Foundations in the Canton of Zurich

The canton of Zurich is at the forefront of the Swiss foundation landscape with an impressive 2,225 foundations. The diversity and scope of its foundations make the canton a shining example of philanthropic work.

Canton of Zurich: Foundations Top the List in a Switzerland-wide Comparison

The most populous canton is also the one with the most foundations. Zurich is number 1 among the cantons in terms of the number of foundations: with 2’232 foundations, according to the Swiss Foundation Report, Zurich leads the ranking by a large margin, ahead of the canton of Vaud (1’370), the canton of Geneva (1’294) and the canton of Basel-Stadt (908).

Foundations in the Canton of Zurich

With 51 new foundations, the canton of Zurich had the most new foundations in the country in 2021. However, this trend did not continue in 2022: with 41 new start-ups and 44 liquidations, the canton recorded slightly negative net growth.

In the past years: in 2017, there was still a net growth of 22 foundations in Zurich. In 2018, for the first time, there were more liquidations than new foundations (net growth -6), and in 2019 there was again a decline of -11 foundations.

Education, Social Issues and Art and Culture: the Main Areas of Activity of Zurich’s Foundations

Which topics are the majority of Zurich foundations involved in? A trend can be seen in the foundation purposes: According to the foundation statistics of the Center for Philanthropy Studies (CEPS), most of the foundation purposes are located in the area of «education and research». 720 foundations have a foundation purpose in this area. This is followed by «social services» (704) and «culture and leisure» (589).

This trend is confirmed by a look at the StiftungSchweiz foundation register: most of the grant giving foundations listed on the philanthropy platform according to a specially developed categorisation system are active in the areas of social welfare, education, and art and culture. This means that the Zurich foundations are a reflection of the Swiss average in terms of their main areas of activity: the dominant areas of activity in Switzerland are social welfare, art and culture, education, and leisure and sport.

Many of the largest and most important Swiss grant giving foundations have their roots in the Canton of Zurich. For example, the headquarters of the Swiss Study Foundation is in Zurich, the largest Swiss foundation for the promotion of students. The prominent Jacobs Foundation, active in the field of child and youth development, is also based in Zurich.

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Actively strengthening Zurich as a foundation location

The Canton of Zurich is taking targeted steps to further strengthen its status as a leading location for foundations by improving the tax framework. At the beginning of 2023, the Zurich government decided to create more attractive conditions for charitable foundations: A key change is the adjustment of tax practice, which now allows for appropriate remuneration of foundation board members and puts charitable activities abroad on an equal footing with those in Switzerland. This will make the canton more attractive for internationally active foundations. In addition, the new practice enables impact investments on the condition that the income generated is returned to charitable purposes, which represents an innovative expansion of funding opportunities. These adjustments reflect the changed legal requirements for foundations and are based on an exchange with federal and cantonal supervisory authorities as well as a legal opinion, which overall promotes a modern and effective foundation system in the Canton of Zurich.

In addition to adapting the tax framework, the Canton of Zurich has taken further measures in collaboration with SwissFoundations to strengthen the foundation location. Three additional initiatives were launched: The establishment of a coordination and contact point by the Department of Economic Affairs, which offers advice on the establishment and location of charitable foundations; the launch of the information platform www.stiftungen.zuerichwhich ensures greater transparency in the foundation sector and provides an online information desk; and the introduction of the “Canton of Zurich Foundation Talks” series of events, which promotes exchange between politicians and the foundation sector and aims to achieve closer cooperation in order to improve Zurich’s international positioning as a foundation location.

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If you are looking for suitable funding organizations in Zurich, the StiftungSchweiz Foundation Directory is the right place for you. This contains data from over 13,000 funding organizations and project owners. Thanks to intuitive filter and search options, you can quickly narrow down the results and find what you are looking for.

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