The European Foundation Centre (EFC) has launched the Institutional Philanthropy Spectrum (IPS). Its aim is to better understand and document the characteristics, practices, role and relevance of institutional philanthropy in society. You’re a practitioner ‒ a foundation, a corporate funder, a grantmaker, an adviser, a researcher on philanthropy ‒ so get involved!

What do we mean by Institutional Philanthropy?

Institutional philanthropy refers to foundations, corporate funders and other players that 1) have their own financial resources that they deploy strategically, 2) are independently governed, and 3) use private resources for public good.  We strongly believe that the term “foundation” as it is used generally has limited heuristic value because as a polisemic term can mean completely different and indeed contradictory things. It is admittedly hard, however, to give up its ease of use as generic shorthand.

Why a spectrum?

Too often the philanthropic sector is viewed in 2D. Who is funding what project? How much money is spent? What types of philanthropy projects exist? This approach of only focusing on a few parameters has led to a narrow and distorted view of what is actually occurring in the philanthropic sector. Recognising the need to gain a more accurate view, the EFC has embarked on a new initiative to bring a third dimension to philanthropy.

What the Institutional Philanthropy Spectrum (IPS) is about:

The IPS serves as a framework to build systematic knowledge about the field of institutional philanthropy. It aims to help capture the diverse and evolving nature of the sector as well as allowing the user to visualise, explain and possibly foresee practices and actions based on relations between different elements identified in the spectrum. The six variables that the IPS investigates are public good, resources, use of assets, self-governance, practices and behaviours, and relevance. It further examines these variables in detailed clusters to identify the unique features and practices of each institutional philanthropy actor. In short, the tool enables users to picture where they fit within the six variables and collectively across the spectrum.

How to get involved:

The EFC will further develop and refine the IPS by inviting its members and other actors in the sector to provide feedback on the spectrum and/or contribute information through an online survey. As the IPS is in development mode contributors to it and interested parties are also invited to provide their feedback on the beta version (see below), thus enabling the EFC to refine the tool and develop and share a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the philanthropic sector.

For more information and/or to participate in this initiative, please contact Maria Orejas at


  1. Public good: focuses on the areas of expertise/competence of institutional philanthropy.
  2. Resources: focuses on the origin and types of financial resources (endowment, self-generated and other income) and the size of these resources.
  3. Use of assets: focuses on how institutional philanthropy manages and makes use of its assets. This covers its financial assets, human resources, non-financial tangible and intangible assets; as well as the scope of the organisation (i.e. mandate, issue, population and geographical foci), and the approach(es) it takes (i.e. grant-making, operating, both grantmaking & operating, creating new entities, investing, investing & engagement /comanagement, using a mix of those).
  4. Self-governance: focuses on the governance arrangements of institutional philanthropy including the appointment of the governing organ(s), their composition, their functioning, the relations between the various organs and parties); the time horizon of the organisation (does it have a set duration or does it exist in perpetuity?); and its form (e.g. foundation forms, company forms, NGOs forms or others).
  5. Values & strategies: focuses on the values and strategies of the organisation as reflected in its practices and its relations with its peers and its stakeholders.
  6. Relevance: focuses on the role of the organisation from its own viewpoint and perspective, i.e. its position and what it does in society; and its function, i.e. the purpose for which it is designed and exists.