More new foundations despite crisis – foundations are stable pillars of society

More new foundations despite crisis in 2020

  • Number of foundations in Germany grew by just shy of 3 percent year-on-year in 2020
  • Strongest growth in foundation sector for nearly a decade 
  • Darmstadt becomes Germany’s foundation capital for first time 
  • Chairperson v. Bünau: “Foundations will have a positive influence on the future” 

Berlin, 27 April 2021. The number of foundations with legal status according to civil law in Germany rose by 2.8 percent in 2020. 712 foundations received their certificate of approval – the highest number since 2011. 136 more foundations were established than in 2019. There are currently 28.7 foundations for every 100,000 German citizens. Besides these 23,876 foundations with legal status according to civil law, there are also many foundations of other legal forms.  

Foundations are an important societal asset – above all during times of crisis  

“The ongoing low-interest phase is posing huge challenges for foundations. Nonetheless, the current figures show that it is still attractive to establish foundations – even during the coronavirus crisis. Anyone who sets up a foundation makes a specific contribution to enriching and promoting social coexistence”, says Friederike v. Bünau, chair of the Association of German Foundations and director of the Foundation of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau. “Foundations will have a positive influence on the future”, continues v. Bünau. 

Reform of foundation law may increase the attractiveness of foundations 

“Foundations are an important part of a strong civil society”, adds Kirsten Hommelhoff, secretary-general of the Association of German Foundations. “This makes it all the more urgent for the draft bill to standardize foundation law to be passed before this legislative period ends. The reform would result in greater legal certainty for all foundations.” The Bundestag has been consulting on the planned reform of foundation law since mid-April. This would see the state-specific foundation law that has previously applied replaced by a uniform federal law, which would then be further developed. 

At a glance: the federal states and cities 

As per 31.12.2020, there were a total of 23,876 foundations with legal status according to civil law in Germany. 88.6 percent of these are based in the western states. In terms of the increase in the number of foundations, Hesse is the leading federal state, recording growth of 8 percent as compared with 2019, followed by Rhineland-Palatinate with 5.9 percent and Brandenburg with 4.9 percent. The highest number of foundations – namely 4,685 – is to be found in North Rhine-Westphalia. However, Hamburg remains the federal state with the most foundations by size of population: 78 foundations for every 100,000 inhabitants. The state with the lowest density of foundations is still Brandenburg with ten foundations per 100,000 inhabitants.  

New front-runner among cities 

A glance at the top 50 cities with the most foundations reveals that Darmstadt has become Germany’s foundation capital for the first time. This major city in Hesse now heads the list with 152 foundations for every 100,000 inhabitants. Würzburg – which led the field last year – is now in second place (101 foundations/100,000 inhabitants). Oldenburg is once again in third place behind Würzburg (85 foundations/100,000 inhabitants). The top 50 also includes large cities in East Germany, such as Potsdam, Jena and Dresden.    

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