Association of German Foundations publishes annual figures for 2023 – establishing foundations remains as popular as ever

  • 637 new foundations established in total in 2023
  • 2.1 percent growth to 25,777 foundations in Germany
  • Hamburg remains the federal state with the most foundations per capita – biggest relative growth seen in the states of Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony

Berlin, 16 April 2024. 637 new foundations were established in Germany in 2023. This brings the number of foundations with legal status according to civil law to 25,777. The German foundation sector thus grew by 2.1 percent (2022: 2.5 percent), meaning there are currently 31 foundations on average for every 100,000 German citizens.

Friederike v. Bünau, secretary-general of the Association of German Foundations:
“We at the Association of German Foundations are particularly pleased to see the rising number of non-profit foundations that are actively involved in shaping our social fabric. Irrespective of their regional differences and individual purposes, foundations are an important part of our country’s civic engagement, and indeed of our fortified democracy. This is why we urge policymakers and government to create the necessary framework conditions for them to continue their important work.”

Non-profit and family foundations

Of the 637 new foundations established in 2023 (2022: 693), 351 are non-profit foundations and therefore have tax-privileged status (2022: 384), while 286 are family foundations (2022: 309). This equates to a ratio of 55 to 45 percent. Family foundations serve the interests of one or more families and as a rule are subject to tax. An above-average increase in the number of such foundations has been seen in recent years, a trend that also continued in 2023. According to the database of the Association of German Foundations, however, around 90 percent of foundations with legal status according to civil law have tax-privileged status, which means that they pursue non-profit, charitable or ecclesiastical objectives.

East-west divide

As per 31 December 2023, there were a total of 25,777 foundations with legal status according to civil law in Germany. 22,793 of these are based in the western states (discounting Berlin, equivalent to 88.4 percent). There are 1,903 foundations in the eastern part of Germany (discounting Berlin, equivalent to 7.4 percent). Berlin is home to 1,081 foundations (equivalent to 4.2 percent). At the same time, average net growth in the number of foundations in 2023 was higher in the east (discounting Berlin), at roughly 3.8 percent, than the average net growth of roughly 1.9 percent recorded in the western states (discounting Berlin).

Federal states with the most foundations

North Rhine-Westphalia is home to the largest number of foundations with legal status according to civil law (4,992). With 4,460 foundations, Bavaria is in second place, while Baden-Württemberg comes in third with 3,719 foundations.

However, if the density of foundations is considered, that is to say the ratio of foundations to the number of people who live in their respective surrounding areas, it is clear that Hamburg continues to lead the field, with 80 foundations for every 100,000 inhabitants. On this basis, Bremen ranks second (with 51 foundations per 100,000 inhabitants) and Hesse third (with 43 foundations for every 100,000 inhabitants). The lowest density of foundations is to be found in two states in eastern Germany: Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania each have 11 foundations per 100,000 inhabitants.

Highest number of new foundations in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Bavaria

In absolute terms, North Rhine-Westphalia is the federal state that saw the highest number of new foundations with legal status according to civil law in 2023, namely 122. This constitutes a relative growth rate of 2.2 percent compared to the total number of foundations in this state in 2022 (net growth). Rhineland-Palatinate was the number two in terms of foundation growth, with 95 new foundations (net growth of 6.5 percent). With 80 new foundations, Bavaria ranked third (net growth of 1.0 percent). In Hesse, the state that had been the clear winner in this category with 164 new foundations in 2022, saw this number fall by more than half to 79 in 2023, relegating the state to fourth place (net growth of 2.6 percent).

Biggest net growth in foundations in Thuringia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony

As far as net growth in the number of foundations with legal status according to civil law is concerned, two east German states ranked among the top three in 2023. With 44 new foundations, Thuringia recorded net growth of 11.1 percent, putting it in first place, followed in second place by Rhineland-Palatinate with 6.5 percent (95 new foundations). With net growth of 3.5 percent (23 new foundations), Saxony ranks third.

About the Association of German Foundations

The Association of German Foundations represents the interests of German foundations vis-à-vis politics and society.  With over 4,800 members, it is the largest and oldest association of foundations in Europe. Around 9,800 foundations are affiliate members via their administrations. Each year, foundations in Germany invest at least 5.4 billion euros to promote the common good. The Association is committed to optimal framework conditions for foundations and their activities, and supports its members and its founders, especially by advising and networking them in their work.