The once-only principle.

89 filing cabi­nets, each with four drawers

The Swiss Federal Supervisory Authority for Foundations is going digital. Their goal? For processes and customer contact to go digital wherever possible.

The Swiss Fede­ral Super­vi­sory Autho­rity for Foun­da­ti­ons, the Eidge­nös­si­sche Stif­tungs­auf­sicht or ESA, wants to make the most of digi­ta­li­sa­tion, and that’s why it laun­ched the eESA project in 2018. Its objec­tive is ‘to enable the statu­tory super­vi­sory tasks of the Super­vi­sory Autho­rity to be under­ta­ken elec­tro­ni­cally and via auto­ma­ted proces­ses where­ver possi­ble in the future.’ Instead of sending pieces of paper by post, chari­ties should now be able to commu­ni­cate with the Super­vi­sory Autho­rity digi­tally via an online appli­ca­tion. Over­all, this is inten­ded to simplify proces­ses and make them more effi­ci­ent. The ESA isn’t the only stake­hol­der to bene­fit from this: the chari­ties in ques­tion will also bene­fit. The ESA curr­ently super­vi­ses 4,500 foun­da­ti­ons, and at present, its super­vi­sory duties fill 89 filing cabi­nets, each with four drawers. They are stuf­fed full of annual reports and the corre­spon­dence asso­cia­ted with them (plus docu­ments that arrive digi­tally via email and are then prin­ted and stored in a paper file), statu­tes and regu­la­ti­ons. And these moun­ta­ins of paper are only getting bigger. Even though chari­ties are curr­ently being estab­lished at a slower rate than a few years ago, there are still more new foun­da­ti­ons being estab­lished than there are old ones being dissol­ved. In addi­tion, the number of complex cases is on the up.

A fully auto­ma­ted annual report

One of eESA’s expli­cit objec­ti­ves is that the new solu­tion should func­tion conti­nuously on one parti­cu­lar medium, with proces­ses ideally being digi­ta­li­sed from begin­ning to end. This applies to annual reports, in parti­cu­lar: the inten­tion is for foun­da­ti­ons to handle this process them­sel­ves. In the future, they will digi­tally upload their data and docu­ments straight to a tool. These docu­ments will then pass elec­tro­ni­cally from the foun­da­ti­ons, audi­tors or lawy­ers to the ESA. The infor­ma­tion provi­ded will be auto­ma­ti­cally tria­ged on the basis of the docu­ments submit­ted, allo­ca­ting chari­ties to either green, orange or red groups. While chari­ties in the green group can make use of fully auto­ma­ted proces­ses, those in the red group will always be passed to a case worker. A charity that is heavily in debt would be put in the red group, for exam­ple. Requi­re­ments in terms of the form of submis­si­ons will also change so that the poten­tial offe­red by digi­ta­li­sa­tion can be exploi­ted to the fullest. Previously, part of the report provi­ded by chari­ties and audi­tors about their use of funds took the form of free text. In future, a summary will be all that’s needed, supple­men­ted with struc­tu­red infor­ma­tion such as numbers, yes/no answers or a choice of pre-provi­ded answers.

One record, and one record only

Even formal proces­ses like chan­ging statu­tes or incor­po­ra­ting new foun­da­ti­ons will be comple­ted with elec­tro­nic assis­tance in the future. In addi­tion, basic docu­ments are to be scan­ned in and made available elec­tro­ni­cally, with this struc­tu­red, elec­tro­ni­cally stored data also making it easier to gene­rate statis­tics. If that weren’t enough, the ESA is hoping to make things even simp­ler by imple­men­ting a ‘once-only’ prin­ci­ple. At present, basic infor­ma­tion about a charity is stored in all kinds of places, whether on paper, in specia­list ESA appli­ca­ti­ons or within other state systems. The once-only prin­ci­ple means that data will only be stored in one place in the future, making it easier to update, in particular.

To be laun­ched in 2021/22

The ESA has selec­ted 20 diffe­rent chari­ties to be pilot users. These chari­ties will take part in work­shops to explore the requi­re­ments for the new tool. Foun­da­tion asso­cia­ti­ons and canto­nal foun­da­tion super­vi­sory bodies, as well as repre­sen­ta­ti­ves from audit firms, are also taking part in the dialo­gue. It is plan­ned that the project will run until 2021/22, and its imple­men­ta­tion is expec­ted to take place in stages, always inclu­ding the insti­tu­ti­ons mentioned.

[1] «Das Projekt eESA nimmt Fahrt auf», Dr. Adel­heid Bürgi-Schmelz, Stif­tungs­re­port 2019, S. 38.

StiftungSchweiz is committed to enabling a modern philanthropy that unites and excites people and has maximum impact with minimal time and effort.

Follow StiftungSchweiz on