The Association of German Foundations (AGF) and the SDGs

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26.06.2023 / Case studies

Author: Andra-Octavia Drăghiciu Ph.D.

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There are around 420 Community Foundations in Germany,1 most of which are members of the Association of German Foundations (AGF). It is the largest and oldest European association of foundations, comprising over 4800 members, and host of the Alliance of German Community Foundations (AGCF) and the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI).2 According to its mission statement, AGF represents the interests of German foundations in their relationship with politics and society, intending to:  “showcase activities and commitment of foundations; advocate for better legal conditions for funders and foundations; provide comprehensive consultancy for funders and foundations; enhance exchange between our members.”3

Every year, the AGCF communicates with the Community Foundations through a series of six regional conferences on different subjects. In 2020, the Sustainable Development Goals were on the agenda of these conferences, with the purpose of presenting them to the CFs and of finding out which CFs are already working with or towards the SDGs. The conclusion was that some CFs were incorporating the SDGs in their work, but not all representatives of the CFs had heard about them and Agenda 2030.4

Therefore, the AGCF decided to make the SDGs a greater part of their work in the subsequent year, 2021. In a series of webinars organized in collaboration with ECFI, several goals were bundled into themes and laid out for the CFs interested in discovering and working with the SDGs.5

Moreover, a report about community foundations and the SDGs clarified what the SDGs are and how CFs can actively contribute to achieving them.6 The report stresses that sustainability in different sectors has been at the heart of the activity of German CFs long before the existence of the SDGs. Today, however, the issue has become acute and local measures are no longer enough – action must be taken on a national and global level. The report points out that these tasks are too big to be taken on alone and urges CFs to collaborate, as they represent a central part of civil society and are politically independent. This unique position allows them to foster cooperation and find innovative solutions both on a national and on an international level. Among the ways in which CFs can directly contribute to Agenda 30, the AGCF lists investing their capital in safe ventures which produce sustainable outcomes. Another important contribution would be to come up with a collaborative, unifying program, rather than focus on the fact that each CF contributes to the SDGs in its own way.7

The conclusion is that, even though they might be interested in learning about and working towards Agenda 2030, some German CFs face limitations due to the lack of solid structures and resources, as a large part of the personnel works on a voluntary basis.8 9 Thus, most German CFs do not organize their strategy according to the SDGs, but their purposes and agendas overlap, as the main sectors of focus are sustainability-oriented: social justice, education, environment and climate change.10 For some CFs the lack of resources and time is a challenge as it limits their focus to activities at the local level and prevents them from collaborations with others.

The Alliance of German Community Foundations regards working with and towards the SDGs as an important collective task. It is therefore committed to furthering Agenda 2030 while encouraging its members to do the same by offering them support and training in this respect.


  1. Interview with Ulrike Reichart, conducted by Andra-Octavia Drăghiciu.
  3. Ibidem.
  4. Interview with Ulrike Reichart, conducted by Andra-Octavia Drăghiciu.
  5. Ibidem.
  6. Das Potenzial des Stiftens für die Nachhaltigkeitsziele | Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen.
  7. Wie können Stiftungen zu den SDGs beitragen? | Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen.
  8. Das Stiften und die SDGs | Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen.
  9. Interview with Ulrike Reichart, conducted by Andra-Octavia Drăghiciu.
  10. Ibidem.

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