Abstract: The notion of civil society associations as schools of democracy has resulted in models of political participation that place an emphasis on membership in civic associations as a means of developing personal skills that are conducive to political participation. These suppositions seem well established. It is still contested, however, to what extent the particular characteristics of the associations that offer such membership have an impact on civic engagement. Expanding recent research that mainly builds on group characteristics aggregated from the characteristics of the associations’ members, we apply the Swiss part of a unique multi-level data set, the CID-data, which provides information about approx. 1000 activists from about 400 associations. This data allows us to measure group characteristics, such as the function of an association and its connection to the local elite, directly and thus provides us with a special opportunity for a multi-level analysis of activists nested in organisations.