European foundation sector report highlights diversity


James Magowan


Across Europe organizations celebrated the work of philanthropy and foundations on European Day of Foundations and Donors earlier this month.  The day – 1 October  — highlighted the work of public benefit foundations in Europe and promoted the idea of donating.  Members of the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) and the European Foundation Centre (EFC) marked the day by hosting activities that told the story of philanthrophy and offered the general public insights into the invaluable and diverse work of foundations.

For example, in Helsinki the European Day of Foundations and Donors took to the big screen, with an open mini short film festival showing documentaries on identity, supported by foundations; in Moscow, a photo exhibition illustrated the impact of philanthropy; and in Madrid a major Once lottery draw marked the day.  Many philanthropy associations, for example in Bulgaria, Ireland and Norway, used the day to present an analysis of philanthropy in their country.

DAFNE, with assistance from the Foundation Center in New York, has collated data from 23 member associations, producing a comprehensive picture of the foundation sector across Europe.  The report, available on the DAFNE website, reveals there are are more than 141,000 varied public benefit foundations across Europe with a huge variety of interests, and a collective estimated annual expenditure in excess of €55 billion.

The report also goes behind the data to reveal the dversity and complexity of the foundation sector in Europe, and the challenges associated with data gathering in the field.

This in itself provides valuable insight and a clear message that numbers alone are an insufficient indicator of the importance and impact of philanthropy. An understanding of philanthropy’s relevance, scope and reach in its unique national setting is essential.  The message in the report, as articulated by many on European Day of Foundations and Donors, attempts to ‘tell the story’ and get behind the complexity of aggregating data across Europe, thus recognising diverse role that philanthropy and foundations play as an essential component of the fabric of civil society.

James Magowan is coordinating director of DAFNE.

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