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European Research Network on Philanthropy

KU Leuven                                     

Department of Marketing 


Tine de Bock

Department of Marketing

KU Leuven

email: tine.debock@

The Centre was established in 2014 and it is based in Brussels, Belgium. Major academic disciplines are nonprofit marketing, sustainable marketing, consumer behavior, service marketing, marketing strategy, retailing, sports marketing. The key research topics are fundraising ethics, fundraising, charitable giving, donor psychology, face-to-face fundraising, and charity checkouts. Research questions that are being addressed by the centre are, among others:

  • How do various stakeholders’ ethical beliefs about fundraising look like, and why?
  • What is the impact of fundraising ethics on fundraising effectiveness? 
  • How do recruiters and donors perceive face-to-face fundraising ethics?
  • What make charity checkouts effective?
  • What are the downsides of charity checkouts? 

University of Applied Sciences Ghent
Research Centre for Sustainable Organisations 


Joke Persyn

University of Applied Sciences Ghent

Research Centre for Sustainable Organisations

email: joke.persyn@

The Centre was established in 1995 and it is based in Ghent, Belgium. Major academic disciplines are Marketing, Fundraising, Management, and Business Administration. The key research topics are fundraising, legacies, corporate partnerships, donor communication, and personas. Research questions that are being addressed by the centre are, among others:

  • How can organisations communicate effectively with their donors?
  • How can organisations effectively build corporate partnerships?
  • How is private fundraising by organisations in Belgium organised?
  • What is does legacy giving in Belgium look like?


Introduction on Giving Research in Belgium

Virginie Xhauflair, Amélie Mernier[1], Joke Persyn, Ann-Sophie Bouckaert[2]

Knowledge of Belgian donation behaviour is very fragmented and there is no survey or research that maps all aspects of charitable giving. To get an overview of Belgians’ giving behaviour, information from various sources and studies is needed.

One major source of data about giving is the King Baudouin Foundation. This public interest foundation is the major philanthropic player in Belgium. The KBF operates its own projects and hosts nearly 500 funds created by individuals, families and corporations who organise their philanthropic actions within the framework of the KBF. The KBF, therefore, has a large amount of data regarding the giving practices operated with the help of its services. These data remain the private property of the KBF. However, it would be possible to collaborate with the KBF to analyse part of these data.

The KBF is also the coordinator of frequent surveys about philanthropy and giving in Belgium. Since 2011, the KBF has been releasing its annual Barometer and Index of Philanthropy (produced in partnership with the Itinera Institute), which reports on the available data and evaluates trends, behaviour and perceptions in the world of philanthropy in Belgium. The KBF also set up in 2012 an ‘Observatory for the non-profit sector’, in order to raise awareness of the non-profit sector by collecting more data and thus spotlighting trends that arise over the years regarding developments in employment, volunteering and resources available to associations. In this way, the Foundation wants to use the[3] website to boost the associations’ profiles and make them more transparent to donors and governments, which is of crucial importance, as associations basically run on donations and subsidies. The Observatory releases annually a ‘Barometer of non-profits’, which includes a few figures about the non-profit revenues coming from private donations.

The HEC-Management School of the University of Liege hosts a Chair in Philanthropy and Social Investment, sponsored by the Inbev-Baillet Latour Fund, one the biggest philanthropic funds in Belgium. The Chair was launched in early 2013, and is now developing an extensive research programme on Belgian foundations. In 2014, the Chair released an overview of Belgian foundations, based on the integration of the very few available data in Belgium. Researchers at the Baillet Latour Chair have also created an exhaustive database of private and public interest foundations in Belgium. Based on this foundation listing, the Chair launched in May 2015 a survey on foundations, aiming at collecting comprehensive data about the foundations’ profiles, strategies, action modes and governance practices. The results were made available during the autumn of 2015. The Chair is also currently analysing national data about volunteering in Belgium. The results were communicated in October 2015. Lastly, the Chair has set up a qualitative research programme focusing on the perceptions and practices of Belgian non-profits and social enterprises regarding giving. This first exploratory research should be followed by a survey in the sector.

During the late 1990s and the first decade of 2000s, the Katholieke University Leuven, and especially the HIVA research centre, conducted a variety of research on the players and structures in civil society and the social economy, notably the 2007 research on foundations in Belgium (Gijselinckx and Develtere, 2007) commissioned by the KBF. However, the researchers involved have left HIVA since then, and it seems that the topic of giving is not currently being pursued by HIVA.

A few researchers at HoGent (University College Ghent) are also conducting research focusing on giving issues. Between 2012 and 2014, Ann-Sophie Bouckaert, Ilja De Coster, Tine Faseur, Joke Persyn and Eef Scheerlinck carried out research on private fundraising from the organisations’ point of view. The focus was put on the actual practices of non-profits regarding fundraising.

Also, very much relevant is the research work carried out by the economist Philippe Defeyt and its Institute for Sustainable Development. The institute has already issued two short reports (2011 and 2014) about generosity in Belgium, based on the available public data. These reports highlight two major indicators of giving: the tax-deductible donations[4] and the data displayed by organisations collecting data about donations made to the main Belgian development cooperation organisations. More info about this research is provided in  the earlier paragraphs.

Other interesting data about giving in Belgium come from organisations trying to promote giving in different fields, from different players and at different levels. In a non-exhaustive list, one can mention, a platform aiming at providing objective information about Belgian non-profits;, a fundraiser’s association trying to gather all the relevant information for Belgian fundraisers;, a non-profit promoting philanthropic legacies in Belgium; or promethean, a non-profit promoting corporate philanthropy in Belgium.

In brief, data about giving in Belgium remain very scattered among players from the philanthropic sector at large. Apart from the philanthropy index and barometer of the KBF, most initiatives are one shots and aim at providing relevant and useful information for the players in the field. The development, at HEC-ULg, of an academic chair fully dedicated to philanthropy will help fill these gaps through the setting up of a long-term and comprehensive research programme regarding the Belgians’ giving behaviour.

Overview of Giving in Belgium

In the light of the above, giving an estimation of the total giving in Belgium for 2013, or even for previous years, remains very tricky. The available data, whether they concern giving by individuals, by corporations or by foundations, are very incomplete and fragmented. Moreover, it is quite difficult to have a longitudinal understanding about how giving in Belgium is evolving, as many surveys are only one-offs, or because the survey methodologies have evolved, making comparisons difficult.

Many numbers are not available for 2013. However, we can try to estimate the total giving in Belgium for 2012, bearing in mind that the numbers used are incomplete, and that it corresponds to a low estimate, as many donations are below the radar of administrative services and survey attempts, and because we do not have any information about the foundations contributions. As corporate sponsorship numbers are not available for 2012, we have used the 2011 numbers and stipulated this in table 1. The total contributions for 2012 in Belgium amount at least at € 751 million. If we add the King Baudouin Foundation’s contribution for 2012, i.e. € 22 297 586, the total amount increases to € 773 million. We must not forget, however, that the 2012 National Lottery subsidy included a € 12 390 533 specific funding allocation to the KBF. The problem is that we do not know if this amount has been entirely allocated as gifts, or if part of this amount was also allocated to cover some operating costs at the KBF. This problem will also arise with other big public interest foundations, such as Child Focus, the Queen Paola Foundation etc., which also receive specific funding allocation from the National Lottery, or with many others that may receive one-off subsidies from the latter. When the numbers are made available regarding foundations’ contributions, notably based on the Baillet Latour Chair 2015 survey, we will have to pay particular attention to this issue in order to avoid any double-counting in the country’s total contributions.

Table 1. Sources of contributions in 2012

Sources of contributions million EUR Data sources Data year
Individuals/tax deductible in vivo donations  402 Sustainable development Institute 2012
Individuals/charitable bequests  140 Philanthropy Index KBF/Itinera Institute 2012
Individuals /sub-total  542  
Cash corporate sponsorship  378 Promothea/Ipsos survey 2011
National Lottery Federal subsidy  – [8] National Lottery 2012
Foundations n.a. n.a. n.a.
Total (without foundations) 920

As far as the uses of the contributions are concerned, it is much more complex to compare and summarise the available data. The first problem is that the purposes’ typologies used by the main providers of the data on giving differ significantly from one source to another, and at this stage of the research, it was not possible for us to access their databases to reorganise the data following the template provided. This may, however, be possible for some (e.g. National Lottery). The second problem is that the years for which the data are available differ from one data provider to another. The third problem is that, even if most data provided are objective data, some are only trends identified through surveys on more or less representative samples (for instance data on individuals’ in vivo contributions); others are statistics based on the mission expressed by the organisation (this is the case with the Baillet Latour Chair data on the foundations’ missions, based on the coding of the main missions indicated in the foundations’ legal statuses). In brief, trying to summarise the uses of the contributions based on such incomplete and dissimilar data is like comparing apples and oranges. In table 2, we tried, however, to put the available data in perspective, although this required a lot of methodological ‘adjustments’. It remains very difficult to draw any conclusions based on this table.

Table 2. Uses of contributions in 2012

Uses of contributions Individuals/In vivo donations



Corporations Foundations National Lottery
Source Philanthropy Barometer KBF/Itinera Institute



Baillet-Latour Chair @HEC-Ulg National Lottery societal report
Year 2011 Average 2012/2013 2012 2013 2012
WARNING ! Goals favoured by potential donors in Belgium; phone survey on 1000 Belgian citizens Sample of 54 charities collecting at least 1 million €/y Phone survey with 558 responding companies with > 20 employees Analysis of the prime fields of action detailed in the foundations legal statuses (mission) Quite dissimilar purposes typology
Religion n.a. n.a. n.a. 5% n.a.
Health 39%


Probably included in education and research


(Scientific and medical research)

15% n.a.
International aid 18% 38% 24% (International aid and public/social benefit (national) 8% 54%
Public/social benefit (national) 21% 44% 29% 26%
Culture 1%


(and national heritage)

20% 8%


nature/ animals (inter)national

6% 2% 2% 4%
Education 11%


(Education & research)

4% 6%
Sports 40% 4%
Science 5% 1%
National heritage 7%
Other (not specified) 2% n.a. 6% 7%

As a final conclusion, we should point out the significant gaps in the knowledge about giving in Belgium. Diverse players from the philanthropic field provide the available data, with very little coordination between them. In the academic field, very few researchers or research centres focus on the topic of giving. Research and surveys about giving and related topics seem to be very dependent on academics’ individual research interests and funding. As a consequence, there are no longitudinal studies available about giving or certain aspects of giving. The exceptions to this are the KBF/Itinera index and barometer of philanthropy in Belgium that were updated in 2014, and the report on generosity authored by Philippe Defeyt from the Sustainable Development Institute, also updated in 2014. However, the methodology used for the index and the barometer have not been made publicly available. Both exceptions regard giving by individuals.

As far as foundations are concerned, since the late 1990s, a few one-off surveys have been carried out by academics, sometimes in collaboration with the KBF. The Belgian Network for foundations does not seem to be ready to set up such a research programme, probably because it is lacking the necessary personnel and financial means. The new Baillet Latour Chair in Philanthropy, however, launched in 2014 an extensive and comprehensive research programme on Belgian foundations, which should help fill the data gaps.

As regards corporate philanthropy, the development of Promethea will probably foster the production of data on giving by corporations. New surveys should certainly include within their scope companies with fewer than 20 employees, as the economic landscape in Belgium involves many small and very small businesses (in Wallonia, more than 90 per cent are (very) small businesses). Moreover, as Belgian law differentiates between sponsoring and philanthropy, it is necessary to refine the survey in order to understand the different types of contributions.

Regarding charity lotteries’ contributions, the situation is quite simple in Belgium, because the only organisation is the National Lottery, which publishes each year a detailed allocation of subsidies. It may, however, be necessary to gain access to raw data, in order to reorganise it in coherence with the purposes’ typology proposed for the Giving in Europe Project.


[1] HEC Liège, Baillet Latour Chair of Philanthropy and Social Investment

[2] HoGent, Faculty of Education, Health and Social Work

[3] The objectives of this website are similar to other web platforms such as or mentioned later in the document, as these web platforms intend to gather budgetary data from Belgian NGOs and non-profits to increase the transparency of the sector and stimulate giving to these organisations.

[4] in order to be tax-exempted, the donation must amount to at least at €40/year to one non-profit institution.

[8] As a general principle, amounts from lotteries that are decided upon by governments or include political interference are excluded from total amounts, because it is not considered as private actor.



Xhauflair, V., Mernier, A., Persyn, J., Bouckaert, A. (2017). Research on Giving in Belgium. In: Hoolwerf, L.K. & Schuyt, Th.N.M. (eds) Giving in Europe. The state of research on giving in 20 European countries. Amsterdam: Lenthe Publishers. A comprehensive profile and description of all data sources is available through the member portal.