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 Definition of foundations

“Foundations are autonomous, non-profit organisations with their own resources that work locally, regionally and internationally to improve the lives of citizens, by running and funding activities in a myriad of areas.”
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 Foundations in Europe

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​Click on a country to find out more about its foundation sector, or simply scroll over to get a quick idea of the size of the country's sector. For each of the countries in blue above, the Country Portraits provide a birds-eye view of the foundation sector across Europe with the following sections:

What is the definition of 'foundation'?

From country the country the meaning of the word ‘foundation’ can vary. This section provides a simple definition for what is considered a foundation in the selected country. For a more complete understanding, please see the legal and fiscal profiles.

Legal framework

The EFC legal and fiscal country profiles provide detailed information on the legal environment of foundations in each country, such as the purposes foundations are allowed to pursue, the requirements for establishing a foundation in each country, governance and transparency regulation, tax treatment, tax incentives for individual and corporate donors, recent legal trends and developments affecting foundations and the impact of the anti-terrorist debate, among other information. 

Number of foundations

The total number of foundations covers foundations which are based in and, where appropriate, registered in the country. Foreign foundations which are active in the country but operate from abroad are not included. It is always indicated what the number refers to and as much as possible only ‘public-benefit foundations’ are included.

Foundations' pool of assets

The pool of assets refers to the total assets owned by foundations in the country (book value). In most cases, exact figures are difficult to obtain, so an estimate is provided. Whenever possible this amount refers specifically to ‘public-benefit foundations’. Estimates refer to a specific number of foundations and a time period, which are always indicated.

Foundations' total expenditure

Total expenditure is the amount spent by foundations in projects or programmes for the public-benefit. This includes awards, grants, self-operated programmes, programme-related investments, research expenditure, and other types of expenditure (administrative costs, investment cost etc.). Whenever possible this amount refers to specifically ‘public-benefit foundations’. Estimates refer to a specific number of foundations and a time period, which are always indicated.

Employment and volunteering

Foundations act for the public good not only via their projects or programmes, but also through the employment and community involvement they originate. This section provides an estimate of the number of people employed or volunteering within public-benefit foundations in the country. In some cases foundations list pro-bono and Board members’ contributions as voluntary work. 

Associations of foundations

This section lists the associations of foundations existing in the country. These associations are established on a national, regional or local level, but they can also represent a group of public-benefit foundations active in a specific thematic area. Members of the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE), which have collaborated in the creation of the Country Portraits, also feature in this section.

Further reading

Here you will find a list of publications that go into further detail on the information found on the Country Portraits, and provide some background or specific regional and thematic information.

More on the sector

This section provides a list of organisations that have expertise on the foundation sector and that might be able to provide further specific information on the sector.