Source of information
Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen

The German Civil Code (BGB) does not have a legal definition specifically for foundations. The definition of foundation is predominantly a description used for a number of legal forms, such as a legally responsible foundation under civil law, a foundation with limited liability or a foundation association. The term "foundation" is therefore merely a generic term for a complex range of entities, which may be enshrined in private, public or church law.
The foundation "prototype" is the legally responsible foundation under civil law. It is the classic instrument for the realisation of a long-term objective and is regulated by the state foundation authorities.
Even though a specific legal form cannot be automatically associated with the term, foundations do possess common features. A foundation is characterised as a mass of capital committed to a specific, long-term objective. Mostly, these objectives are non-profit in nature.

Number of foundations

20,700 public-benefit foundations (2016)

Pool of assets

€70 billion (2012)

Total expenditure

€17 billion (2012), including administration costs

More on the sector

Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen (DAFNE member)

Stiftungssuche (search directory of the Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen)

Bucerius Law School

CSI – Centrum für Soziale Investitionen

Nonprofit-Management und Public Governance


Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft

Hertie School of Governance

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Further reading
EUFORI STUDY : European Foundations for Research and Innovation : Germany Country Report, European Union, 2015
The Role of Foundations in Public Debates in Germany, by Rupert Graf Strachwitz, in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 74, No. 4 (September, 2015).
Zahlen, Daten, Fakten zum Deutschen Stiftungswesen, Bundesverband Deutscher Stiftungen, 2014