3rd article of the blog series with SwissFoundations!
More than 13,000 charitable foundations with almost 100 billion Swiss francs in foundation capital are involved in a variety of social issues in our country. They range from classic cultural, scientific and social support to the latest technological developments and innovation promotion (for more information, see the annual Swiss Foundation Report: www.stiftungsreport.ch).
A look abroad shows: Internationally, too, the Swiss foundation sector is world class. In relation to the number of inhabitants, there are six times more charitable foundations in Switzerland than in the USA or Germany. This is both an opportunity and an obligation. Both for the sector and for legislators, who would be well advised to promote civic engagement in Switzerland. Liberal framework conditions that enable lean management and administration of foundations and strong supervision that quickly identifies and combats abuse should go hand in hand.
Founded on private initiative and endowed with private assets, charitable foundations are active in and for society. This obliges them to be visible, accessible and traceable. It is the task of the foundation board to ask itself again and again the question of effectiveness: Are we still doing the right thing? And are we doing it right? This requires a regular assessment of its own activities, an ongoing observation of the environment in which the foundation operates, and a further development of foundation governance. This is where the Swiss Foundation Code provides valuable assistance. Published in 2015 in its third edition, and since this year also available online in a complete edition(www.swissfoundationcode.ch), it offers guidance on issues relating to the establishment and management of charitable foundations in three basic principles and 29 recommendations Grant-making foundations.
As simple as it may seem at first glance to set up and run a charitable foundation, it becomes challenging from the second. The crucial question: What would you do if I gave you twenty million Swiss francs with the mission of promoting the education of young girls and women in southern Africa? Believe me, the money would be gone quickly; good organizations exist in many countries. But what would be your leverage? Where would you start? How would you define success? Or would you even conclude that direct funding from the West to the South is not the way to go? The answers to these questions are as varied as the foundations themselves.
However, the fact that more and more foundations are asking such questions at all shows how rapidly the sector has developed and become more dynamic over the past twenty years. And it is becoming increasingly networked. The more challenging a task, the more important it is to have a space for exchanging experience and knowledge. As, for example, at the upcoming Swiss Foundation Symposium on May 21-22, 2019 in Thun(www.stiftungssymposium.ch).
I would be delighted to welcome you "Beyond the Comfort Zone" in Thun!
Managing Director SwissFoundations