EFC and Dafne announce plans to become one organisation in 2021


Elika Roohi


In a major recalibration of Europe’s philanthropy infrastructure, the European Foundation Centre (EFC) and the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (Dafne) will converge this year to form one philanthropy network.

First made public in a video interview intended for EFC’s membership with recently appointed EFC Chair Angel Font and CEO Delphine Moralis, it is expected that by the end of the year there will be a single organisation working for the European philanthropy sector.

‘What we have seen is the momentum to go ahead with the process of convergence between both organisations, because the role of philanthropy will be increased in the coming years, and because it will be more important to have a single voice, a greater voice, a clearer voice,’ said Font in the interview, which was published shortly after the plan was endorsed by the EFC’s Governing Council in mid-December.

Founded in 1989, the EFC today represents approximately 250 members in 32 countries and brings together some of Europe’s leading foundations. Dafne was formed in 1997 and acts as a ‘network of networks’ representing national foundation bodies across Europe. Though the EFC has worked closely with national associations of donors over the past three decades, and hosted Dafne’s secretariat for several years, Dafne has acted more independently in recent years with the organisation securing formal status as an independent legal entity (AISBL) under Belgian law in 2018. Dafne’s network today includes 30 national associations across Europe, collectively representing over 10,000 foundations.

The move towards convergence – which both sides are reluctant to call a merger – follows growing recognition of the need to overhaul Europe’s philanthropy infrastructure to meet internal and external challenges. A report on Europe’s philanthropy infrastructure published in 2019 made recommendations including for these bodies to act together and align themselves strategically, engage in action advocacy, work on enhancing competence, invest in digital infrastructure and data, and actively engage with stakeholders and partners – but there have been frustrations about the pace of change which some put down to institutional rivalries.

But for EFC and Dafne’s 2021 plans, the process has been welcomed by all sides.

‘Building on the achievements and learnings of the Dafne network, we are now moving to the next level of exploring what an ambitious and agile European philanthropy infrastructure needs to look like to truly meet the societal, economic and political challenges ahead of us. It is therefore with great excitement and enthusiasm that Dafne has entered a joint process with the EFC to build tomorrow’s umbrella organisation for European philanthropy as an inclusive, participatory and innovative hub for foundations and philanthropy networks alike,’ said Max von Abendroth, Executive Director of Dafne.

‘The EFC has a long history of strengthening the infrastructure of philanthropy in Europe, and our convergence with Dafne is a hugely positive step forward as we seek to increase the capacity and impact of our sector. It also sends out a powerful message about being “stronger together”, not just within the philanthropy ecosystem, but also in terms of working cross-sector and cross-border on the tremendous challenges our communities, societies, and planet, all face,’ commented Moralis to Alliance.

In the video conversation, Moralis reflected on the upcoming change, saying: ‘I think it’s really exciting that we’re moving forward with this important plan. It’s an opportunity for the sector to speak with one voice, it’s an opportunity for us at the EFC and at Dafne to do better at working with our members, helping our members to be their best.’

While the indications from all sides point to a new representative body for European philanthropy, questions are still being resolved about the place and concrete collaboration of national associations and networks and individual foundations. And something else remains either a closely guarded secret or something still to be figured out: what the new organisation will be called.

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