New report reveals that global philanthropy is booming, yet most foundations still work in isolation


The Global Philanthropy Report, conducted by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute for Civil Society with funding from UBS, is the most comprehensive analysis to date of global philanthropic practices and trends.

Key findings:

  • The global philanthropy sector is young and growing fast, with 72 percent of foundations established in the past 25 years.
  • With 6,222 identified philanthropic foundations, Italy has a legal and fiscal framework that has encouraged the growth of its philanthropic sector.
  • Foundations are highly concentrated geographically, with 60 percent of the over 260,000 identified by the report based in Europe and 35 percent in North America.
  • While the combined assets of the world’s foundations are estimated at close to USD 1.5 trillion, half have no paid staff and small budgets of under USD 1 million. In fact, 90 percent of identified foundations have assets less than USD 10 million.
  • Seven countries in Europe account for 90 percent of charitable expenditures, with foundations in Italy holding USD 86.9 billion in philanthropic assets.
  • Resources are highly concentrated in certain sectors, with education the most popular area for investment globally.
  • Despite this, 58 percent of the foundations identified in the report do not collaborate with other foundations.

Philanthropy around the world is growing rapidly, but resources are highly concentrated in certain sectors and coordination between philanthropic foundations is limited. These are the key findings of the Global Philanthropy Report, a first-of-its kind study launched today that was conducted by researchers at Harvard Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute with funding from UBS.

Developed over three years with inputs from twenty research teams across nineteen countries and Hong Kong, the report marks an important milestone in understanding the magnitude of global philanthropic investment and helping to create an evidence-based discussion on global philanthropy.

In recent years, philanthropy has witnessed a promising shift. Wealthy individuals, families, and corporations are looking to give more, to give more strategically, and to increase the impact of their social investments. A rapidly growing number of philanthropists are establishing foundations and institutions to focus, practise, and amplify these investments.

As the world is falling well short of raising the USD 5-7 trillion of annual investment needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, UBS sees the report findings as a call for philanthropists to work together to scale their impact.

Understanding this need for collaboration, UBS has established a global community where philanthropists can work together to drive sustainable impact. Established in 2015 and with over 400 members, the Global Philanthropists Community hosted by UBS is the world’s largest private network exclusively for philanthropists and social investors, facilitating collaboration and sharing of best practices.

Josef Stadler, Head Ultra High Net Worth Wealth, UBS Global Management:
“At UBS, we work with preeminent philanthropists daily. They are the risk takers and the innovators who are challenging the status quo of traditional development aid. We’ve spent over a decade partnering with our clients to help them create sustainable impact through their philanthropy.

This report takes a much-needed step towards understanding global philanthropy so that, collectively, we might shape a more strategic and collaborative future, with philanthropists leading the way towards solving the great challenges of our time.”

Paula D. Johnson, Senior Research Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School:
“This report is a milestone in our understanding of philanthropy around the world. Thanks to the collaboration of an extraordinary group of global researchers, we are beginning to appreciate the magnitude and vitality of the global foundation sector.”