A new resource for European philanthropy, the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI), opened in January 2016. A ‘meta-umbrella’ organization, its main initial task is to strengthen existing community foundation umbrella organizations in European countries where they already exist and to encourage their setting up in countries where they don’t.
Hosted by the Association of German Foundations in Berlin, ECFI brings together UK Community Foundations, lnitiative Bürgerstiftungen from Germany and the Slovakian Centrum pre Filantropiu. The initiative will also serve as a primary advisory organization for European community foundations and will represent their interests at European level. Other services will include organizing study tours to exchange experience between countries and a biennial European conference, the first of which will be in 2017.
Why is this umbrella for umbrellas necessary? According to Hans Fleisch, secretary general of the Association of German Foundations, much of its merit lies in the fact that it is transnational. ‘National community foundation movements,’ says Fleisch, ‘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 is thus committed to overcoming borders at a time when they are being reinstated everywhere.’
ECFI is to be financed for the first two years with donations of almost half a million euros by a consortium of foundations, including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Körber Foundation.