Expert Legal opinion by Professor Dr. Birgit Weitemeyer and Dr. Elias Bornemann in the context of the Sustainability Report of the Federal Association of German Foundations

Peace, prosperity for all people and socially and ecologically designed economic progress - these are the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations' Agenda 2030, which were jointly agreed upon in 2015. Foundations, in particular, can make an important contribution to these goals. However, how can international engagement be made easier? What are the obstacles to philanthropic action? And where are the levers to stimulate and support philanthropic activities?


In its recently published online report Together for more sustainability, the Association of German Foundations explains what it believes is needed to enable foundations to better develop their potential with regard to the goals of Agenda 2030, while also identifying some obstacles. Among other things, the reform of foundation law was intended to standardize foundation law and supervisory practice, clarify the standard of liability, expand the scope for amending statutes and facilitate the formation of foundations.


In a legal opinion prepared for this report, Professor Dr. Birgit Weitemeyer, Chair of Tax Law and Director of the Institute for Foundation Law and the Law of Non-Profit Organizations at Bucerius Law School, and Dr. Elias Bornemann, former research assistant to Professor Weitemeyer and editor-in-chief of the journal for the law of non-profit organizations (npoR) as well as legal trainee in Hamburg point out legal hurdles that exist, in particular for activities of non-profit foundations with international relations based on the law of non-profit organizations, and urge a reform of the relevant provisions in the German general tax code (Abgabenordnung/AO). It is suggested, for example, that the structural domestic reference of § 51, paragraph 2 AO should be abandoned and the inherent domestic reference for the purpose of promoting a democratic state in accordance with § 52, paragraph 2, number 24 AO should also be relinquished.

The sustainability report is available in both German and English.



Lena Johannes (translated by David Patrician)