European Research Network on Philanthropy

Institutional members

University of Baselceps
Center for Philanthropy Studies


Georg von Schnurbein
Center for Philanthropy Studies
University of Basel
email: georg.vonschnurbein@ unibas.ch


The Center for Philanthropy Studies at the University of Basel was established in 2008 and has its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Major academic disciplines are Business Administration, Economics, Law, Sociology, Psychology, and Regional studies. Key research topics are NPO-Management, Cross-sector collaboration, Individual philanthropy, NPO Law & Economics, and Data on Philanthropy. Research questions adressed by the Center are, among others:

  • How can NPOs and foundations/philanthropists improve their effectiveness and efficiency?
  • How can NPOs and foundations be better managed?
  • How does philanthropy benefit the society?
  • How does the nonprofit of the future look like?
  • How do philanthropic organizations function in various jurisdictions?
  • What are the factors influencing philanthropy of individuals and what changes their strength? 


University of Genevaceps
Geneva Centre for Philanthropy


Mara de Monte
Geneva Centre for Philanthropy
University of Geneva
email: mara.demonte@ unige.ch

Henry Peter 
Geneva Centre for Philanthropy
University of Geneva
email: henry.peter@ unige.ch

The Geneva Centre for Philanthropy was established in 2017 and has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Major academic disciplines are Law, Economics, Management, Affective sciences, Business ethics, and Psychology. Key research topics are Taxation and philanthropy, Social entrepreneurship, Hybrid entities, Artificial intelligence, and Diversity and governance of foundation boards. Research questions adressed by the Centre are, among others:

  • Why and how to design-tax incentives for the common good?
  • Why Social entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsability (CSR) could be the key drivers to achieve the Agenda 2030?
  • Why do people give?
  • How can foundations governance be more efficient?
  • What are the use and impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on philanthropy and what can philanthropy do to promote ethical and inclusive AI?

IMD Business School
cepsDebiopharm Chair for Family Philanthropy


Peter Vogel
Debiopharm Chair for Family Philanthropy
IMD Business School
email: peter.vogel@ imd.org

The Debiopharm Chair for Family Philanthropy at IMD Business School was established in 2017 and has its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Major academic disciplines are Philanthropy, Family Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, and Governance. Key research topics are Family Philanthropy, Family Business, Family Foundation, Family Mission, and Family Governance. Research questions adressed by the Chair are, among others:

  • What drives enterprising families to give?
  • How do enterprising families organize their giving?
  • How can enterprising families give more effectively or become more efficient at their giving?
  • How can family philanthropists leverage the existing governance mechanisms to better support their giving?
  • How does philanthropy affect the family business, the enterprising family itself and vice-versa?


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 www.lbg-online.net). 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 to research on giving in Switzerland

Georg von Schnurbein, Steffen Bethmann, Theresa Gehringer, Milena Jankovic and Simone Leibundgut[1]

Except for legal issues, research on philanthropy does not have a long tradition in Switzerland. It is only lately that the topic has received more attention. The only Swiss university with a specialized institute investigating philanthropy is the University of Basel, although research on related fields such as non-profit management or fundraising has been conducted at the universities of applied sciences and the University of Fribourg for longer. One common problem is data availability. While there are good datasets on volunteering and monetary donations by individuals, there are no comprehensive or detailed datasets about organisational giving. This is due to the fact that neither foundations nor charities are obliged to publish their financial data. Data about corporate donations are also only partially available. In order to improve this situation a parliamentary interest group on philanthropy has been formed that is attempting to address these issues in politics. Among other things, they are demanding that the tax authorities in cooperation with the Swiss Federal Statistical Office gather data on individual and corporate donations, as well as foundation spending, and create anonymized datasets for research purposes. The main research centres are the following:

The Center for Philanthropy Studies (CEPS) is the leading research institution on philanthropy in Switzerland. It was established in 2008 through an initiative of SwissFoundations, the umbrella organisation of grantmaking foundations. The CEPS is involved in various research projects in topics ranging from mission investing and performance measurement to social innovation or the management of non-profit organisations. One core area of research is grantmaking foundations. Together with SwissFoundations and the Center for Foundations Law of the University Zurich the CEPS publishes the Swiss Foundation Report every year, which includes statistical data on the foundation sector.

The Verbandsmanagement Institute (VMI) at the University of Fribourg is the oldest research centre in the field of non-profit management in Switzerland. Its research focuses on membership organisations, non-profit management and fundraising, among others. They also use the data of certified funds receiving social aid and relief organisations to analyse the sources of income and spending.

The Center for Foundation Law at the University Zürich does research into the legal environment of foundations. It is attempting to achieve full documentation of the relevant domestic and foreign case law and the literature related to foundation law.

The Institute of Political Science of the University of Bern is responsible for conducting the research of the Freiwilligenmonitor (Volunteering Monitor). This study is repeated every 3 to 5 years and focuses primarily on voluntary work within the Swiss population. Additional questions about the donation behaviour of individuals are included in the questionnaire.

The Center for Leadership and Values in Society (CLVS-HSG) at the University St. Gallen is primarily concerned with answering questions about the public value of corporations and organisations, or their contribution to the common good.

The Institute for Market and Social Research gfs-Zürich is a private company that was commissioned to research donation behaviour in the Swiss population by a group of NPOs from 1997-2014.

Overview of Giving in Switzerland


Even though the data are incomplete, it has become evident that philanthropic giving plays an important role in Switzerland. International aid and environmental organisations in particular depend on donations on a large scale. The social sector receives heavy state subsidies and earns income by providing services. However, especially through donations NPOs are able to innovate and further develop services. Government contracts are normally strict in terms of cost control and only pay for pre-defined services.

In Switzerland many welfare services were first developed and financed by civil society. Pension insurance and subsidies for people in need were founded privately before becoming institutionalized. Even though spending on social services is increasing, a strong sense of civic responsibility persists due to an enduring liberal tradition. The federalist structure of the country and the direct democratic system offer many opportunities for private participation and stimulate widespread engagement for public welfare. An estimated total of 90 000 non-profits for a population of eight million inhabitants prove the thriving significance of the philanthropic sector. The sector’s collaboration with the state is based on the principle of subsidiarity. However, the non-profits preserve a high degree of independence in both agenda setting and financial earnings.

The available data are most extensive in relation to individual giving. Following a statistical analysis, the results show that people most likely to give are protestants, women, people with higher education levels and home owners. That is not to say that others give far less or not at all. Interestingly, people following a religion other than Protestant or Roman Catholic tend to give more on average in Switzerland.

The large amounts of individual and organisational giving can be seen partly in the great amounts of disposable wealth within the Swiss population. To hear examples of large donations of over CHF 20 000 000 to zoos or museums is not unusual. Some of these are made anonymously as Swiss tradition normally does not allow boasting about charitable giving. At the same time there are ongoing efforts to establish a Swiss Giving Pledge and to bring the philanthropic engagement of wealthy Swiss people more into the public eye. Philanthropy by individuals, companies and grantmaking foundations is stimulated by the population’s disposable wealth, the nation’s liberal legal framework, which is simple to use in practice, and the international perspective. Switzerland combines a high standard of financial services and legal stability with access to international organisations and networks. This combination makes the nation attractive for both (ultra) high net worth individuals and international non-profits.

Research into giving by foundations and corporations is in its developmental stages. However, a lot of information is still needed that is missing due to difficulty in data accessibility. It would be huge step forward if the tax authorities were to create anonymized datasets for research purposes. This would allow a much more in-depth view of the numerous private contributions to the public good in Switzerland.

The following table includes all the available data. However, the numbers are based on estimations and do not all come from the same year. This descriptive statistics must be treated with caution, even though they give an overview based on the best data available. As these numbers are taken from different sources, double counts (e.g. corporate foundations as corporate donations and foundation giving) cannot be ruled out entirely. Another important thought to bear in mind is the exchange rate between the euro and the Swiss Franc. As the table is based on rough estimations we decided to use parity. The real exchange rate from April-May 2015 averaged around € 1.00 = CHF 1.04. From September 2013 to January 2015, the Swiss Franc was pegged to the euro with an exchange rate of € 1.00 = CHF 1.20. This currency fluctuation affects the comparability of the numbers in euros across Europe.

Table 1 Sources of contributions, in millions

Sources of contribution million EUR percentage

In vivo (2013/2014)

Bequests (2007)

1 381


33 %

16 %

Corporations (2013)   893 21 %
Charity lotteries
Foundations (2010)  1 278 30 %
Total   4 212 100 %

Due to a lack of specific data we have not divided the total sum of donations into different uses of contributions. Further research will hopefully allow a more specific point of view on the usage of private funds for the public good.


[1] Center for Philanthropy Studies, University Basel


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu


Giving by individuals in Switzerland

Swiss NPOs on average cover 8% of their costs through donations. They earn 57% through providing paid services, and 35% is covered through contracts with the state (Helmig et al., 2010). Looking at these numbers one might draw the conclusion that donations are not very important for Swiss NPOs. However, quite the contrary is the case. The numbers are blurred due to the many governmental subsidies and private incomes of large social welfare providers, as well as membership fees from sports clubs and trade associations. Religious institutions and international aid organisations still receive more than 40% of their income through donations, and environmental organisations around 20%. Without philanthropic contributions, they would have major problems maintaining their operations.

In Switzerland evaluations of giving by individuals are available from multiple sources. One data source is the annual donation survey of the Institute for Market and Social Research gfs-Zürich, which was commissioned during the period 1997-2014 by a group of non-profit organisations. The data were gathered from face-to-face interviews with around 1 500 respondents a year (random- quota selection). The results were published annually in short donation reports called Spendenmonitor. The 2-5 page-long publications only gave basic information about donations in Switzerland. The commissioning organisations received detailed reports and could ask for the inclusion of questions on special interests in the surveys. The results show that the mean donation per household equals around CHF 490. There are significant differences between the German-speaking and the French-speaking parts of Switzerland. In French-speaking Switzerland the mean is considerably lower (CHF 285) than in the German-speaking part (CHF 552). This difference can be explained through differing cultural views on the responsibility of the state in providing welfare services (von Schnurbein / Bethmann, 2010). A Swiss household supports four different organisations on average every year (gfs, 2014).

Another data source is the numbers provided by the ZEWO. The ZEWO is a private foundation that sets the governance standards for Swiss charities, and provides a certificate that demonstrates to donors that funds are used efficiently. The ZEWO monitors aspects such as corporate governance, the efficient use of funds and fundraising costs. This foundation conducts annual surveys among its 440 members. The public reports cover the following issues: comparative donation statistics, distribution, categories, topics and the total income of donations. The total amount of donations in Switzerland is then calculated on the basis of a projection based on these data. The ZEWO estimates that the total amount of donations in Switzerland equals around CHF 1.7 billion[2] (€ 1 381 000), from which two-thirds are given to ZEWO-certified organisations (ZEWO, 2014). At irregular intervals the ZEWO publishes reports on current issues, such as fundraising efficiency or performance measurement, using the data of the certified organisations.

The most extensive data source is the Volunteering Monitor. This study is initiated and largely financed by a civil society organisation called the Schweizerische Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft (SGG) in collaboration with Migros-Kulturprozent (a fund from the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland) and the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The results are published in book publications (Ammann/ Farago, 2007; Stadelmann et al., 2010). A detailed methodological report as well as the questionnaire used is available on the Internet (freiwilligenmonitor.ch); the research data output can be ordered separately. The first surveys were undertaken in 2006 and 2009 (published in 2007 and 2010) and the latest data were available at the end of 2015. The main focus of the Volunteering Monitor is, as the name suggests, the state of formal and informal time donations in Switzerland. However, questions about monetary donations are included in the survey, but only play a minor role in the publications.

The study of the Volunteering Monitor was conducted by a market research institute (DemoSCOPE AG) The interviews of the 2010 Monitor were held between September 14 and December 12 2009 using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews (CATIs). The survey was designed as a cross-sectional study with a target population of the entire Swiss population (including foreigners) older than 15 years of age and speaking one of the three official Swiss languages (German, French, Italian). They must also have a landline phone connection. The final dataset consists of 6 490 valid interviews. The sample was selected by a random-random-process. The person to be interviewed in any given household was chosen by the last birthday method.

An analysis of the 2009 survey has shown that 76 % of the Swiss population donates money or non-cash contributions. The majority of the Swiss population gives less than CHF 300. The median donation per person per year is around CHF 250. Around 12 % donates amounts greater than CHF 1 000 (Stadelmann-Steffen et al, 2010). Despite the financial crisis, there was no noticeable change compared to the survey in 2006, except for a slight shift away from funding international aid towards supporting ill or disabled people in local areas. One can see that the giving behaviour of people in Switzerland as a whole remains stable, or even shows an upward trend, as can be derived from the ZEWO statistics mentioned above. The Volunteering Monitor further analyses the individual characteristics of donors such as their age, level of education, income or size of the household. Unfortunately it does not show the total or mean amounts donated to specific topics.

In terms of percentages donated to causes no reliable numbers exist. We therefore refrain from making estimations that cannot be solidly based on data. As a data source for the total amount of funds donated to different categories we use the data from The Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (Helmig et al., 2010). It shows the total amount of donations classified by the ICNPO. Based on their calculations the total amount of donations equals around CHF 1.9 billion[3] (€ 1 377 000). However, as a consequence of international standardization, donations to state-funded churches (e.g. the Catholic Church and the Reformed Church) are not included in this figure.

Table 23.1 Donation incomes according to the ICNPO classification

million EUR[4] percentage
Religion 289 21 %
Health 149 11 %
International aid 135 10 %
Public/social benefit (national) 481 35 %
Culture & sports 225 17 %
Environment/nature/animals 51 4 %
Education 27 2 %
Total 1 359 100 %

Source: Helmig et al., 2010, p. 186


[2] Exchange rate for 2013: 1 Euro is equal to CHF 1.23

[3] Exchange rate for 2010: 1 Euro is equal to CHF 1.38 (CHF 1 is equal to 0,725 Euro), CHF 1.9 billion = rounded number

[4] Exchange rate for 2010: 1 Euro converts to CHF 1.3 (CHF 1 is equal to 0.7 Euro)


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu


Giving by bequest in Switzerland

The total sum of bequests is estimated to equal around CHF 1.1 billion (Stutz/Bauer/Schmugge, 2007) / € 660 000[5], where large chunks flow into the establishment of new foundations and not necessarily to existing non-profit organisations. For 2013, the ZEWO published the total amount of CHF 140 000 000, which its members receive from legacies. This value corresponds to 12.7 % of the total donation amount of CHF 1.1 billion of all the ZEWO-certified organisations. Other non-profit organisations draw attention to the option of giving by bequests. In order to encourage people to think about their legacies 16 Swiss charitable organisations combined forces and founded the MyHappyEnd platform. They shared costs to produce a joint video that encourages the inclusion of charities in peoples’ wills. There are no reliable data sources about the areas that receive bequests.

In the coming years we might see a strong increase in the money donated to charities as legacies. The inheritance law is under review. A new law most probably will decrease the legal amount allowed for close relatives, which in turn frees up more funds to be given to charitable organisations.


[5] Exchange rate for 2007: 1 Euro converts to CHF 1.6


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu



Giving by corporations in Switzerland

Data on corporate giving are rare in the Swiss context. Available studies focus primarily on corporate volunteering in Switzerland, such as Ammann et al. (2004) or Lorenz et al. (2011). At the beginning of their study Ammann et al. (2004) give a brief overview of how companies support the general public. Their sample consists of 641 respondents who answered a survey sent out to 3 923 subscribers of a magazine for employers, although the data gathered do not represent the typical Swiss economic landscape. Within the group of respondents large companies are overrepresented. However, the data allow initial clues. They found out that 92.4 % of the companies donates time (giving employees time for voluntary engagements, joint activities or pro bono services), 74.1% money, and 50% make material donations. On average, Swiss companies donate CHF 330 per employee per year. For this reason, the total estimated amount of corporate donations is CHF 0.8 to 1 billion (€ 893 000)[6].

Other studies take a broader view and look at corporate citizenship in general, such as Wehner et al. (2009). The authors conducted an online survey with more than 2 000 Swiss corporations on philanthropic engagement. They found out that 76 % of the corporations are engaged – either passively in the form of donations or sponsoring, or actively by volunteering or offering their expertise free of charge. The sport sector benefits most (71 %), followed by the cultural (59 %), educational (53 %) and social sectors (38 %).

There are only two studies that explicitly examine corporate giving. The first one by Castelli (2010) distinguishes on a theoretical level between three instruments of giving: donations, sponsoring and corporate foundations. He does not provide data for the entire economic sector in Switzerland, but for one specific case – the SwissRe corporation.

In contrast, a survey by the Ethos foundation (2014) analyses the relationship between corporate governance and political as well as philanthropic donations. The authors focus on the information and communication processes of the 100 largest listed companies in Switzerland. They want to know how transparently corporations inform the public about their activities. To answer this question they used annual reports, sustainability reports, codes of conduct, and further specific documents and information located on corporate websites, which were made public by the end of 2013. The authors see philanthropic donations as being embedded in the context of corporate citizenship, and define them as any form of donation without the expectation of return. These include cash payments, in-kind gifts, the establishment of corporate foundations or volunteering. This classification with regard to Castelli’s (2010) understanding shows the fragmentation and diversity of the field. There is no broadly accepted or clear definition provided by Swiss authors.

The results of the report show that only 53 % of the 100 companies provide information about their political and philanthropic donations. This number also includes companies that have informed the general public about not donating money to any institution (12 %). Only 14 out of 36 companies donating due to a philanthropic reason published the total amount they donated. The exact number is, however, unknown. The information was made available primarily in the annual reports, followed by the websites, the codes of conduct and finally the sustainability reports. Further quantitative data are not available on the subject of corporate giving in Switzerland.


[6] Exchange rate for 2013: 1 Euro is equal to CHF 1.2


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu

Giving by foundations in Switzerland

In Switzerland around 13 000 charitable foundations exist. There are 16 foundations for every 10 000 inhabitants, which makes Switzerland one of the countries with the highest density of foundations in relation to its overall population worldwide (Eckhardt, B./ Jakob, D. / von Schnurbein, G., 2015). However, data about foundation spending are very limited. All the numbers that exist are rough estimations. This is due to the liberal foundation law in Switzerland, which does not oblige foundations to publish any financial data. Theoretically the data are available, as foundations have to send reports to their supervisory authorities; however, these data are not given out to researchers.

The basic departure of almost all studies on foundations is the commercial register. Only when a new foundation is officially added to the register does it receive its legal personality. The information published in the register is: the date of the establishment and the name and address of the foundation, its board members (active and previous), the name of the managing director (if authorized to sign), the auditing company, as well as the deeds of the foundation.

Estimations about the total volume of foundation giving range from CHF 1.5 to 2 billion (€ 1 278 000)[7]. The total assets held by foundations are estimated to be around CHF 70 billion (von Schnurbein/ Bethmann 2010). Due to the absence of publically available data, estimations about the target areas of foundations’ giving are hard to make. One lead is the results of a self-declaration of the approximately 100 members of SwissFoundations in 2012. In total they gave CHF 282 037 011. This sum was subdivided into the granting areas of education, research & innovation (CHF 97 387 717; 34 %), social (CHF 72 556 811; 26 %), culture (CHF 56 191 790; 20 %), international development aid (CHF 41 904 377; 15 %) and the environment (CHF 13 996 317; 5 %).

This differentiation does not include religion. Members of SwissFoundation, however, give money to projects in Switzerland and abroad that are executed by church-led organisations such as Caritas or HEKS (the social aid and development organisation of the protestant churches). The available data do not allow an estimation of giving to religion by foundations.


[7] Exchange rate for 2010: 1 Euro converts to 1,3 CHF (1 CFH converts to 0,7 Euro)


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu

Giving by charity lotteries in Switzerland

The lottery in Switzerland is split between two main players responsible for delivering lots and implementing the lottery as a whole. The ‘Loterie Romande’ is responsible for the French-speaking cantons, and its counterpart for the German- and Italian-speaking cantons is named ‘Swisslos’. Both institutions are organized as associations, were founded by the government and are supervised by ‘Camlot’ (the Swiss Lottery and Betting Board). The profits made by the associations flow into the cantons’ finances as funds. The distribution is based on the population size and the number of people buying lottery tickets. The funds are separated into two categories: sports and culture, where culture includes a broad range of topics from arts to social services to leisure. More than 12 000 projects are supported each year. The exact amount of money given to the funds is available on the homepage of the ‘Loterie Romande’ as well as on the homepage of ‘Swisslos’. An overview of all funded projects is listed in the cantons’ annual report. An application for funds can be made by any Swiss citizen or organisation. Specific rules apply in each canton. As a consequence, lottery giving is predominantly perceived as state spending and not as civic engagement. However, projects that already receive state subsidies are not allowed to file requests to the lottery fund.

The data available are mainly published on the cantonal Internet platforms. However, a combined dataset on selected projects or on the exact amounts donated does not exist. Hence, the data reported in the following table were derived from the cantonal reports. We summed up all the reported funds that were distributed directly by the cantons. The total amount of money distributed by the lottery funds in 2013 totalled almost CHF 470 000 000 (€ 382 000 000)[8]. Considering the public background of these lotteries, we will not include them in the overall figure of giving in Switzerland.

Table 1 Uses of donations by charity lotteries, 2013

million CHF percentage
Sports 108 334 783 23.06   %
Culture 169 482 644 36.07 %
Preservation of historical monuments 52 014 355 11.07 %
Welfare and elderly people 30 710 971 6.54 %
Youth 15 040 670 3.20 %
Health and disability 10 258 998 2.18 %
Education & research 16 662 931 3.55 %
Environment and international aid 28 373 553 6.04 %
Tourism and development 8 281 700 1.76 %
Others 30 706 493 6.54 %
Total 469 867 098 100 %

Source: CEPS


[8] Exchange rate 2013: 1 euro converts to 1.23 CHF


Von Schnurbein, G., Bethmann, S., Gehringer, T., Jankovic, M. & Leibundgut, S. (2017) Research on Giving in Switzerland. 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 www.europeangiving.eu

References and further reading

Ammann, H. & Farago, P. (Eds.) (2007). Freiwilligen-Monitor der Schweiz 2007.  Zürich: Seismo Verlag.

Ammann, H., Bachmann, R. & Schaller, R. (2004). Unternehmen unterstützen Freiwilligkeit. Zürich: Seismo Verlag.

Castelli, F. (2010). Corporate Volunteering & Corporate Giving. Engagement im Bereich Freiwilligenarbeit und Spenden/Sponsoring. Liebig, B. (2010): Corporate Social Responsibility in der Schweiz. Massnahmen und Wirkungen. Göttingen: Haupt Verlag AG.

Eckhardt, B., Jakob, D. & von Schnurbein, G. (2015). Der Schweizer Stiftungsreport 2015, CEPS Forschung & Praxis Band 14. Basel: CEPS.

Ethos (2014). Politische und philanthropische Spenden. 100 grösste kotierte Unternehmen in der Schweiz. Zürich.

GFS (2014) Spendenmonitor 2013. Zürich: gfs.

Helmig, B., Lichtsteiner, H. & Gmür, M. (Eds.) (2010). Der Dritte Sektor der Schweiz. Bern: Haupt Verlag.

Lorenz, C., Gentile, G-C. & Wehner, T. (2011). How, why, and to what end? Corporate volunteering as corporate social performance. International Journal Business Environment, 4(2), S. 183-205.

Stutz H., Bauer, T. & Schmugge , S. (2007): Erben in der Schweiz. Zürich: Rüegger.

Stadelmann-Steffen, I., Traunmüller, R., Gundelach, B. & Freitag, M. (2010). Freiwilligen-Monitor der Schweiz 2010. Zürich: Seismo Verlag.

Wehner, T., Lorenz, C. & Gentile, G-C. (2009). Unternehmen in der Schweiz übernehmen gesellschaftliche Verantwortung. Schweizer Arbeitgeber, Nr. 15, S. 10-13.

Von Schnurbein, G. & Bethmann, S. (2010). Philanthropie in der Schweiz. Basel: CEPS.

ZEWO (2014), ZEWO Spendenstatistik 2013. Zürich.