Foundations & Non-Profit Organisations

Foundations & Non-Profit Organisations

The importance of non-profit organisations increases year by year. The non-profit sector – also known as the third sector, or civil society – employs around three million people and contributes between 4 and 5% of GDP. It includes foundations, associations and non-profit limited liability companies. The range of organisations is diverse and includes welfare institutions, religious and cultural institutions and organisations which collect donations.

The foundations sector in particular has experienced growing figures and increasing importance for years. The number of foundations under civil law in Germany first exceeded the 20,000 mark in 2013. On top of this, there are other forms of foundation and a significant number of fiduciary trusts. The foundation landscape is thus very heterogeneous. The model of the foundation as a legal entity without members is useful for very different purposes. The motives of the donors are also very diverse. Some 95% of foundations enjoy tax privileges. Their purposes are diverse, ranging from regional cultural or sports promotion to social assistance and global development projects. One thing is common to all of them: the subject is often a personal matter for the sponsor, and the sponsor puts a lot of heart and soul into it. Foundations that exclusively and directly pursue charitable, benevolent or religious purposes enjoy appropriate tax privileges. The following applies for foundations and other non-profit organisations: the requirements under non-profit law are strict.

In addition, the percentage of family foundations is continually growing. The problem for SMEs of finding a suitable successor leads to many entrepreneurs considering the foundation model. The intent is to leverage the benefits of the foundation model without making the company inflexible. For foundations, it is therefore essential – especially in the early stages – to set the right course; after all, the foundation is intended to last forever, based on its fundamental principle.

BDO specialises in the field of auditing and consultancy for foundations, associations and other non-profit organisations; it has set up a separate Industry Expertise Centre for Foundations and Non-Profit Organisations in which many specialists across various enterprise divisions cooperate. Our Industry Expertise Centre is oriented around both questions of the legal form and subject matter.


Legal-form-related support

  • Foundations
  • Associations
  • Non-profit corporations 


In terms of subjects, the Industry Expertise Centre is concerned with

  • Welfare institutions
  • Religious institutions
  • Cultural institutions
  • Research, educational and scientific institutions
  • Professional associations


Our employees in the fields of auditing, tax consulting, management consulting and legal advice are happy to assist you with all legal and tax issues as well as with your accounting, structure and organisation governance questions. Let’s shape the future together!

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Stephan Obst

Stephan Obst

BDO Oldenburg GmbH & Co. KG Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft
German Public Auditor, Certified Tax Advisor, Partner, Corporate Finance