Community Foundation Bonn and the Sustainable Development Goals: Between local actions and a global vision

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26.06.2023 / Case studies

Author: Lutz Drieling M.A. Candidate

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The Community Foundation Bonn (CFB) sees the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as “a guideline for a better world.”1 This conviction is guiding the Community Foundation to support Agenda 2030. As a partner of Foundation 20, CFB is active in international SDG networks and committed to implementing the SDGs locally.

A brief introduction to CFB

CFB was founded in 2001/2002 by Sparkasse Köln Bonn. In 2020 the Community Foundation received its new headquarters. It also got awarded the Seal of Quality by the Association of German Foundations, which calls explicitly for independence from administration, banks, and individuals. 

The CF offers a place for citizens, companies, and organizations to engage in the local civil society. Everyone can participate by investing time, money, or ideas. Volunteers support the Foundation in their operational work as well as in projects. CFB is primarily active in social work, education, support for the socially disadvantaged, art and culture, and environment and climate protection, be it through the implementation of its projects or grantmaking. 

The Foundation supports ideas for improving Bonn generated by local citizens. The focus lies on sustainable impact. Here the Foundation is working on systematizing the process of getting new ideas and trying to find a way to collect ideas and transform them into new pilot projects.2 Lighthouse CFB projects include Open Bookshelves (Offene Bücherschränke), Education Fund Bonn (Bonner Bildungsfonds), Initiative for Children’s Rights, and school mentoring projects.3 The CFB is well connected with various local actors for strengthening the commitments towards the SDGs.4 CFB is also engaging with the SDGs internationally. It is a partner of Foundations 20, a network that calls for aligning G20 politics with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.5 

The management of the CFB consists of 2,6 full-time positions supported by ten volunteers. There are 94 volunteer committee members of the Bürgerstiftung Bonn, serving on committees related to various foundation funds and trust foundations. Twenty-three volunteers are project managers or mentors, and additional 168 volunteers are working on projects.6 The value of the Foundation’s endowment is 12.568.468€. CFB had an expenses budget of 457.590€ in 2021.7

Contributions to community sustainability and the SDGs 

The work of the CFB is related to all SDGs. The CFB projects mainly concentrate on the following SDGs: 4 Quality Education, 10 Reduced inequalities, 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, 13 Climate Action, and 17 Partnerships for the goals.8 The Foundation’s Board understands the SDGs’ importance well, as expressed by its participation in the Foundation 20. “The board sees the necessity of the SDGs and supports the transformation of the global SDGs into local actions.”9

One large field of CFB actions is concentrating on SDG 4 Quality Education. CFB has several projects, including the Bonner Education Fund that in 2022/2023 had a budget of 168.500 € and was distributed to 15 primary schools and 36 kindergartens. The above mentioned institutions are getting a budget that they can use for supporting children in need.10 

Open bookshelves are a concept for exchanging books. People can take or bring books to the open bookshelves. These shelves are accessible for everyone and offer an opportunity to get access to books for free as well as to give books away and ensure that each book is read more than once. The concept is used internationally, and the CF Bonn has installed several open bookshelves throughout the city.11 In addition to SDG 4, the shelves support SDG 10, 11, and 12. 

The project Gross&Klein (Tall and Little) uses an interdisciplinary approach to SDG 4. The project trains volunteers to become Schulpaten (School mentors), who will support all-day schools in different domains. They help with homework, in the library, cooking or baking, crafting, gardening, teaching German, or assisting pupils with disabilities.12 The Foundation contributes to SDGs 2, 8, 10, 11, 13, and 17, next to SDG 4, through this project. 

Two projects are concentrating on SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities. The project Theater für dich und mich (Theater for You and Me) aims to give underprivileged children access to theaters. By partnering children with mentors, those children get access to theater plays. The tickets are bought by the mentor. When the mentor is a student, the ticket is paid for by the CFB. The children and their mentors are meeting at the theater. They watch the play together, discuss what they saw, and sometimes get the chance to talk to the actors about the play. The children receive a theater book containing the plays they will watch. The book also offers space for their thoughts and pictures.13  

The project Zusammen.Wachsen (Grow Together) is mobilizing volunteers to support a school in Bonn to shift back to regular schooling after the COVID-19 pandemic. This project concentrates specifically on underprivileged children who suffered from the pandemic more than others. Volunteers are needed for extra support, especially for pupils who could not keep up with studying during the pandemic. This project is implemented in partnership with a local company.14

A project in connection to SDG 4 and SDG 13 is the BONNi&BO-Klimaführerschein (Climate License). The FoundationBonner climate ambassadors implement the project. It targets pupils in their 3rd primary school year. The pupils solve electricity, recycling, transport, nutrition, heating, and water tasks.15

How CFB makes sense of the SDGs

The Community Foundation tries to implement locally what the SDGs envisage globally. The SDGs categorize problems facing local communities. CFB supports the SDGs also by joining Foundation 20. Through this, CFB wanted to set an example and show its commitment to the SDGs. It shows the global character of local actions, and it makes local activities more visible and tangible. CFB addresses all SDGs through its work.

The priority of the community foundation is the local impact in and around Bonn. As with all German community foundations, its action is bound to its statutes defining their field of work, which means acting locally. CFB efforts are in decided upon by the Foundation’s board.16

“If the SDGs cannot be experienced, they remain a puzzle.”17

Community foundations depend not just on their staff but also on their network – on municipalities, stakeholders, and citizens. Trust is one of their main assets, and a supportive environment is key to the community foundations’ efforts. “Without the people, it does not work”18. New people must be found, motivated, and integrated within the actions of the community foundation. “This kind of resilience is a key factor for a stable future of the SDGs.”19

It is essential to implement sustainable structures to ensure long-term local impact. Therefore, the community foundation tries to keep its course by creating and implementing pilot projects and scaling up success stories so Bonn is closer to becoming a sustainable community.20 


The Community Foundation Bonn participates in Foundation 20 and implements the SDGs locally. Through this, it became a global and a local actor for the SDGs. CFB’s engagement with the SDGs sets an example for the people of Bonn, other community foundations, and third stakeholders who believe we need more sustainable communities. The projects presented above touch upon multiple SDGs having an impact on the lives of those living in Bonn and beyond. CFB is transforming the SDGs into local reality and is therefore not just acting on them but also demonstrating to the local community that more sustainability translates into a better life for all.


  1. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling, 03.04.2023, Microsoft Teams.
  2. Interview with Wolfgang Doose Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  3. “Über uns” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn), Wer ist die Bürgerstiftung Bonn?
  4. Bürgerstiftung Bonn, “Über uns”, Wer ist die Bürgerstiftung Bonn?.
  5. “About F20” (Foundations 20)
  6. Bürgerstiftung Bonn, “Über uns”, Team, Bilanz und Zahlen.
  7. Bürgerstiftung Bonn, “Über uns”, Bilanz und Zahlen.
  8. “Projekte der Bürgerstiftung Bonn” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn)
  9. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  10. “Bonner Bildungsfonds” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn) 
  11. “Offene Bücherschränke” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn) 
  12. “Groß & Klein” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn) 
  13. “Theater für dich und mich” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn)
  14. “Zusammen.Wachsen” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn) 
  15. “BONNi & BO-Klimaführerschein” (Bürgerstiftung Bonn) 
  16. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  17. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  18. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  19. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.
  20. Wolfgang Doose, interview by Lutz Drieling.

This case study was developed as a part of the project Increasing the Contribution of European Community Foundations to the SDGs, supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. We are grateful to the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and all interviewees and partners who made the development of the case study possible.

Departments: Policy Analysis and Outreach Department, Research Department, Center on Global Affairs and Post Development, Society, Crisis, and Resilience Program

Regions: Europe

Themes: Sustainable Development Goals, Philanthropy and Community Development, Civil Society, Democracy, and Democratization