Public Reporting in Foundations

Opusculum 81 | 01.04.2015 | Regulatory Bodies and Self-regulatory Reporting Initiatives for Foundations in Germany and the UK


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The non-profit sector as a whole is talking about it…

… and has been talking about it all the more intensely in recent years.

There are very good examples of it happening.

There are also many examples of it not happening at all.

Its implementation varies drastically across Europe…

… it can be legally binding or it can be achieved through self-regulatory efforts.

This ‘it’ is public reporting.

The landscape of public reporting in the non-profit sector is rather varied. Public reporting requires commitment to being open, honest, sharing, taking responsibility for what is done and how it is done: it requires being accountable and transparent, internally and externally. Surely these are qualities which all non-profit organisations (NPOs) should aspire to having their name to? What is it then that is preventing public reporting from being implemented across the board? From an historical point of view, the reason seems simple: it stems from the Christian ethic – no one should boast about the fact that they are doing something good for others.[1] This essay looks at the implementation of public reporting, specifically in the foundation sector in two European countries – Germany and the UK. Having initially focused on the definition of what public reporting embraces, it then takes a comparative look at the regulatory bodies for foundations in both countries, specifically focusing on the extent and exact requirements of their reporting regulations. In order to put the differences that arise between the two countries into perspective, there follows a short description of the historical and legal context in which foundations have operated and currently operate in. Furthermore, a handful of self-regulatory public reporting efforts are presented, exclusively in Germany, focusing on the impact they have as well as the extent of their take-up. Finally, giving attention to some of the reasons why foundations are reluctant to fully embrace public reporting, the essay concludes with the reasons why public reporting should be fully embraced, and consequently, makes a case for obligatory public reporting in foundations.

[1]      Compare: Graf Strachwitz, Rupert (2010), pg.4