Press release

Study: German philanthropic sector wants more than it can manage

Small-sized foundations with limited resources have taken on the lion’s share of German philanthropic activities.

Download a summary of the first study results (in German).

Berlin, 15 April 2015 – The majority of German foundations see their role as supporting public service bodies or replacing them entirely. Often, however, they are not able to meet their ambitious goals, since many lack the adequate financial and strategic resources – if not the confidence and motivation – to make their activities sustainable. These are the preliminary findings of the first independent study investigating how German foundations see or define themselves, lead by the Hertie School in cooperation with the Centre for Social Investment at the University of Heidelberg. Professor Helmut K. Anheier, sociologist and President at the Hertie School, is heading up the initiative.

The German philanthropic sector is carried by the voluntary work of over 18 000 foundations, most of which are small, private enterprises characterised by a high level of motivation, clear but ambitious goals, and meagre resources for carrying these out. Over two thirds (67 percent) have an annual budget of under 100 000 Euros and almost as many (63 percent) see their role as filling in for or replacing state services. With an estimated 12,5 billion Euros at their disposal annually, however, these foundations are unable to come close to achieving their goals. Nonetheless, only a minority of the foundations see themselves as playing a catalytic role at best in the philanthropic sector. “The majority of the foundations urgently need to modify their self-conception to correspond with their financial realities,” recommends Helmut Anheier.

Read the full press release in German. Download a summary of the first study results (in German).