Swiss Foundation Report

Original language of the article: German
Basel/Geneva/Zurich, June 5, 2023

In the Swiss foundation sector, foundation assets have almost doubled in the last ten years. The total of 13,790 Swiss foundations have assets of just under CHF 140 billion. In a regional comparison, most foundations are based in Zurich, Bern and Vaud in 2022. Due to the high number of new foundations, the canton of Geneva will soon be among the three largest foundation cantons. The field of environmental protection is growing significantly among the foundations. In addition to political successes, the sector is experiencing an upswing in Ticino and in entrepreneurial foundation models.
The Swiss foundation sector in summary: more foundations, more assets, more environmental protection.

In Switzerland, 337 new foundations were established last year. Thus, the growth rate remains constant despite 214 liquidations. At the end of 2022, a total of 13,790 foundations were entered in the commercial register. The absolute highest number of foundations is found in the canton of Zurich (2225), followed by Berne (1409) and Vaud (1374). Following closely behind is the canton of Geneva (1333), which will soon be one of the three largest foundation cantons due to the large number of foundations established in the past two decades.

As there is no publication requirement for foundations in Switzerland, the Center for Philanthropy Studies (CEPS) conducted a survey of the balance sheet totals of foundations at the federal and cantonal foundation supervisory authorities for the third time after 2012 and 2017. In total, the aggregated balance sheet total of foundation assets amounts to CHF 139.5 billion and has thus increased by 43.4% since 2017. This significant growth can be explained by newly created foundations as well as asset growth in real estate and securities.

In terms of the areas of activity of the foundations, the fields of culture and leisure, research and education, and social welfare are at the forefront. In the last ten years, the area of environmental protection has grown significantly. This shows that the foundation system is close to social developments and that the impulses from society are taken up.

Legal developments: Successful representation of interests despite increasing regulatory density

Foundations are increasingly affected by legislative changes in Switzerland and abroad (e.g. total revision of data protection law) or are the focus of numerous political transactions.
Due to years of advocacy work by SwissFoundations and other sector representatives, the OECD announced in October 2022 the anchoring of the exemption from reporting obligations for charitable foundations in the Common Reporting Standards (CRS). This means that the Swiss exemption from the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) for charitable foundations can remain in place. The reporting obligations would have entailed an enormous administrative and financial burden for the foundations, which would have claimed millions of Swiss funding annually.

Together with SwissFoundations, the Canton of Zurich launched an initiative to strengthen Zurich as a foundation location. In view of the downward trend in the total number of foundations in Zurich since 2017, the government council has now passed a resolution at the beginning of 2023 to "strengthen Zurich as a foundation location" with concrete measures.

The Ticino foundation sector is experiencing a surge in professionalization and entrepreneurial foundation models are in vogue

In Ticino, the foundation sector is on the upswing. In addition to the establishment of two bodies to promote the foundation sector and its professionalization, the translation of the Swiss Foundation Code with its good governance guidelines is also an important step for Italian-speaking Switzerland.

Foundations that have been established by a company or hold companies themselves have the potential to be bridge builders between companies and civil society. This year's special takes a closer look at the relationship between foundations and companies and considers their different forms of existence. Alongside an increasing entrepreneurial orientation, philanthropy is also becoming more digitalized.

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein, [email protected],+41 61 207 23 92;
Prof. Dr. Dominique Jakob, [email protected], +41 44 634 15 76;
Julia Jakob, [email protected],+41 44 440 00 10;
Aline Freiburghaus [email protected] +41 22 347 61 84.

Click here for the complete Foundation Report 2023

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