European Research Network on Philanthropy

Institutional members

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Heidelberg University
Centre for Social Investment


Georg Mildenberger 
Heidelberg University
Centre for Social Investment
email: georg.mildenberger@

The Centre for Social Investment at Heidelberg University was established in 2006 and has its headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. Major academic disciplines are Sociology, Political science, Economics, Law, Protestant theology, and Social geography. Key research topics are Strategy, Roles of philanthropy, Impact, Partner/grantee perception reporting, Governance, and Foundations concepts and historical forms in Europe. Research topics adressed by the Centre are, among others:

  • How can we better understand social investments, civil society and namely philanthropy in an international, cross- cultural and inter-temporal perspective?
  • How do processes of social innovation work?
  • What is the contribution of civil society towards social innovation and social problem-solving?
  • How can philanthropic organizations develop high-impact strategies?
  • What could a diachronically and cross-culturally sustainable theory of philanthropy look like that combines social science modelling with perspectives from outside Western Europe from the fields of antiquity, regional studies, and religious studies?


University of Hamburghamburg university

School of Economics and Social Sciences
Department of Socioeconomics


Silke Boenigk
University of Hamburg
Department of Socioeconomics
email: Silke.Boenigk@

The chair for management of public, private, and non-profit organizations at the department of Socioeconomics at the University of Hamburg was established in 2008 and has its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. Major academic disciplines are Business administration, Economics, Sociology, and Law. Key research topics are Relationship marketing, Blood donor marketing, Nonprofit financial management, Refugee integration, and Civil society. Research questions adressed by the Chair are, among others:

  • Why do blood donors stop giving?
  • How do nonprofit organizations build long-term relationships with the next generation of donors?
  • What are the service needs of refugees and barriers to integration?
  • What pressures keep nonprofit organizations from investing in their organizational infrastructure?
  • What does it take to transform prosocial motivation into prosocial behavior?


Sources of philanthropy

In order to get a picture of the size and scope of the the philanthropy sector in a country, different sources of philanthropy are classified. In defining philanthropy, a definition is used that is being used in the longitudinal Giving in the Netherlands study, which defines philanthropy as ‘voluntary contributions by means of money, goods and/or time (expertise), given by individuals and private organisations (foundations, corporations and charity lotteries), and serving primarily the public good’. Note that in answering the question of who gives what to whom, ‘given to organisations’ is added, because the numbers focus on institutionalised philanthropy.

Giving by households (in vivo)

Three types of voluntary contributions are mentioned, namely money, goods and time. Although volunteering by individuals is an important part of the voluntary contribution of individuals, measuring and monetising voluntary work is still very much a work in progress. Moreover, the possibilities for monetising volunteering is questionable and still very much an academic debate. Therefore, volunteering by individuals will not be a part of the figures. Also data on in-kind giving is hard to find, and has been only be included if available.

Giving by individuals also does not include any taxes that are being redistributed to non-profits serving the public good, such as church taxes, tax redistribution schemes, or percentage philanthropy practices. Although these practices form an important source of revenue for many non-profits, the voluntary aspect of these practices is missing. 

Giving by bequest

Bequests, making donations to charitable organisations by means of a testament or will, are a specific income source in the income portfolio of non-profit organisations. Acclaimed as one of the drivers of ‘the new golden age of philanthropy’, the unprecedented expected intergenerational transfer of wealth provides major opportunities for non-profit organisations. As we can only rely on secondary sources, collecting data on bequests is more difficult than for in-vivo donations.

Giving by foundations 

Despite legal differences between European countries of what is considered to be a foundation, foundation giving is defined as monetary donations from a private non-profit organisation derived from an endowment. By only including donations derived from endowments, instead of adding the total expenditure by foundations, counting donations from individuals and/or other organisations twice is prevented.

Giving by corporations 

Although this overview excludes individual volunteering, some voluntary work is included nevertheless. For corporate giving we tried to include the total contribution by a company as calculated by the LBG model – one of the most commonly used methods by corporations (see This includes cash and in-kind donations in addition to the value of the work hours donated through employee volunteering schemes and any management costs incurred in implementing community investment initiatives. As a distinction between absolute giving (no returns from the recipient) and sponsoring (the recipient delivers a non-monetary return) cannot easily be made, sponsoring is also included.

Giving by charity lotteries

The final source of philanthropy comes from charity lotteries. Charity lotteries are not considered to be a conduit or form of individual giving, but specific organisations donating a considerable percentage of their revenue to charitable organisations. Also, charity lotteries are considered to be private players, independent from governments or politics. In many European countries, the revenue from (national) lotteries is redistributed to charitable organisations. However, in a number of cases they are a supplement to or replacement for government subsidies. As these lotteries are not independent organisations, for the purposes of this publication these lotteries are not included.

Philanthropic goals

For the aim of creating country profiles on giving, we have at least tried to include all the potential philanthropic goals. Next, we have provided broad categories that give a functional overview of significant philanthropic goals, instead of providing very detailed categories that might be considered independent categories in themselves in one country but do not exist in another, or might be considered too small.

For the aim of the country profiles the following categories have been used:

  1. Religion
  2. Health
  3. International aid
  4. Public and/or social benefit (national)
  5. Sports and recreation
  6. Culture
  7. The environment, nature and/or animals
  8. Education
  9. Other (not specified)

Data quality

In order to answer the questions of who gives what to which charitable goals, we must first ascertain how accurate the answers to these questions really are. In other words, we need to know whether the studies that have been carried out to collect data on giving by individuals, corporations, foundations and charity lotteries actually measure what they are supposed to. Regarding collecting data on giving, this is not always as easy as it might seem. Answers to questions on giving depend on the way those questions are asked, the number of prompts and the length of the survey. Different methodologies lead to different outcomes.

Therefore, in order to make a country profile on giving, all contributors were asked to describe the background to the data that were available in 2015 about giving in 2013[1]. They included the sources of the data collection (secondary sources or population surveys), the frequency of the data collection (if any) and the most recent year of the data collection. Regarding the target populations, the description of the data quality includes statements about representativeness, their response rates and validity. They further described the questionnaires they used, the instruments for data collection and their internal validity, but also the sources of the data (sponsors), their accessibility (public or private and the costs involved for retrieving the data), the locations, availability and studies carried out using the dataset. Finally, they gave a description about the background variables included in the dataset. With the aim of assessing the data quality, we used representativeness, validity, the availability of a classification in categories of philanthropic goals and whether the dataset includes some (relevant) background variables.

[1] The country profiles contain data that was available in 2015 on giving in a country in 2013. It might be that new data has become available more recently.

Introduction on Giving Research in Germany

Silke Boenigk[1], Martin Hölz[2], Georg Mildenberger[3], Jutta Schrötgens, [4] Tobias Vahlpahl[5] and Burkhard Wilke[6]

Research on philanthropy in Germany is being conducted in several ways by various researchers, disciplines and institutions (Adloff, 2005; Priller and Sommerfeld, 2005; Zimmer et al., 2013; Helmig and Boenigk 2012; Mews and Boenigk, 2015; Wilke, 2009). A central institution which is responsible for collecting and analysing Giving Research for Germany does not exist. Recently, in September 2016, a nationwide project called ‘Forum Civil Society Research’ [Forum Zivilgesellschaftsforschung] was started under the umbrella of the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of German Science and Humanities [Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft]. It aims to prepare a comprehensive data collection on civil society until 2018, i.e. as a joint effort of all institutions in Germany which conduct regular, ongoing research on civil engagement. This is due to the fact that in Germany knowledge and data about giving money, in kind, time or even blood donations is fragmented, and the research studies available are often one-off and analyse single aspects of giving. Previous studies have mostly focused on the Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-Profit Sector Project and documented details on the non-profit sector in Germany (Zimmer, Priller and Anheier, 2013). In this context two aspects are of importance. First, readers should reflect that a lot of data on the German non-profit sector, and therein on giving, was collected in the mid-1990s, and therefore is no longer up to date. Second, most of the studies focused on sector-specific aspects and not explicitly on Giving Research or data sources explicitly on giving. This chapter, however, aims to give a systemized and comprehensive overview of the state-of-the-art of Giving Research in Germany. In the following research landscape overview we present an outline of the institutions and their scientific background. Herein we differentiate between Giving Research from: (1) independent institutions and network projects, (2) universities and other academic institutions, and (3) research-oriented initiatives from non-profit practice. Finally, we systemize Giving Research in Germany by data access possibilities and thereby hopefully encourage future research studies.

Giving Research at independent institutions and network projects

The German Central Institute on Social Issues [Deutsches Zentralinstitut für Soziale Fragen DZI, founded in 1893 and located in Berlin] is a key player in the topic of giving in Germany. The mission and character of the DZI is to be an independent information and documentation centre in the overall area of social and welfare work. The DZI differentiates three main working areas: (1) The donor advisory service, mainly known for awarding the DZI Seal-of-Approval [Spendensiegel] to money-collecting non-profit organisations, (2) the library and literature database on social and welfare work, and (3) the publishing department editing the monthly magazine ‘Social Work’ [Soziale Arbeit] and other publications. By 2015, 232 charities had successfully applied for the DZI Seal-of-Approval (DZI, 2015a). Moreover, the DZI annually updates its detailed statistics on the financials of the sealed charities [DZI Spenden-Almanach], complemented by studies and surveys on the overall donation volume and the donation volumes of single, significant fundraising campaigns (DZI, 2015b).

Furthermore, various studies on donation volumes and donors’ attitudes have been published at or in cooperation with the Berlin Social Science Center [Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung] over the past 25 years (Priller and Sommerfeld; 2005; Priller and Schupp, 2011).

Also, several German foundations serve the mission of enriching Giving Research in Germany. For example, the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of German Science and Humanities [Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft], the Bertelsmann Foundation [Bertelsmann Stiftung] and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation [Fritz Thyssen Stiftung] supported this goal by financing the project ‘Civil Society in Figures’ [ZIVIZ- Zivilgesellschaft in Zahlen]. The ZiviZ project is the newest available research on the German non-profit sector, and the results show that the non-profit sector consists of over 615 000 organisations with approximately 2 284 410 employees (for detail see; Krimmer and Priemer, 2013). Also, the Jacobs Foundation [Jacobs Stiftung] and the Hans Böckler Foundation [Hans Böckler Stiftung] have supported research projects in cooperation with the Berlin Social Science Center.

Giving Research at universities and other academic institutions

In Germany, universities and other academic institutions with specialized chairs and research teams on non-profit organisations are very limited, and consequently professorships with a very narrow focus on Giving Research do not exist. Table 1. presents an overview of the universities at which Giving Research is realized. However, please note, that such an overview can never be comprehensive or even up to date. Besides the non-profit/giving researchers listed, several other public management and healthcare management research(ers) exist, which are not included in this overview. Giving Research in Germany is interdisciplinary minded and comes from the following disciplines: Business administration, economics, political science and sociology.

Table 1. Giving Research at German universities and other academic institutions

University Focus/Center Discipline Researcher(s)
Heidelberg University Center for Social Investment Interdisciplinary Prof. Dr. Geibel; Prof. Anheier, PhD, Dr. Volker Then; Dr. Georg Mildenberger
Leibniz University Hannover HRM in NPOs Business Adm. Prof. Dr. Hans-Gerd Ridder

Dr. Hans-Jürgen Bruns; Dr. Rebekka Skubinn

University of Freiburg Public & Non-profit Management Business Adm. Prof. Dr. Jörg Lindenmeier

Prof. Dr. Iris Saliterer

Dr. Ann-Kathrin Seemann

University of Hamburg Public & Nonprofit Management

Civil Society

Non-profit Economics

Business Adm. Sociology Economics Prof. Dr. Silke Boenigk; Dr. Jurgen Willems

Prof. Dr. Frank Adloff Prof. Dr. Andreas Lange

University of Mannheim Public & Non-profit Management Business Adm. Prof. Dr. Bernd Helmig

Dr. Julia Thaler

University of Münster ifpol: Civil Society Political Science Prof. Dr. Annette Zimmer
University of Potsdam Public & Non-profit Management

Sociology of Wealth

Business Adm.


Prof. Dr. Isabella Proeller

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lauterbach

Technical University of Kaiserslautern Sustainable Management Business Adm. Prof. Dr. Katharina Spraul
Technology Art Sciences Cologne Social Sciences Business Adm. Prof. Dr. Michael Urselmann

Berlin Social Science Center

Science Center Sociology Dr. sc. Eckhard Priller

Giving Research initiatives initiated and supported by non-profit practice

The German Donor Council [Deutscher Spendenrat e.V.] is an umbrella association of non-profit organisations with a focus on humanitarian, animal and ecological missions, and supports Giving Research projects. Regarding Giving Research, the most relevant contribution of the German Donor Council is the realization of an annual donor survey, the so-called Balance Sheet on Giving [Bilanz des Helfens/Charity Scope], which is conducted in cooperation with the market research institute GfK Germany. In addition, we assume that many individual projects and forms of cooperation between non-profit practice and single giving researchers exist. In this section, we focus on more formally established research initiatives. For example, the German fundraising association [Deutscher Fundraisingverband] supports fundraising research in its mission. In 2010, the German Red Cross Blood Donation Service North East [DRK-Blutspendedienst Nord-Ost] agreed on research cooperation with the University of Hamburg. This research team is specialized in blood donation management aspects such as motives for blood donation, segmentation and blood donation satisfaction (Boenigk et al., 2014).

Giving Research by data source

Within the previously mentioned ‘Civil Society in Figures’ study an additional document on relevant data sources was published (Tamm et al., 2011). Here it is explained that first of all, giving data comes from official statistical sources [Federal Statistical Office] and panel surveys, such as the socio-economic panel (SOEP, 2011; Wagner et al., 2007); herein the data sets are available for researchers. First, the Federal Statistical Office provides two types of data on giving: Every five years the sample survey of income and expenditure [Einkommens- und Verbrauchsstichprobe] (Destatis n.d.) gives information on donations and membership fees. Every year – but with a time shift of approximately four years – the income tax statistics give information about the annual amounts of donations and of membership fees that have been accepted for tax exemption (Urselmann and Loos, 2015). Second, the socio-economic panel collected data on individual giving in its panel in 2010. Furthermore, two market research institutes, GfK and TNS Infratest, collect giving data on a regular basis. These data sets are not available to share for research, but the empirical results are regularly documented.

Most of the listed data sources collect giving information on a regular basis; monthly, annually or every five years, and ask about money donations and other behavioural aspects of giving in Germany.

The data on time donations are published in the so-called German Survey on Volunteering [Deutscher Freiwilligensurvey]. Until now, this survey has been realized in four waves in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. The anonymized and edited data of the German Survey on Volunteering is available for scientific use (DZA, 2015). The data on giving blood are limited, but in the Socio-Economic Panel from 2010, some questions on blood donations in Germany were also integrated.

Table 2 Data sources on giving in Germany

Data collected by Name of the survey/source Time and sample of the data collection Information on
Federal Statistical Office Income and Expenditures

Income Tax Statistics

Every five years; 60 000 households

Every year, all income tax payers

Donations, fees, tax

Donations, fees

TNS Infratest


Donor Monitor Every year, 4 000 households Money Donations


German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) (2010) Irregular, in 2010 questions on money and blood donations Money Donations

Blood Donations

GfK /German Donor Council (Panel) Charity Scope/Bilanz des Helfens (2015) Every month, 10 000 individuals Money Donations

Time Donations

DZI German Central Institute on Social Issues Donation Almanac (2015) 232 NPOs with the DZI Seal-of-Approval Money Donations
DZA German Center on Gerontology German Survey on Volunteering Four waves 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 Time Donations
Donors´ Association for the Promotion of Science and Humanities, Bertelsmann Foundation, Fritz Thyssen Foundation Civil Society in Figures (ZIVIZ) (2012) Phase 1 (2010): Use of the data of the Federal Statistical Office (Unternehmensregister)

Phase 2 (2012): NPO Survey

Non-profit Sector

Despite the fact that the research landscape is fragmented, the Giving Research initiatives have developed over time. In July 2014, DZI and WZB organized a round table meeting where 15 national experts in the field of statistics on charity and giving discussed how to further improve cooperation and how to reduce data insufficiencies and methodological inconsistencies. However, there is room for a more intense debate and for collaborative giving projects on a national level as well as under the umbrella of the ERNOP network (

Overview of Giving in Germany

Table 3. summarizes all the currently known data about the amounts of giving by individuals, corporations, foundations and charity lotteries in Germany. This list should be considered with some caution because, as outlined above, the data sources are not systematized comprehensively in many fields, are based on extrapolations or do not report the current state of affairs. However, at first glance and for an overview, the amount of € 24 billion can serve as a point of reference.

Table 3. Giving in Germany (minimum estimates) in millions

Sources of contribution million EUR percentage

In vivo


6 500[7]


27 %
Corporations  11 222 47 %
Charity lotteries 280 1 %
Foundations[8]   6 000 25 %
Total 24 002 100%

Giving Research in Germany is often fragmented, both in institutions and research fields. We know that individuals, corporations, foundations and charity lottery make up this field. Some of these key players are comprehensively analysed; others lack systematic and comprehensive scientific studies. Also, as the differing numbers from the various studies on giving by individuals indicate, no definite amount can be given. So far, a lot of effort has been made and some reliable data sources have already been established. Further research should focus on matching the methods and approaches in order to provide a degree of comparability and to bring together this split research topic.

Furthermore, there is a special case that should be mentioned within the discussion on giving. Germany is a secular state and neutral regarding different religious faiths. Religious associations can be statutory corporations if they wish (and if they fulfil some very basic conditions such as, e.g. a certain continuity and size). Derived from a historical path, churches (with the status of statutory corporations) have the right to collect taxes with the assistance of the state. It is contested whether church taxes collected in this way may be seen as private giving. We do not want to make a final decision here, but we would argue that church taxes in Germany are voluntarily paid. No one has to be a member of a church and it is not difficult to leave a church, which is done by a simple declaration at the registrar´s office. The church tax is collected as a percentage of the income tax one owes (8-9%, depending on the federal states) and of tax on income from capital returns. Church taxes are fully tax deductible, and if they were not taken into account, the total of private giving would be changed drastically. The two big confessions organized at the German Bishops Conference [Deutsche Bischofskonferenz] and the Protestant Church in Germany [Evangelische Kirchen] specify the incomes from church taxes in 2013 as being € 5.46 billion and € 4.84 billion, respectively, a total amount of nearly € 10.3 billion (Kirchensteuern n.d.). Given that the debate about the state of church taxes has not yet been concluded, this amount is not listed in table 3. However, it should be kept in mind when discussing giving in Germany.


[1] Professor of Business Administration, in particular Management of Public, Private & Non-profit Organizations, University of Hamburg,

[2] Centre for Social Investment, Heidelberg University,

[3] Head of Research, Centre for Social Investment, Heidelberg University,

[4] PhD student and research assistant at the Chair of Silke Boenigk, University of Hamburg,

[5] Centre for Social Investment, Heidelberg University,

[6] Deutsches Zentralinstitut für soziale Fragen (DZI),

[7] For the total overview, an amount of 6.300 million euro’s has been used, since this was the estimated amount for 2013.

[8] Giving derived from income from endowment only (Then 2006). Current studies (Anheier 2015) estimate this amount with € 12, 5 billion; however, this latest source is unclear about the question whether the “budget” stems from endowment only or is combined with earned income.


Boenigk, S., Hölz, M., Mildenberger, G., Schrötgens, J., Vahlpahl, T., & Wilke, B. (2017) Research on Giving in Gemany. 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.

The country chapter can be downloaded here. The full study on Giving in Europe can be ordered at

Giving by individuals in Germany

The information available on cash and in-kind donations made by individuals (in contrast to time donations) is rather fragmentary and partially inconsistent; the different surveys also employ partially different concepts and methods. Statistical information on individual giving has, however, slightly improved in the past ten years.

  1. a) Donor percentage

The estimation on the percentage of donors among the German population differs between a minimum of 25% and a maximum of about 50%. In the database of the SOEP survey, a representative panel of the German population, Shehu et al. (2015) show that 42.96% of the German population are non-donors, 17.01% money donors, 11.36% time donors, 6.76% blood donors, and the rest give in more than one g form of donation. However, it seems obvious that the majority of the population in Germany does not donate, in contrast to – following the World Giving Index 2015 (CAF, n.d.) – comparable developed countries such as the UK (75%), the Netherlands (73%), Canada (67%), the US (63%) or Sweden (60%). In the short term, this trend is in a double sense not in accordance with the figures of the German Donor Council and GfK, according to which the donor rate (respondents aged 10 years and older) in the first nine months of 2014 was at 25.6% (2013: 27.8%). It fell and rose again to 27.1% during the same period in 2015. In total, it is significantly lower than as estimated by Gallup. Tracing both surveys over an extended period of about five years, one sees a rather stable donor rate, which, in the case of the German Donor Council and GfK remains at about 26%, while the CAF and Gallup studies indicate around 46%. The published differences in methods alone do not provide a satisfactory explanation for the different levels of these values.

  1. b) Donation volume

According to the DZI, German households spent approximately € 6.5 billion in donations for charitable purposes in 2014; this represents a moderate increase compared to 2013 (€ 6.3 billion). Excluding specific circumstances due to catastrophes, however, general donations clearly increased by +4.4% in 2014. The extrapolation shown below (Graph 1) is based on the DZI Index as well as on calculations of the total donations from households, which were published in 2009 by the Berlin Social Science Research Centre (WZB) and the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in 2011. Further details on the methodology and the development of donations were communicated 09.03.2015 in a detailed press release by the DZI (DZI, 2015).

germany graph 1
 Figure 1 Cash Donations Germany

Following the data collection ‘Donation 2015: Trends and Forecast’ [Spendenjahr 2015: Trends und Prognosen], published in the middle of November 2015 by the German Donor Council (Deutscher Spendenrat) and GfK SE Panel Services Germany, the amount of donations developed very positively and increased from January to September 2015 by 13.6% compared to the same period the previous year. Spendenrat and GfK quantified the amount of donations in the first nine months with € 3.4 billion (2014: € 2.7 billion). The number of donors increased from 17.3 million in 2014 to 18.4 million in the first nine months of 2015. The main reason for this increase lies in the special donations after the earthquake disaster in Nepal in April 2015 as well as in the generous donations to refugees and to help stricken countries in the Middle East that are in crisis. Also worth mentioning in this context are the sustained economic growth in Germany and the payroll increases for large segments of the population.

  1. c) Donation purposes

Regarding the allocation of funds to different common purposes, the Balance Sheet on Giving 2015 (German Donor Council, n.d) shows the bulk of giving goes to humanitarian aid (79% in 2014). 5.7% is spent on welfare purposes, 2.9% on culture and heritage conservation, 2.7% on environmental/nature conservation, 2.4% on sports, and 7.4% on other non-profit purposes.

  1. d) Number of non-profit organisations collecting donations

There is no detailed information or even estimations of the total number of charitable organisations in Germany. This is due to the fact that the term ‘donation organisation’ is not clearly defined. In 2013, the project ‘Civil Society in Figures’ published the ‘ZIVIZ Survey 2012’. It provided a comprehensive inventory of the civil society structures in Germany in 2012. Among other subjects such as ‘civic engagement and paid work’, ‘financial resources’ and ‘third sector organisations between civil society and the market’, this report gave a synopsis of the basic structure of the civil society sector with detailed statistics. In 2012 some 580 284 registered associations, 17 352 foundations under civil law, 10 006 non-profit limited liability companies and 8 502 cooperatives existed in Germany. The ZIVIZ Survey 2012 showed that the sector was financially supported as follows: 41% by membership fees, 27% by earned income, 20% by donations and sponsorship, 10% by public funds, and 2% by other sources. Unfortunately, no differentiation has been made between the categories of donations and of sponsorship. In 2016, an updated ZIVIZ-survey is planned.

For many years, the number of registered associations has been collected by the V & M Service GmbH. For 2014, it gives the number of 588 801 registered associations. They can be distinguished as follows according to purpose:

Table 2. Purposes of the registered associations in Germany

Mission focus of the association Number of associations Percentage
Leisure / supporting folklore 202 774 34.4%
Social / welfare services 107 391 18.2%
Sports 90 724 15.4%
Professional / trade associations / politics 90 328 15.3%
Interest groups / citizens’ initiatives 52 089 8.9%
Art / Culture 28 556 4.9%
The environment / Nature 8 665 1.5%
Other 8 274 1.4%
Total in 2014 588 891 100%

At the end of 2014, according to current figures provided by the Association of German Foundations, there were 20 784 foundations under civil law. There are no accurate estimates of the number of non-registered associations and ecclesial foundations for Germany (which are certainly significant). All these organisations welcome any donations. Only a small part – conservatively estimated to be 2 000 to 3 000 – carry out fundraising activities on a regular basis in a systematic and nationwide fashion.


Boenigk, S., Hölz, M., Mildenberger, G., Schrötgens, J., Vahlpahl, T., & Wilke, B. (2017) Research on Giving in Gemany. 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.

The country chapter can be downloaded here. The full study on Giving in Europe can be ordered at


Giving by bequest in Germany

At the moment there is no information on giving by bequest available.

Giving by corporations in Germany

The most recent publicly available report that includes giving by corporations comes from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth [Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ] (2012a, 2012b). For this report, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research [Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln] surveyed a panel of 30 000 corporations in 2011, of which 4 392 corporations reported civil engagement, and subsequently 2 500 corporations provided more detailed answers on the forms of their engagement. An updated version of this report is expected to be presented to the Federal Cabinet [Bundeskabinett] in October 2016, then handed over to the German Bundestag before it can be subsequently published (Zentrum für zivilgesellschaftliche Entwicklung, 2016). Therefore, the following information relates to the previous report. The civil engagement of corporations in Germany is often treated within the broader notion of corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility (see Backhaus-Maul et al., 2010; Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2005; Fifka, 2012; Herzig, 2006; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2012). Table 1. illustrates that corporate engagement takes place in a variety of sectors with a focus on sport and recreation as well as education, kindergartens and schools.

Yes significantly Yes but only a little No
Sport and recreation 39.0 29.2 31.8
Education, kindergartens and schools 37.0 38.3 24.7
Social/Integration 23.1 30.9 46.0
Art and culture 17.9 31.4 50.7
Universities, Research 14.5 21.5 64.0
Health 13.2 19.9 66.9
The environment/disaster relief 11.8 21.2 67.0
International/development aid 7.4 12.7 80.2
Human rights 3.6 12.7 83.6

 Table 1. Percentage of corporations engaged in different sectors (BMFSFJ, 2012a; 2012b)

With regard to further findings on corporate engagement in Germany, different forms can be distinguished. Both practitioners and academia often separate corporate giving and corporate volunteering (e.g., BMFSFJ, 2012a; 2012b; Braun and Kukuk, 2007; Braun, 2010; CCCD, 2007). Corporate giving includes money, in-kind and product contributions, as well as infrastructure support and free services to non-profit organisations (Braun and Kukuk, 2007). Corporate volunteering is generally defined as the voluntary engagement of employees during their working hours (Herzig, 2006). The BMFSFJ (2012) further defines corporate support as a third form where corporations realize their civil engagement via intermediaries.

Corporate Giving

  1. a) Corporate giving

Corporate giving is the most important form of corporate civil engagement in Germany, both in terms of monetary volume and reported popularity (BMFSFJ, 2012a; 2012b).  shows that corporations gave € 8.5 billion in monetary contributions, € 1.5 billion in in-kind contributions and € 900 million in infrastructure support. Similarly, 84% of the surveyed corporations indicated that 55% contributed in-kind donations and 40% offered infrastructure to charitable causes (BMFSFJ, 2012a; 2012b). The results are in line with several earlier studies from academia (Braun, 2010; Maaß and Clemens, 2002; Mecking, 2010) and market research institutions (e.g. Forsa, 2005). However, the overall validity of the research on corporate giving in Germany is still relatively poor, i.e. even less consistent than the data available on private household giving (DZI, 2010, pp. 70-71). While most studies so far have generated their data by surveying corporations, data on corporate giving can also be extracted from annual reports and the tax data of corporations (Neumayr, Schober and Schneider, 2013). This is due to the fact that, similar to monetary donations by individuals, monetary donations by corporations are tax deductible if they comply with certain standards as outlined by the Income Tax Act [Einkommenssteuergesetz EstG §10b] (Bundesministerium für Justiz und Verbraucherschutz, 2015).

corporate giving germany

Figure 1. Civil engagement by German corporations (BMFSFJ, 2012a, 2012b)

b) Corporate volunteering

Corporate volunteering has become increasingly popular in recent years (Herzig, 2006), yet in terms of the estimated value of € 22 million it is still rather insignificant in size. The percentages of corporations engaged in corporate volunteering differ depending on the respective report. For example, the BMFSFJ (2012a; 2012b) indicates that 50% of the corporations engage in corporate volunteering, Herzig (2006) reports only 38.4%, whereas the American Chamber of Commerce and Roland Berger (2011) speak of 83.5%. To date, corporate volunteering is more often initiated by employees than by the companies themselves, or it originates from long-term partnerships (Herzig, 2006). So far, the empirical research on corporate volunteering in Germany has mainly focused on the motivations of corporations to engage in corporate volunteering (e.g. Herzig, 2006; Pinter, 2006). Finally, and in addition to the reports about Germany in general, research on corporate volunteering at a local level (the example of Bremen) has also been published (Kamlage et al., 2013).

c) Corporate support

 Corporate support as defined by the BMFSFJ (2012a; 2012b) includes civil engagement that happens via intermediaries, for example in the form of social lobbying, corporate foundations, social commissioning and social enterprises, and is estimated at around € 300 million. However, this definition is not uniformly agreed upon, as, for example, Mecking (2010) includes corporate foundations in corporate giving. In any case, corporate foundations represent an important vehicle for corporations with respect to their giving, and many of the large German foundations are actually corporate foundations (BMFSFJ, 2012). For instance, one of Germany’s largest corporate foundations Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH is active in the sectors of education and health as well as in arts and culture, and has contributed over € 1.3 billion to charitable causes since its inception in 1964 (Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, 2016).

To conclude, the research landscape regarding giving by corporations in Germany is fragmented, as the research reports are published by various players, e.g. the government, practitioners and universities. Public data sources are not yet available, as the data from the cited reports have been collected and stored by individual researchers. However, the data from the cited study from the BMFSFJ (2012a; 2012b) are available for research purposes on request at the Cologne Institute for Economic Research.


Boenigk, S., Hölz, M., Mildenberger, G., Schrötgens, J., Vahlpahl, T., & Wilke, B. (2017) Research on Giving in Gemany. 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.

The country chapter can be downloaded here. The full study on Giving in Europe can be ordered at


Giving by foundations in Germany

Descriptive statistics of giving by foundations

Reliable and comprehensive information on the foundation sector in Germany is still not available to a satisfying extent. Nevertheless, there are some longstanding and good sources of data. In particular, the two large umbrella organisations provide useful databases that are used for general information and scientific research. The foundation sector in Germany is highly concentrated and dominated by the largest organisations. The Association of German Foundations [Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen] highlights that already the 15 largest foundations spend nearly € 1 billion per year and the overall amount spent is probably some € 15 billion (in 2004) (Hopt et al., 2006). This figure has to undergo some critical scrutiny. The most important analytical problem is that the different organisational forms that all come under the same legal definition of a public benefit foundation derive very different shares of the expenditure from either their capital interest or donations. The sources of foundations’ income are not only giving by endowment and donations but also market income for goods and services and public subsidies.

These different sources of income are important to different types of foundations and to foundations that work in different fields in varying degrees. In particular, foundations that work in an operative way in the field of social services obtain most of their income not from capital interest or donations, but from market income and subsidies. Foundations in the educational sector seem to derive their income more often directly from donations and capital interests (Anheier, 2015, 11). Estimations that try to narrow the focus down to the amount of foundations’ income that qualifies as giving by the foundation sector come to a total of some € 6 billion per year (Then, 2006).

Table 1. Number of foundations donating to different goals and the mean amount donated in 2013

Number of foundations Mean amount donated1
Religion n/a n/a
Health n/a n/a
International aid n/a n/a
Public/social benefit (national) 4 429 (28.8%) n/a
Culture 2 342 (15.2%) n/a
The environment/nature/ animals (inter)national 648 (4.2%) n/a
Education 2 362 (15.2%) n/a
Science and research 1 912 (12.4%) n/a
Other (not specified) public benefit 2 880 (18.7%) n/a
Total   Apr. € 12.5 billion2

Source: Association of German Foundations [Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen], 2013

For the same analytical problems, a proper attribution of expenditures to income sources is not possible with the available data. In order to fill this gap, we would have to assess the income share of the different sources on an organisational level. With this information we could weigh up the respective expenditure and get a much better picture of the field than before.

Data sources of giving by foundations

Unfortunately, in Germany no statistics derived from public foundation registration are available. The main source of statistical information about the foundation sector in Germany is the Association of German Foundations [Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen], which is one of the two large umbrella organisations for foundations. The data from the Association are based on the database of member-organisations, which covers the largest part of the sector since on the database there are over 20 000 foundations. The database is kept up to date through surveys that are performed on a regular basis. The Association of German Foundations disseminates owns publications on research on the foundation sector. One regular publication is the record of German foundations [Verzeichnis Deutscher Stiftungen], which is a searchable version of the database, the annual Foundation Report [Stiftungs Report] and some topic-centred publications. Other sources of data on the German foundation sector consist mainly of single research projects and initiatives to survey the larger non-profit sector or civil society organisations. One informative source that should be mentioned is the current project on Roles and Positions of German Foundations [Rolle und Positionierung deutscher Stiftungen], conducted by the Hertie School of Governances and the Centre for Social Investment (Anheier, 2015).


1     The difficulty with this column is that the available statistics do not differentiate between the expenditures of foundations that derive from different income sources. Giving in a more narrow sense could only come from endowments only. But foundations receive income from a variety of different sources like endowment, business activities, public funding and many more. The data indicate that about 50% of foundations’ expenditure is derived from endowments.

2     Please note that this is total spending and not the approximation outlined above (see Anheier, 2015).


Boenigk, S., Hölz, M., Mildenberger, G., Schrötgens, J., Vahlpahl, T., & Wilke, B. (2017) Research on Giving in Gemany. 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.

The country chapter can be downloaded here. The full study on Giving in Europe can be ordered at

Giving by charity lotteries in Germany

German law on gambling has a special category of lotteries, called lotteries with minor danger of addiction. Those lotteries have to use at least 30% of their sales for social purposes. Most of these lotteries are charity lotteries; many of them are local and are in the style of tombolas or the like. There are three big and well-established national lotteries that are explicitly socially motivated and operate all over Germany. They are the German Television Lottery [Deutsche Fernsehlotterie, formerly ARD-Fernsehlotterie ‘A place in the sun’], Aktion Mensch [formerly Aktion Sorgenkind] and the Glücksspirale.

All were, at least for a period of time, connected to TV shows that combined entertainment, marketing, some information on the funded projects and organisations, and games with the winners draw. The oldest lottery is the German Television Lottery, which was established in 1956 as ‘A place in the sun’ [Ein Platz an der Sonne] to give families and children from West Berlin the opportunity to spend a holiday in a nice place. Later the scope was widened and the beneficiaries now include elderly and handicapped people, hospices and organisations that provide support for families and children. Aktion Mensch was established in 1964 as Aktion Sorgenkind and concentrates mostly on support for handicapped people and the promotion of an inclusive society. It is the biggest charity lottery in Germany. ‘Glücksspirale’ was established in 1969 to raise money for the Olympics in 1972 and the football world championship in 1974. ‘Glücksspirale’ is basically a pension lottery. The main prize is a lifelong pension. ‘Glückspirale’ uses 27% of its income on social purposes. In the beginning its focus was on sport and social issues. Nowadays it funds sport, social purposes, listed buildings and other purposes (often environmental) with 25% each. The money is transferred to partner organisations that are responsible for distribution (the German Olympic Sports Confederation [Deutscher Olympischer Sportbund], the Federal Association of Non-statutory Welfare [Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der freien Wohlfahrtspflege], the German Foundation for Monument Protection [Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz]).

A newcomer is the Deutsche Sportlotto established in 2014, which only became operational in 2015. There also exists the German Lottoblock, an umbrella organisation of different bodies of state-owned Lotto companies organized on the federal state level. These lotteries also organize the TOTO, which is basically a sports betting operation where players make bids on the results of soccer matches. These lotteries have to pay a concession fee (legally contested) of 23% of their income (in addition to the lottery tax). The federal states have to use the generated income for social issues, youth help, sports etc. But these lotteries are not considered to be charity lotteries. In total the income generated by the ‘Deutscher Lotto und Toto Block’ is much higher than that from the Soziallotterien (around € 7 billion per year, with around € 1.3 billion going to the federal states for social purposes). But it might not be seen as a form of giving, as the gamblers do not intend to help with social issues. It is usually assumed that this connection is not explicitly known by gamblers.

 a) Descriptive statistics of giving by charity lotteries

The German Television Lottery publishes its balance sheet in the Federal Bulletin [Bundesanzeiger]. The last year reported is 2013, unofficial numbers for 2014 are available from the lotteries. As ‘Glücksspirale’ is part of the Deutscher Lotto und Toto Block, it is organized in federal state societies, so it is hard to get aggregated data. The Deutsche Lotto und Toto Block publishes aggregated numbers on its website. Detailed information on the supported initiatives, projects and organisations is available in principle but is not always easily accessible.

Table 1. Number of charity lotteries donating to different goals and the mean amount donated, 2013

Number of charity lotteries that donate to Mean amount donated
International aid
Public/social benefit (national) 3 n/a
Culture 1 60 480 000
Environment/nature/ animals (inter)national 1 60 480 000
Education 93 362 070
Other (not specified) 1 60 480 000


million EUR percentage
International aid
Public/social benefit (national) 234.73  85%
Culture 15.12  5%
Environment/nature/ animals (inter)nat. 15.12  5%
Other (not specified) 15.12  5%
Total 280.09 100%


Boenigk, S., Hölz, M., Mildenberger, G., Schrötgens, J., Vahlpahl, T., & Wilke, B. (2017) Research on Giving in Gemany. 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.

The country chapter can be downloaded here. The full study on Giving in Europe can be ordered at


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