17 January 2019

”Philanthropy, an untapped potential?” – the latest hearing held by the European Economic and Social Committee.

Philanthropy and its as yet untapped potential in Europe was the topic of discussion at a hearing held by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on the 16th January.

The hearing brought together a number of representatives of philanthropic organisations, civil society organisations and individuals, whose views will feed into an opinion on European philanthropy being drawn up by the EESC at the request of the Romanian Presidency of the EU.

Acknowledging the valuable contribution of philanthropy in Europe, the EESC opinion will call for recognition of philanthropic activities, for a legal framework to cover the development of philanthropic activities and to give philanthropic organisations the same status as that enjoyed by commercial companies.

“Philanthropic money could be used in an intelligent way to target niche issues that our welfare systems fail to address properly, if at all,” said Mr Petru Dandea, rapporteur of the EESC opinion European Philanthropy: an untapped potential.

In the opinion, the EESC will argue that philanthropy should by no means replace public welfare systems but should come in complimentary and “fill in the gaps” in cooperation with public authorities who should have well-defined spending priorities to adequately meet social needs of citizens. The EESC members present at the hearing stressed that philanthropic activities should be transparent and clearly defined.

“In many countries, philanthropy represents a hope for community”, stressed Ionut Sibian, President of the EESC study group for this opinion.

“Philanthropy is the bridge between policy and citizens; it’s about complementarity; it allows reaching out to the people”, said Kerstin Jorna, Deputy Director-General at European Commission DG ECFIN.

The lack of a single market for philanthropic activities creates problems for transnational collaborations, which are sometimes indispensable for accessing know-how and even for saving lives, illustrated Delphine Heenen, Managing Director of KickCancer.

“Philanthropy is still an untapped potential. It is not only for the richest people among us; it is for everyone. It is about passion and about gratitude”, said Ludwig Forrest, philanthropy advisor at the King Baudouin Foundation. He also presented a series of concrete examples illustrating that philanthropy can be innovative, accessible, entrepreneurial, both local and global and complementary to public sector work.

“Philanthropy is not only about donations, it is about being immersed in the journey. The value is not only monetary but also in the cultural exposure. It is about our humanity,” said Edilia Gänz, Director of FEDORA, the European Circle of Philanthropists of Opera and Ballet.

“Philanthropy is what citizens make it. It is part of the repertoire people developed ages ago and went about it with intellect, so as to give back to their community, to support causes they have close to their hearts”, said Gerry Salole, EFC’s chief executive.

Draft versions and the adopted text will be published here at the EESC website.

The opinion will be presented and submitted for adoption at the EESC plenary session on 20-21 March. The EFC is actively engaged in the drafting of the opinion. For more information please contact Marilena Vrana.

Images courtesy of and copyrighted by EU2019

Advocating for favourable policy and regulatory environments is a key part of the EFC’s ongoing work for its members. For more information on the EFC’s seven key priorities, please download the EFC Strategic Framework 2016-2022