Around the World of DAFs: Europe

As we continue through the world of donor-advised funds, let’s daydream a bit and think about summer travel. Take out that imaginary Eurail pass, check your frequent flier miles and let’s take a look at what DAF sponsors are doing overseas.

Many of the organizations below are members of Transnational Giving Europe (TGE), which allows donors to make gifts to charities outside their borders while still receiving tax benefits in their country of residence. These 21 member foundations work with donors and TGE to increase giving while protecting tax benefits to the donor.

The process is simpler than one might think- a donor first reaches out to their country’s partner organization, who contacts the beneficiary nonprofit organization.  If the recipient is registered within the network, the home-country foundation transfers the donation and gives the donor a tax receipt for their country. Depending on the sponsor organization, a small contribution is withheld from the donation to support the member foundations’ activities. The fee percentage ranges from 5% for donations of less than €100K to 1% for donations of €500K up to €2 million. Gifts above €2 million euros are subject to a custom percentage determined by the network.

Now, let’s get to the first stop on our tour:

How about Italy? The Fondo Filantropico Italiano (FFI) supports both individual and corporate donors in their philanthropic goals. They sponsor donor advised funds and also help their clients negotiate any tax situations that might arise from donating outside of their country. Established in 2017, FFI operated 12 funds as of year-end 2023. Their funds support both national and international causes in the areas of animal welfare, education, gender violence and arts & culture. The funds have a total value of more than €2.8 million ($2.2 million US dollars).

Next, the Fondation de France is the country’s largest philanthropic organization. Established more than two decades ago, it encompasses more than 900 donor advised fund. The minimum contribution to open a fund is €200,000 (approximately $214,000 US dollars) within the first five years. Each fund pays operating costs of 3% (minimum of €2,500, or $2,675 US dollars) per year. A detailed list of funds shows a broad range of interests by the Fondation’s donors, including environment, children, international solidarity, arts & culture, education and humanitarian aid. An American sister sponsor, Friends of Fondation de France is based in New York City. Formed in 2000, it has a French-American board and encourages those in the United States to give to worthy causes in France.

In Switzerland, Trustbridge Global notes that it is the first DAF sponsor designed to be a global network. They work with more than a dozen fund sponsors over four continents! The member organizations are focused on Christian social service causes in their communities and around the world. Trustbridge Global manages more than $8 billion Swiss francs in assets ($8.8 billion US dollars) and distributes more than two billion per year to 70,000 charities in 85 countries on six continents! Their board reflects their global reach, featuring individuals from around the world.

Swiss Philanthropy Foundation also provides a number of opportunities for philanthropic individuals, including DAFs. Established in 2006, they are headquartered in Geneva and manage more than 90 donor advised funds. In addition to a one-time opening fee and annual administrative costs, their fee structure varies depending on the donor’s unique situation. Their network of funds supports more than 500 organizations per year and the total average donations are more than thirty million Swiss francs annually (more than $33 million USD). Another interesting option from the foundation is donor collaboratives, which allow multiple donors to work together towards a common interest. Similarly, thematic funds suggest pre-vetted projects and collaboration amongst donors to support projects of interest.

Further north, the Community Foundation Ireland goals aim for equality for all within the country. Donors include individuals and families, corporations, trusts, foundations, and professional advisors. Established in 2000, Community Foundation Ireland manages more than €50 million in assets ($53 million US dollars) and distributes donations to more than 5,000 local, national, and international nonprofits. There are more than 100 funds within the Foundation. In 2023, the foundation made more than €20 million ($21 million US dollars) in grants to 1,150 recipients. Their areas of focus include empowering generations, accelerating philanthropic change, sustainable futures and inclusive communities.

That was a lot of stamps on our collective passport! Speaking of stamps, I hope that you mailed some postcards home along the way.

As you can see, DAF giving isn’t just a North American philanthropic strategy. In Europe, many of the sponsor organizations take a multi-cultural, multi-national approach to add to the greater good. An interesting point was made by the Community Foundation Ireland who, in its quest to help others, admitted that some of its non-profit recipients may have been overlooked in the past. This was something that I had not seen in the messaging for US-based sponsor organizations.

The sponsor organizations highlighted above, and many others, are making it easier for donors to make meaningful gifts in their home countries and beyond to causes close to their hearts. Through collaboration, shared strategy and a strong web presence, they are making regional and local giving feel a little less foreign.