Measuring Philanthropic Vitality: A Three-Pronged Approach
The report assesses the philanthropic vitality in the Lemanic region. Its results and findings are based on six categories, which contain a total of 22 vitality indicators and lead to six potential action areas. You can view the relationships and drill-down into the report using the figure below. Alternatively, you can read it online, download it or request a hard-copy via email@example.com.
Assesses the effectiveness, collaboration, visibility, and transparency by means of empirical research to establish a current baseline.
Aims to derive recommendations to further strengthen the philanthropy ecosystem.
What ingredients are necessary for a successful and thriving philanthropic sector? To what extent are they already present in the Swiss cantons of Geneva and Vaud? How can the health of the sector in this region be improved? These are the key questions which this study set out to address, using an innovative mixed-methods approach and drawing on the combined expertise of dozens of subject-matter experts and a broad-based and engaged steering committee.
For the reader who does not want to spend hours delving into the research methodology, this chapter provides an overview of the key findings. Subsequent chapters will discuss them in further detail and derive recommendations for action.
The project team evaluated the philanthropic sector in Geneva and Vaud on 22 indicators, divided across six categories. This chapter presents the most salient results that emerged from this analysis, which cover eight of the indicators and five of the categories (only the Collaboration category did not have any indicators included in the main section of the report).
An exciting list of possibilities is emerging for all stakeholders in the Lemanic region and across Switzerland. Importantly, recommendations have largely been sourced from the stakeholders themselves, as a high number of survey respondents provided detailed text entries on how tackle each dimension of vitality. These areas for intervention provide a common basis for the development of projects to improve performance on the key indicators of vitality.
A roadmap for Lemanic foundations and the broader philanthropic ecosystem in the region.
Switzerland is lucky to benefit from a longstanding philanthropic tradition and effective institutional arrangements to support individuals who aim to contribute to the public good. The oldest known philanthropic actor in the country still active today dates back to more than six hundred years. The Inselspital in Bern, also known as the University Hospital of Bern, was founded in 1354 in accordance with the will of Anna Seiler, a wealthy woman from the city. Three of Geneva’s main cultural institutions were created thanks to the gifts of philanthropists at least 150 years ago: the Théâtre de Neuve (today’s Grand Théâtre de Genève) in 1783, the Musée Rath in 1825, and the Conservatoire de Musique in 1858. Today, the philanthropic hub in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud includes over 2,500 public utility foundations (called fondations d’utilité publique in French), and some 800 international organizations and NGOs devoted to addressing societal needs.
Thanks to the Zurich law on foundations, dating from 1835, and the subsequent federal laws passed beginning in 1907, Switzerland has had an advanced legal system for foundations for more than a century. When it was first published in 2005, the Swiss Foundation Code offered the first comprehensive manual of voluntary guidelines for grant-making foundations in Europe. Just as Switzerland has evolved from a primarily agrarian to an industrial and globally connected post-industrial society, the practice of philanthropy has similarly changed substantially over time. Throughout, philanthropy, and its institutionalization in the form of public utility foundations1, has been an expression of shared responsibility for a more just, better-functioning and more sustainable society.
In this spirit, eight years after the launch of the study Advancing Philanthropy in Switzerland: A Vision for a Co-operative and Recognized Philanthropic Sector, this study thus presents a new effort to assess and support the continued development of the Swiss philanthropic sector. Its goal is twofold. First, we seek assess the effectiveness, collaboration, visibility, and transparency by means of high-quality empirical research to establish a current baseline. Second, we aim to derive recommendations that help to further strengthen the philanthropy ecosystem. Since resources continue to be finite, the question is essentially still the same as it was almost a decade ago: how can we do better, more efficiently?
Nevertheless, the context of philanthropic action has changed in important ways in the last ten years. The challenges associated with population growth, finite natural resources, and climate change have moved to the forefront of public awareness. Wealth creation and technical innovation through human ingenuity and innovation continue to be at the root of new solutions that address unmet and emerging needs. Yet awareness has also risen regarding the distribution effects of such progress and the risk of rising inequality as the twenty-first century unfolds. Philanthropy continues to be recognized as a force for good, but all sectors of society, including philanthropy, are challenged more than ever to demonstrate how they act in the public interest and contribute to visible progress and outcomes.
The latest disruption to the philanthropy value chain comes from the digital revolution, which is bound to disrupt business as usual in this field as it has done in so many others. A future may still be a decade off where we routinely engage with a non-profit’s chatbot online regarding questions we have about their work and the difference our donations make. But the digital transformation is already a reality today, and it is important to prepare for the near and medium-term future. The integration of digital technology and data-driven decision-making across non-profit organizations will result in changes to workflow, necessary staff qualifications, and impact strategies. Upgrading to a digital knowledge organization is a task in itself and requires expertise and technology budgets. Another terrain of innovation is innovative finance: the use of financing instruments other than grants to provide capital to projects that improve the state of the world, sometimes even generating a financial return.
In sum, all of these changes invite the stakeholders of the philanthropic ecosystem to take a forward-looking, strategic perspective on how to further build on Switzerland’s great philanthropic tradition and update it where needed so it can help address the challenges we face in this century. Building on a decade of progress, and supported by several leading foundations in Switzerland, this philanthropic vitality analysis is thus pursuing a new level of rigor and depth to unlock the potential of the Swiss philanthropic sector. This is particularly true on the methodological front, as the study combines quantitative analysis with surveys of public opinion and stakeholder perceptions. We wanted to know which factors underpin a healthy, high-performing, “competitive” philanthropic sector, where resources are directed to add the greatest social value, incorporating the views of stakeholders. To operationalize philanthropic vitality, we asked which role the following factors play:
Public trust in the sector;
The regulatory context;
Foundations’ financial and human capital;
Transparency and evaluation of foundations’ actions;
Capacity building of sector intermediaries; and
Frameworks for resource pooling and collaboration.
The study represents a sector-wide initiative. The study counts the Geneva Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Geneva, the Center for Philanthropy Studies at the University of Basel, proFonds, SwissFoundations, and the Canton of Geneva as academic, third- and public-sector partners. The study was incubated by Fondation Lombard Odier, and FSG served as its principal consultant. It has been co-financed by Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Stiftung Mercator Schweiz, and Fondation Lombard Odier. Via a cross-sector steering committee representing cantonal government, academia, local foundations and service providers, we aimed to assure the study’s depth and relevance. Moreover, forty-three experts across Switzerland and abroad helped identify the most relevant vitality indicators. A widely disseminated stakeholder survey added additional perspective to the analysis, and helped us derive and put in perspective the recommendations put forth in this study for achieving additional progress over the next five years.
It is therefore with our deepest thanks that we share our findings and a roadmap for Lemanic foundations and the broader philanthropic ecosystem in the region. In addition, we hope that the study and its methodology is of interest to readers who are located elsewhere.
Geneva, September 2019
Secretary-General, Fondation Lombard Odier, chair of the Steering Committee
President, proFonds – Association faitière des fondations d’utilité publique en Suisse
Deputy Director, SwissFoundations
Executive Director, Geneva Centre for Philanthropy
Economic Development Officer, DG EDRI, Canton of Geneva
Director, Geneva Centre for Philanthropy
Managing Director, FSG
Director, Center for Philanthropy Studies, University of Basel
Scientific Officer, DG EDRI, Canton of Geneva
A detailed list can be found in Appendix 3: Partners and Collaborators