Select Page


European Research Network on Philanthropy

Institutional members

csi logo

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 addressed 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

Faculty of Business, 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 addressed 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?

Freiburg University

Institute for Economics, Public and Non-Profit Management 


Marlene Walk
Freiburg University
Institute for Economics, Public and Non-Profit Management
email: marlene.walk@

The institute for Economics, Public and Nonprofit Management at Freiburg University was established in 2013 and has its headquarters in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Major academic disciplines are economics, sociology and psychology. Key research topics are corporate Governance, corporate social responsibility, ethics, nonprofit marketing, volunteering, human Resource Management, organisational behaviour, and change management. Research questions addressed by the institute are, among others:


  • Why do individuals want to work for nonprofit organizations?
  • How can nonprofit organizations retain their paid and unpaid workers?
  • What are the factors that drive prosocial and sustainable behavior?
  • How do consumers, citizens, volunteers etc. react to instances of unethical organizational behavior?
  • How should nonprofit organization design their marketing programs to increase prosocial and sustainable behavior?

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.

A comprehensive profile and description of all data sources is available through the member portal.