Beginning in June 2017, the EFC carried out a survey of its members touching upon various topics, not least how member organisations see their role and that of institutional philanthropy on democracy.

We asked members to answer a few questions about democracy:

  • State how important is the idea of democracy in their work on a scale of 1 to 10
  • Position themselves on 28 statements on democracy with which they agree or disagree (e.g. our organisation invests in human rights; our organisation supports innovation in democracy)
  • Give examples of successful work conducted on democracy in past five years
  • Share their plans to work on democracy in the coming years

So what did we find to date?

The importance of democracy varies quite a lot among the respondents. There is a huge scatter of responses across the spectrum of philanthropy with a few organisations seeing democracy as a minor factor in their work, a second larger group as a low component, and another two large groups stating that democracy is either very important or is the corner stone of their activity.

According to the EFC analysis, there seems to be strong correlation between democracy and the type of support provided by foundations in the form of non-financial support.

    Importance of democracy
Non-financial support Pearson Correlation 0.354*
  Sig. (2-tailed) 0.018
  N 44

Indeed, seven different types of non-financial support were examined in the survey including free access to meeting facilities, access to connections and networks, skills support, organisation strategic support, communications and advocacy support. As shown last month in a first snapshot of results, a large majority of EFC members provide non-financial support through these different forms – skills support being on top.  

We also found a strong correlation between the importance of democracy and approaches to social change. In other words, organisations that value democracy most aim to change the structures on which society is organised, whereas for those organisations that focus on improving the lives of individuals or groups in society working with existing structures, the importance of democracy is secondary in their work.

According to our analysis, the importance of democracy in respondents’ work is not driven by the size or the operational capacity of the organisation, neither by its use of different financial instruments such as social investment, nor by how the foundation values its financial, social, intellectual or reputational capital.

Some 70 organisations have already replied to the EFC survey to date, and the analysis of the “democracy” cohort provided here is based on 44 responses. The survey is still open, and updates on the findings will be provided regularly.

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About the EFC’s European Democracy network

The aim of the network is to facilitate more effective philanthropic support to strengthen democratic values and participation in Europe through cooperation and information exchange and to create a sustainable, broad-based platform of independent foundations working towards a stronger European democracy.