ECSP was founded in 2009 to enhance the performance and effectiveness of the philanthropic sector. The center was established by two schools at Erasmus University, the Erasmus School of Economics and the Rotterdam School of Management, and a leading Dutch family foundation. It is an independent center located on the Erasmus University campus in Rotterdam to facilitate access to academic thought leaders in the disciplines of economics, management, social sciences, law, history and philosophy.

Mission and scope

ECSP aspires to be a preeminent and independent knowledge and learning center. Our mission is to support, stimulate and challenge foundations in realizing their full potential for societal benefit.

ECSP has focused its activities on non-grantseeking European foundations and we currently use the following criteria to help us identify our target group:

  • independent legal entities with Europe as the place of domicile
  • non-grantseeking (fundraising comprises less than 50 percent of financing), non-membership, non-government and non-profit-distributing foundations; an autonomous source of funding
  • family, corporate and independent foundations  
  • grantmaking (grants and social investments) and operating (program or project execution) foundations
  • activities may have a local, regional, national or international focus 

ECSP emphasizes its bridging role between academics and philanthropy practitioners. We support and help shape the learning dialogue between these groups to clarify mutual needs and interests, identify interesting research opportunities, enrich academic thinking with experience and insights from daily practice, and convert research into relevant and useful practitioner materials.

ECSP embraces the idea of a vital philanthropy learning ecosystem for academics and practitioners in Europe and we will therefore increasingly seek out new academic partners to explore ways to collaborate and exchange knowledge. 

ECSP’s vision for the sector

Our activity program is shaped by our vision of a world where foundations play a catalyzing role in solving societal challenges. A number of changes will have to take place for this vision to materialize:

  • First, the philanthropic sector must work toward a facilitative legal and fiscal environment, in each country and Europe-wide, based on a fruitful dialogue with the political sector.
  • Foundations will also benefit from (1) good governance, well-defined strategic frameworks and plans, and professional management, (2) creative positioning, leveraging of their unique organizational characteristics, and good partnership skills, and (3) coherent and value-driven theories of change with the corresponding capacity to generate large-scale impact.
  • Finally, foundations and their stakeholders should develop an interest in the continuous renewal of objectives, roles, methods and partnerships, and should demonstrate a willingness to invest in a learning ecosystem to support innovation, experimentation and learning on a structural basis.

Activity program

ECSP offers capacity building services to established and beginning foundations and their main stakeholders. We initiate boundary-crossing research projects, develop competence-oriented training and education programs, and provide complementary advisory services upon request. Our primary client group comprises foundation trustees, board members, CEOs, and senior staff members; the secondary set of clients comprises common-interest groups (such as advisors and policy makers).

Toward realizing the vision, ECSP has selected four interlinked focus areas for the near future in close cooperation with academics and practitioners:

  • Context and Trends: the international demographic, economic, social, technological, ecological and political developments that may help or hinder foundations’ effectiveness.
  • Management: all relevant aspects of governance, strategy, financial management, organization and operational effectiveness.
  • Positioning and Partnerships: foundations’ added value vis-à-vis government, corporations, NGOs, colleagues and beneficiaries.
  • Impact: foundations’ overall impact generation capabilities, including monitoring and evaluation techniques and upscaling approaches.

Within these focus areas specific themes are explored, such as strategy and impact generation, social impact measurement, risk management, upscaling, positioning and partnerships, donor-grantee dynamics, and knowledge management and learning. These subjects drive the development of a modular professional development program for foundations and philanthropists.

What is strategic philanthropy?

To clarify our outlook we have elaborated the phrase strategic philanthropy with a number of characteristics that are aspirational in nature:

  • Activities for the public good initiated by independently operating foundations
  • Focused on significant societal change and measurable long-term impact
  • Use of strategic plans based on careful assessment of opportunities and intervention methods
  • Keen awareness of the added value of multi-stakeholder partnerships
  • Using any combination of grantmaking and social investment (lending and investing)
  • Engaged with grantees or investees and providing non-financial support for organizational capacity building
  • Proactive behavior, originating from and driven by core values and concerns
  • Adaptive in nature and willing to innovate, experiment and learn


ECSP’s organization model revolves around a small dedicated team that cooperates with a number of formally associated academics at the Erasmus University. The ECSP team is further collaborating with a rapidly expanding flexible circle of academics and partners, and has the exciting opportunity to develop new academic partnerships outside Erasmus University, both in the Netherlands and abroad. At Erasmus University, ECSP can partner with various faculties and centers, such as the Erasmus Centre for Family Business, the Partnerships Resource Centre, the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Centre for Corporate Eco-Transformation, and the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation.

ANBI status

ECSP has been granted the so-called ANBI status by the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. The Dutch abbreviation ANBI means Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling, or Public Benefit Organization. Institutions can only be qualified as a public benefit organization if at least 90% of their efforts are focused on the common good. In light of revised regulations, organizations with the ANBI status are required by law to publish specific information on their websites as per January 1, 2014.