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European Commission > Investing in European Research > Philanthropy for research

"Expert Group on fund-raising of universities from philanthropic sources"


Philanthropy can be a substantial source of funding for universities as proved by United Kingdom and Sweden, where it funds more than 16% of university R&D expenditure. Nevertheless, its potential has not been fully released in this regard, the European average being just 4.2%.

Most of the European Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) try to leverage funds from philanthropic sources (foundations, trusts, charities, non-profit organisations, corporate and individual donors, alumni) but with mixed results. Disappointing results are often due to a lack of strategic approach and professional fund-raising structure. Moreover, peer learning is difficult given the lack of reliable data on the situation of fund-raising in Europe, as well as the huge diversity of legal, institutional, historical, cultural, economic and governance contexts in European countries.

Objectives of the Expert Group

The need to improve knowledge on fund-raising of universities from philanthropic sources was notably discussed by the stakeholders at the conference on "Giving more for research in Europe", organised by the European Commission in co-operation with the European Foundation Centre in March 2006.

As a result, the Directorate General for Research has launched, on 12 January, an independent expert group, composed of high level representatives from European universities and leading research foundations English[Pdf file - 79 kb]. They identified and reviewed good practices and barriers to fund-raising of universities from philanthropic sources in a national and international context.

Based on this review, the group developed models of internal and external organisations and management for the interactions of universities with private donors for research. In doing so the following dimensions were examined:

  • Building and managing relations with potential donors (types of institutional communication to encourage giving, communicating relevance of university-based research, building long-term relationships with alumni based on a sense of co-ownership, identifying and canvassing other potential donors, building networks, adapting to differing cultures amongst donors in different countries, changing attitudes towards giving);
  • University operating structures, competence and culture in support of fundraising (level of university autonomy and responsibility for their own research funding needs, commitment to professional fundraising by university leadership; professional fundraising structures, good governance, transparency and accountability);
  • Diversification of university-based research funding (public support of research fundraising, matching schemes, tax incentives, public-private endowments to increase giving to universities, complementarity with public research funding).

Finally, the expert group identified the roles and responsibilities of all actors involved in funding research in universities and outlined the Expert Group’s recommendations for releasing the untapped potential of philanthropy for funding university research. The recommendations are addressed to a number of different audiences such as universities, philanthropic bodies, national governments, European institutions and general public.

See the full expert group report English [Pdf file - 7.18 Mb].

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