30 September 2016
Category : Entrevista
Tomorrow, 1st October, we celebrate the European Day of Foundations. Javier Nadal has chaired the Spanish Association of Foundations for five years (AEF). Below he explains the importance of foundations to society and the work of the AEF.
How is the chairmanship of the Spanish Association of Foundations determined?
Any foundation can present its candidacy for the chairmanship of the Association before the General Assembly for a four-year team. In my case, I presented mine in 2012 as a representative of the Teléfonica Foundation and was re-elected in June 2015 for another four years.
What is the Spanish Association of Foundations
The Association is an organisation that any Spanish foundation can be a member of. Although not all are members, the most significant ones are. The purpose of the Association is to work for the foundation sector as a whole and to improve it.
How many foundations are members of the Association?
There are around 1000 foundations. There is a very broad representation of large and small foundations, in fact we have a different fee structure depending on the foundation’s volume of activity.
What is the role of the AEF?
As I was saying before, the purpose of the Association is to improve all aspects of the foundation sector. Professionalism is fundamental, and therefore an important part of our activity is training.
We have very well-regarded courses, prominent among which is the Specialisation Course in Foundation Management, which is going into its 13th edition this year.
Another of our objectives is to improve the regulatory framework for the sector to help it better exercise its functions. During this time we have achieved a series of things, like the approval of a tax reform measure that included improving tax incentives for donations, a milestone that the AEF had been pursuing for a long time. Now the first €150 that an individual donates qualifies for a 75% deduction on the person’s tax return. This was very important, because small donors are the fundamental base for maintaining foundations.
What does the REF do to motivate the rest of the foundations to improve?
The Association this year promoted the creation of a series of annual awards recognising the values of the foundation sector itself. In this first edition, we have tried to promote these through three modes: philanthropic initiative, collaboration and innovation.
What is the role of foundations in Europe?
In recent years, Europe has done a very good job in eliminating barriers between countries and to make us all equal in many areas. This had been possible in all areas except that of foundations, which represented a real problem, because how is it possible that a Spanish foundation that goes to Germany has to reinvent itself under the laws there?
To overcome this barrier, the Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE) was created, which works in the European foundation sector to eliminate these limitations. Our proposition is to unify the European regulatory framework and gain approval of a statute for European foundations that contains the same regulations for all foundations regardless of the European country where they are located.
Currently the chairmanship of DAFNE is held by the AEF’s director of international relations, Rosa Gallego.
Where did the idea of creating an association for foundations come from?
The foundation world has existed for many years, but it has grown significantly since the right to create foundations gained constitutional recognition.
The AEF was started in 2003 as a result of the fusion of the Centre for Foundations and the Spanish Confederation of Foundations. It inherited over 30 years of work and experience of the two associations that preceded it.
The 1st of October is the European Day of Foundations. Why and what does this celebrate?
This was an initiative of DAFNE aimed at dedicating one day to foundations to publicise their work in a unified way. From 15th September to 1st October, there are activities for this celebration. This year is the fourth edition, and more and more organisations are joining in.
Despite the data, the foundation sector is not very well known. In Spain, there are around 9,000 foundations that contribute to meeting the needs of citizens and which, moreover, contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of society: 200,000 jobs, €8 billion per year in spending, 23 million beneficiaries, representing nearly 1% of Spain’s GNP.
And, the AEF holds a general conference every two years. This year’s is dedicated to communication. Why communication?
Communication is very important for all sectors, but more so for ours. We have to reach our beneficiaries so that they know we exist and to achieve the necessary social support that will, moreover, lead to economic support.
Another concern of ours is transparency, and communication is a fundamental tool for working on this. For example, a few years ago the AEF changed its statutes to make the publication of accounts on the corporate website of each member mandatory. If we depend on contributions from individuals or organisations, the least we can do is be transparent about how we use those resources.
What is the role of FIIAPP, a Spanish cooperation foundation, as an AEF member?
Each foundation has its specific role, as in the case of FIIAPP, which is unquestionably a very important foundation. However, at the AEF we promote collaboration between organisations; this is more effective for fulfilling the purposes of general interest, and we do it through the creation of working groups of organisations linked by shared objectives or areas of activity.
How does the existence of the AEF and foundations benefit citizens?
Where there is a need, there is a foundation, as we say in the Association. If there were no foundations, there would be, for example, no scholarships for graduate study, because all of them are the result of donations by foundations. Nor would there be hospitals, residences, social inclusion programmes, medical and scientific research projects, many cultural activities… it would be a disaster.
Foundations have been fundamental in this crisis. Over these years, there have been more needs to cover with fewer resources, and many problems to address that the government has been unable to cover.
Working for the public interest means working for people’s dignity, which is the noblest cause one can work for. I am very proud of this sector which, although still has challenges to meet, that is what the AEF is for, to make this possible.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.