equal opportunities may benefit from European Social Fund  (ESF) support. The managing authorities of an operational programme in a region or in a member country eligible for support from the Cohesion Fund shall ensure that an appropriate amount of ESF resources is allocated to capacity building for non-governmental organisations (Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013).

Other programmes are managed centrally by the European Commission’s departments and agencies. These cover a range of fields including culture and media, citizenship, research and innovation, development and humanitarian aid, transport, energy, and information and communication technologies.

Culture and media

The Creative Europe programme, which is managed by the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), supports initiatives related to the European audiovisual, cultural and creative sector. The programme consists of two sub-programmes: Culture and MEDIA.

The Culture sub-programme helps cultural and creative organisations to operate transnationally and cultural works and artists to move between different countries. The funding opportunities available cover a diverse range of schemes: cooperation projects, literary translation, networks and platforms. Culture’s activities are intended to enable collaborative work with an international dimension.

The MEDIA sub-programme provides financial support to help the EU film and audiovisual industries develop, distribute and promote their work. It enables European films and audiovisual works, including films, television drama, documentaries and new media, to find markets beyond national and European borders. It also funds training and film development schemes.


The European Commission’s Europe for Citizens programme has two main goals: to help the public understand the EU, its history and diversity, and to foster European citizenship and improve conditions for democratic and civic participation at EU level. The programme, also managed by EACEA, provides both action grants and operating grants. Both public bodies and non-profit organisations can apply.

Research and innovation

Societal Challenges, a part of the Horizon 2020 (H2020) research and innovation programme, provides funding for projects. There is a wide range of arias: health, demographic change, food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry and marine, maritime and inland water research. It is managed by the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).

NGOs can also apply for certain projects running under ‘Smart green and integrated transport’ and ‘Secure, clean and efficient energy’, two other components of the H2020 programme which are managed by the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).

Development and humanitarian aid

NGOs can get funding under most of the thematic or regional programmes managed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO). Depending on the requirements of individual calls for proposals, they can participate on their own or together with other co-applicants or affiliated organisations.

NGOs are also eligible for funding for humanitarian aid and civil protection activities. The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) provides funding to NGOs, international organisations and United Nations agencies which implement humanitarian action on the ground.

Transport, energy and ICT

Some funding areas of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) are open to NGOs. Potential applicants should check the eligibility criteria set out in each call for proposals as they may vary from one sub-programme to another. The CEF programme is managed by the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) but the European Commission is responsible for planning how the funding is to be used, selecting projects, allocating funding and overseeing its use.

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