The state of European philanthropy

Andrew Milner

“Philanthropy in Europe is rooted in a rich past and is moving towards a promising future,” claimed Norine MacDonald and Luc Tayart de Borms[i], writing in 2008. Can the same claim be made today? A 2015 report from the Observatoire de la Fondation de France[ii] notes, “everywhere in Europe, the foundation sector is flourishing,” while the almost universal presence of tax reliefs signals the fact that all European states now recognise the role of private philanthropy (Sweden was the last country to introduce such a mechanism in 2012).

Individual giving in all its forms is probably as old as human interaction, while the origins of foundations in many European countries are to be found in medieval times. At the same time, Europe is a diverse continent and giving is conditioned by differences in history and culture, economic and political conditions, and taxation rules.

MacDonald and Tayart note four different models within the continent’s span:

 
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