Swiss sector looks forward on annual foundation day


Irène Zdoroveac


The Swiss Foundation Day 2022, held this year on 10 November 2022, was a great success: around 340 people (a new record!) travelled to the charming Stadttheater in Olten to attend the annual meeting of the Swiss non-profit sector, to benefit from the exciting programme, to exchange experiences and to network.

The Swiss Foundation Day has been organised for over 30 years by proFonds, the umbrella organisation of charitable foundations in Switzerland.

Schweizer Stiftungstag 2022 am Mittwoch, 09. November 2022 in Olten. © Photo Dominik Plüss

As a prelude to the conference, Nicola Forster, President of the Schweizerische Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft SGG (Swiss Nonprofit Society), held a speech entitled ‘Revolution or Evolution? Foundations and non-profit organisations in the future check’. In the subsequent panel discussion, his assessments and analyses were discussed and critically questioned by experts on the Swiss foundation sector (Michael Domeisen, Head of Partnerships, ETH Foundation; Stefan Schöbi, CEO, StiftungSchweiz; Katja Schönenberger, Director, Pro Juventute Foundation). The focus of the debate was on the question of whether foundations are still appropriate today. The panel was moderated by Susanne Sugimoto, editorial director of the specialist magazine The Philanthropist.

In the traditional news report, proFonds provided information on general and legal developments in the foundation and NPO sector. Topics relevant to foundations and NPOs, such as data protection, the automatic exchange of information in tax matters or the electronic Federal Supervisory Authority for Foundations, were clearly explained and classified in the sub-chapters ‘Every single year’, ‘The good, the bad and the ugly’ or ‘The farther you go, the less you know’.

Schweizer Stiftungstag 2022 am Mittwoch, 09. November 2022 in Olten. © Photo Dominik Plüss


In another panel discussion, Andreas R. Kirchschläger, CEO elea Foundation, Thomas Vellacott, CEO WWF Switzerland, Dr. Martina Ziegerer, Managing Director Zewo and Robert Schmuki of Con-Sense Philanthropy Consulting spoke about contemporary purpose fulfilment through impact orientation. What impact measurement models are there? How can these be integrated into existing processes? What needs to be taken into account in the evaluation process? Where are the greatest challenges?

Another current topic is the composition of foundation boards. Although everyone talks about diversity, according to a recent study 75 per cent of foundation boards in Switzerland are over 50 years old, almost 65 per cent are male and around 80 per cent have a Swiss passport. Dr. Theresa Gehringer, Co-President of the Association of Young Foundation Experts, has shown which strategies are suitable for successfully integrating Generation Y and Z into foundation boards.

Schweizer Stiftungstag 2022 am Mittwoch, 09. November 2022 in Olten. © Photo Dominik Plüss

Using the example of the Theodora Academy, Miriam Bass Costantini explained how it is possible to make a foundation ready for the future, even if the framework conditions have changed.

The last two presentations also dealt with topics that foundations have to deal with if they want to keep up with the times:

Francesca Bosco spoke about her work at the CyberPeace Institute, which works to combat and prevent cybercrime, focusing on the opportunities, risks and threats posed by new technologies specifically to NPOs.

At the end of the conference, Nora Wilhelm from collaboratio helvetica spoke about system change and explained how foundations can remain contemporary in the funding sector. In doing so, she propagated a paradigm shift: from bilateral, selective support to a cross-sectoral, long-term multi-stakeholder strategy.

Over the past 30 years, the Swiss Foundation Day organised by proFonds has developed into one of the most important events for the Swiss philanthropic sector. The venues change every year. The event is often hosted by a member organisation.

Irène Zdoroveac works for the proFonds office, where she is responsible for communication and the organisation of events.

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