DAFNE ‘hard-wires’ the circuit


James Magowan


Reflecting on a momentous year for DAFNE (Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe), at its recent Winter meeting in Dublin, its chair Felix Oldenburg, Director of the German Association of Foundations, said ‘Only a few years ago we had a vision to ‘hard-wire’ the circuit – we have now achieved that’. For over 10 years DAFNE had operated as an informal network. In 2015 it took on a part-time Co-ordinating Director who started a process of consolidating connections in the network and enhancing peer learning. A further step was then to employ a full-time Director and to establish a permanent presence in Brussels, and finally to register as a legal entity. DAFNE now has a membership of 27 national associations and donors’ forums who have a collective membership of some 10,000 foundations of all types and sizes.

‘DAFNE is now a significant and influential player in the philanthropy support ecosystem in Europe’, said Felix. With 23 countries represented in the Winter Meeting, every opportunity was used to engage participants in creative ways to share their wealth of experience and knowledge and to consider together a range of issues facing foundations and donors across Europe. A particular highlight was consideration of how to bring to life, at European and national level, one of the products of the DAFNE/EFC Philanthropy Advocacy initiative, the ‘Philanthropy Manifesto’ for Building a Single Market for Philanthropy. Prof. Oonagh Breen, who had authored the report ‘Enlarging the Space for European Philanthropy’ which provided the impetus for joint advocacy work, attended the meeting. She was impressed to hear of the ‘long game’ approach being taken, but also of some early successes, for example in relation to the recognition of philanthropy in Invest EU proposals and in the EESC explorative opinion ‘European Philanthropy – an untapped potential’, requested by the current Romanian EU Presidency. ‘Continued success in this area of work will be achieved with clear and convincing message, delivered with enthusiasm’, she said.  Similar sentiments were expressed when considering the #LiftUpPhilanthropy campaign, in a session led by Benjamin Bellegy CEO of WINGS.

Dave Biemesderfer, CEO and President of the United Philanthropy Forum, USA, offered reflections on similarities and differences between Europe and the States. He suggested that associations on both sides of the pond have a responsibility to instil a sense of urgency into discussion relating to the operating environment, and to help make connections between institutional philanthropy and other forms of giving, notably by individuals and corporations.

Looking ahead, Magda Pekacka, Director of the Polish Donors Forum, said ‘Having ‘hard-wired’ the circuit, we can put more energy through it, adding value to work at national and European level, all ultimately contributing to improving the environment for philanthropy, and enhancing the ambition and effectiveness of our foundation and donor members’.

James Magowan is Co-ordinating Director at DAFNE

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