24 September 2021

The future of philanthropy is now

By Kirsten Hommelhoff, Secretary General of the Association of German Foundations.

For hundreds of years, people have been creating structures to make property available for the common good. Foundations have long been testimony to such philanthropic endeavours. For me, philanthropy draws its particular strength from this commitment to long-standing traditions whilst looking firmly to the future. Since I joined the Association of German Foundations as its Secretary General a year ago, I have continually witnessed and with great pleasure this extraordinary willingness to make an impact in an environment characterised by constant change. 

Foundations and philanthropists combine values with the capacity to innovate. In an increasingly complex world, however, their activities need networks and cooperation that go beyond national borders if they are to generate lasting impact. To this end, we need framework conditions that support rather than obstruct this. German foundation law has been reformed this year, improving the scope of action for foundations. This is something for which the Association of German Foundations has been campaigning for years.  

Though the reform has accomplished a lot, such improvements must not be allowed to extend only as far as national boundaries. Philanthropic activities must be recognised and fostered throughout the EU. As a convinced European, I therefore support the demands set out in the European Philanthropy Manifesto – the easier it becomes for foundations to act Europe-wide, the greater their leverage will be for society.

Collaboration and exchange are more important than ever before. Complementary competencies, mutual inspiration and support through genuine knowledge transfer create opportunities that go beyond the options that individuals have. With its capacities and resources, philanthropy can accompany societal change, especially if actors cooperate. For this to happen, we require strong national and European networks.  

The good news is that philanthropy is already on the right track, as we have experienced during the pandemic. With great dedication, foundations, individuals and civil society institutions have set up new networking formats and support programmes, and they have done so quickly, unbureaucratically and collaboratively. Philanthropic endeavours are already cooperative, digital and direct. If we continue to stand up jointly for better framework conditions, foundations will also be able in future to contribute to social transformation.

Kirsten Hommelhoff

Secretary General of the Association of German Foundations.