The European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) is being launched in January 2016. As an umbrella initiative for community foundations it will be active throughout Europe, working to consolidate the loose network of community foundations in the Europe. It is conceived as a long-term project and has been allocated a budget of almost a half million euros for the first two years and is financed by a number of foundations, including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation based in the U.S., the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Körber Foundation.
In its initial phase, ECFI will strengthen community foundations in Europe by providing support for existing umbrella organisations in their respective countries. ECFI will encourage the founding of such organisations in countries where none such institutions exist. As demonstrated by national networks such as the Community Foundation Initiative in Germany and UK Community Foundations in Great Britain, these types of umbrella organizations are well-suited to promote the quantitative and qualitative development of community foundations.
Prof. Dr. Hans Fleisch, Secretary General of the Association of German Foundations underscores the transnational nature of the project: ‘As foundations created for citizens by citizens, the community foundations of many European countries are evidence of a strong and engaged civil society. National community foundation movements are now becoming part of a network through ECFI and they thereby gain the potential to learn from one another, and become better established in a national context. The concept of the community foundation thus committed to overcoming borders at a time when they are being reinstated everywhere.
Ulrike Reichert, Director of the Community Foundation team within the Federal Association of German Foundations adds: ‘It is significant that ECFI will now finally provide the civil society movement of the community foundations with a central contact point in Europe.’
ECFI will serve as a primary advisory organisation for community foundations in Europe. In addition, ECFI will gather information on the dedicated work of community foundations in order to better represent their interests on a European level. Other services provided by ECFI will include organising study tours, so that individuals active in community foundations can learn from the experience gained in other countries. Every two years a European conference of community foundations is to be organised in Great Britain.
The project will be headed by Anja Böllhoff, former chairperson of the Bielefeld Community Foundation, who served in a voluntary capacity as a longstanding Community Foundation embassadors of the Community Foundation Initiative.
The European project is administered under the aegis of the Federal Association of German Foundations. Cooperation partners are the UK Community Foundations and the Slovakian Centre for Philanthropy.