Pande­mic boosts digitalisation

The second charity baro­me­ter shows the impact of the pande­mic on the way foun­da­ti­ons work and the chal­lenges they face. The survey was carried out by StiftungSchweiz, the maga­zine Die Stif­tung and Zürcher Kantonalbank.

During the pande­mic, meetings and webi­nars held via MS Teams, Skype and Zoom perme­a­ted the chari­ta­ble sector, with 64% of foun­da­ti­ons surveyed mentio­ning that online commu­ni­ca­tion is here to stay. Working from home has not met with quite the same reso­nance, although 36% have accepted this model. At 30%, docu­ment digi­ta­li­sa­tion has also advan­ced. Howe­ver, one in four foun­da­ti­ons still says that none of these chan­ges applies to it. These are the findings of the recent charity barometer.

The poten­tial of digi­tal fund­rai­sing tools

After the barometer’s first itera­tion last year, foun­da­ti­ons expres­sed their views on the latest deve­lo­p­ments for a second time. Once again, about 200 foun­da­ti­ons parti­ci­pa­ted and helped an inte­res­t­ing, up-to-date image of the foun­da­tion sector to take shape. For exam­ple, it is clear that deve­lo­p­ments in terms of working from home have not had a simi­lar impact on more flexi­ble working hours, with just 16% of foun­da­ti­ons stating that they have put this into prac­tice. Digi­tal fund­rai­sing tools have fared even worse, with just 7% saying they had estab­lished these on a perma­nent basis. At the same time, 45% listed fund­rai­sing or finan­cing as their biggest chall­enge. In total, 30% of the foun­da­tion respond­ents carry out regu­lar fund­rai­sing. For special events such as Christ­mas or follo­wing a disas­ter, 13% launch addi­tio­nal fund­rai­sing acti­vi­ties, and 12% have plans to use fund­rai­sing to raise money in the future. The importance of fund­rai­sing is high­ligh­ted by Hans­jörg Schmidt, a member of the manage­ment team at Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank, who advi­ses foun­da­ti­ons and non-profit orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. He says: ‘Fund­rai­sing pays off. Even the coro­na­vi­rus crisis has not made the Swiss less willing to donate, and in some cases dona­tion volu­mes have increased.’ Howe­ver, fund­rai­sing is deman­ding and takes time. As far as chal­lenges in terms of fund­rai­sing go, 41% listed the high demands of donors.

ʻThe foun­da­tion board is respon­si­ble for the invest­ment stra­tegy

Hans­jörg Schmidt, Zürcher Kantonalbank

‘By this, respond­ents mean prima­rily support­ers’ expec­ta­ti­ons that their money will be used in a targe­ted way, with very little of it going to admi­nis­tra­tion,’ says Schmidt. Compe­ti­tion and a shortage of time were listed as further chal­lenges, each mentio­ned by 40% of respond­ents. Conver­sely, only 4% listed digi­ta­li­sa­tion as a chall­enge and 20% saw no diffi­cul­ties in fund­rai­sing. An equal number of respond­ents said they lacked the specia­list knowledge.

Mana­ging their own funds

The signi­fi­cance of fund­rai­sing differs depen­ding on the foun­da­tion: some are fully reli­ant on these funds, whereas for others they make up a frac­tion of their budget. The ques­tion of sustainable invest­ment is gaining in importance for well-funded foun­da­ti­ons. Schmidt sees this in his work: ‘Most chari­ties hand­ling capi­tal invest­ments at the moment, restruc­tu­ring and realig­ning them, want to include sustaina­bi­lity aspects.’ Of respond­ents to the charity baro­me­ter, 59% stated that they observe sustaina­bi­lity crite­ria. These foun­da­ti­ons deploy diffe­rent stra­te­gies. Of the 118 foun­da­ti­ons surveyed that invest sustain­ably, 61% rely on ESG crite­ria (envi­ron­men­tal, social, gover­nance), with 47% exclu­ding certain cate­go­ries or compa­nies. Other methods, such as best-in-class or impact inves­t­ing, trail some way behind, at 15% and 14% respec­tively. But who makes these decis­i­ons? Of those surveyed, 42% make invest­ment decis­i­ons alone, 26% take advice, while 21% of foun­da­ti­ons have recrui­ted an asset mana­ger. Further­more, 28% of foun­da­ti­ons take on exter­nal support for commu­ni­ca­ti­ons and 38% make use of the skills of exter­nal experts for digitalisation.

Hand­ling data

Digi­ta­li­sa­tion goes hand-in-hand with enhan­ced data protec­tion requi­re­ments, with a new data protec­tion act coming into force in 2022. Just 26% of the foun­da­ti­ons surveyed stated that their prepa­ra­ti­ons were on track, 30% believe they will not be affec­ted by the new law, 11% did not give a response and 33% had not yet looked at it in detail.

The second charity barometer

The survey was carried out by StiftungSchweiz, the maga­zine Die Stif­tung and Zürcher Kanto­nal­bank, with the parti­ci­pa­tion of 199 foun­da­ti­ons from German-spea­king Switz­er­land and French-spea­king Switz­er­land between 30 August and 10 Octo­ber 2021. Of these, 74 operate only their own projects, 77 are grant-making foun­da­ti­ons and 48 stated that they run their own projects and issue grants to third parties. The survey captures the mood in the sector; it is not representative.

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

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