Alice, what is philanthropy’s most pressing need?
Trust and a willingness to take risks. You need courage to take the risk of providing support in areas where you don’t know what the outcome will be. And you need to have enough trust in the people receiving that support, who know better than anyone else what they need. The new ‘Applied research’ area sees us attempt to underpin these central pillars and derive added value from them.
Theory or practice: what’s your pick?
The great thing about my work is that we bring together both worlds.
We use knowledge and methods from fundamental research in a targeted way to answer questions of practical relevance and identify current trends. These include the need for a new, systematic process that takes into account a foundation’s funding approach and volume. In turn, this reinforces the efficiency and effectiveness of philanthropic activity. We want to contribute to this innovative process of systematisation and intend to fortify our collaboration with partners like StiftungSchweiz to this end.
What questions do foundations and other NPOs ask you?
Day-to-day work in the philanthropic sector is very varied – and so are the questions asked. A desire to look outside the box represents a clear trend.We put together the first Grantee Review Report for SwissFoundations and the foundation Mercator Schweiz in 2020. The report investigates how applicants find the funding process. Last year, we offered academic support with the closure – known as the ‘sunset’ – of a large Swiss grant giving foundation and developed a guide to drawing up a sunset strategy for spend-down foundations. At present, we’re carrying out a study on the fees earned by trustees at Swiss grant giving foundations, in light of the revision of Swiss stock corporation law. We hope this helps enhance transparency in the sector.