19 December 2023

Philanthropy without borders: what are the drivers of generosity among the Swiss abroad?

Over the past three years, 93% of Swiss abroad have made a gift, 78% of which was financial. These are the eloquent figures that emerge from a survey carried out this summer in partnership between Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and the Organization of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) and conducted by the gfs.bern institute on the generosity of the Swiss abroad. Together with the OSA, which represents the interests of the “Fifth Switzerland” (Swiss living abroad), we wanted to find out more about the generosity and giving behavior of this diaspora. It represents over 800,000 people or 10% of the Swiss population worldwide.

The survey showed that the Swiss abroad are just as generous as the Swiss living in Switzerland. 74% of them consider gifts to organisations to be important, and a pre-existing family philanthropic tradition is a powerful driver of their generosity. But what else drives this generosity?

First and foremost, the notion of transparency is of crucial importance. When asked about the information they lack when making gifts to Swiss organisations, 38% of respondents expressed the need for greater clarity regarding the concrete impact of their gifts. 54% of those surveyed answered that their generosity was motivated by the assurance that their gift would be put to good use.

Solidarity, the second most important driver of generosity among the Swiss abroad, is a value deeply rooted in Swiss society. The Swiss abroad, 85% of whom identify themselves as Swiss, are no exception. The historic adage “one for all, all for one”, which marked the formation of the Swiss federal state, is still valid today. Swiss Solidarity, a charitable organisation founded in the aftermath of the Second World War, is a vibrant testimony to this. In a world beset by a multitude of crises, this generosity and élan play a more crucial role than ever. In concrete terms, the themes to which the Swiss abroad are most committed are the fight against precariousness and development aid. Health, the environment, and education come next.

Organised, professional philanthropy is crucial to amplifying the impact of this generosity and strengthening the ties between the Swiss abroad and their home countries. With 10% of the Swiss population living abroad and sharing a deep attachment to Switzerland, it is imperative to continue developing solutions that enable and deploy philanthropy across borders. These solutions support the Swiss abroad in the implementation of their generosity, both in Switzerland and abroad. Strengthening the capacity of Swiss philanthropy to act in a world of crises and challenges is essential. Philanthropy undeniably has a role to play in this context, thanks to its resources, its agility, and its potential for innovation and collaboration.


Sabrina Grassi
Director General, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation