Converging Futures: Foundations vote for Europe

Go to the profile of Felix Oldenburg
Apr 25, 2019
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This article is part of the Forum Network series on International Co-operation and the New Societal Contract and will feed into upcoming discussions at OECD Forum 2019.  

In less than one month, Europe will elect a new parliament. The paths ahead diverge perhaps like never before. The idea of a united, social Europe of citizens needs all the help it can get – help that the philanthropic community can provide. 

On Wednesday, 20 March the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) and the European Foundation Centre (EFC) presented the European Philanthropy Manifesto. Members of the philanthropy sector have unveiled an agenda of a “single market for philanthropy”, and the sector has come out strongly in support of working closer with European institutions for the public good. DAFNE and EFC have worked together in the “Philanthropy Advocacy” initiative as well as with members and policy makers, to arrive at four recommendations: 

  • Recognise philanthropy and engage with it
  • Facilitate cross-border philanthropy within Europe
  • Enable and protect philanthropy
  • Co-grant and co-invest for public good and civil society

As a kick-off to the joint project, in 2018 a study was published, Enlarging the space for European philanthropy, which noted: 

  • Philanthropy remains largely outside the European treaties
  • Barriers to cross-border philanthropy pose a major challenge: while the freedom of capital movement prohibits foreign funding restrictions, Europe needs to move towards a European public-benefit concept, with non-discriminatory tax regimes and simplified tax authority practices, providing for more information sharing tools
  • National laws must be in line with European fundamental rights and EU freedoms
  • EU and national efforts to counter terrorism financing, money laundering and tax evasion, which are intended to protect the sector, must be risk-based, proportionate and evidence-based; the sector and policymakers should work jointly to assess and address risks 
Understanding philanthropy as a force that is independent from government but complementary and collaborative requires a shift in thinking in both the philanthropic and policy-making sectors

I would like to highlight three of the many ideas in the European Philanthropy Manifesto. First, to ask policymakers to protect the fundamental rights of the freedom of association and movement of capital, and end the worrying trends towards inhibiting foreign funding restrictions and additional regulations that dampen independent civil society. Second, facilitate the cross-border flow of grants and social investments by removing barriers that can cost the philanthropic sector approximately EUR 100 million annually and prevent work on pressing challenges, regardless of where they are. Third, collaboration between the philanthropic sector and European institutions, in strategic co-granting and incentive creation for co-investing from endowments – mobilising an untapped potential worth billions of euros. 


EFC chair Massimo Lapucci has outlined the urgency of these ideas in a contribution to Alliance magazine. Understanding philanthropy as a force that is independent from government but complementary and collaborative requires a shift in thinking for many, in both the philanthropic and policy-making sectors. However, as I stated in The state of foundations in Europe, complex challenges lie ahead, and to ensure we have the best possible opportunities to face these, philanthropy should be rightly recognised as the exercise of a crucial set of rights to foster and support open and pluralistic societies. 

A positive future for Europe and for philanthropy are now on the same path. 

Read the full European Philanthropy Manifesto

European Philanthropy Manifesto

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Go to the profile of Felix Oldenburg

Felix Oldenburg

Secretary General, Association of German Foundations | Chair, Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE)

Felix Oldenburg studied philosophy, politics and music at the universities of Bonn, Tübingen and Oxford and holds a postgraduate degree in Policy and Non-Profit Management from Georgetown University. In 1998 he co-founded an online start-up based on the non-profit introduction of one of Germany’s first social networks. From 2000 to 2002 he worked at McKinsey & Company in London as Strategy Consultant. Felix Oldenburg was Managing Director of Ashoka Europe for seven years before joining the Association of German Foundations as Secretary General in April 2016. Felix Oldenburg is a fervent supporter of a strong civil society and believes in the power of innovations and ideas.

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