Research Projects

On this page you may find detailed information on current and completed CEPS research projects.

Project start: 2024
Project end: 2026
Contact: Dr. Dominik Meier

Existing research shows that NPOs are becoming more professional and make use of market-oriented practices, while for-profit organizations are increasingly focusing on their social impact through practices such as corporate social responsibility (CSR). As a result, are organizations in these two sectors becoming increasingly similar? This research project examines the similarities and differences between the two sectors using mission statements from Swiss organizations and analyzes whether there has been an alignment of purpose between organizations in the two sectors over the years.

Project start: 2024
Project end: 2026
Contact: Dr. Dominik Meier

The SDGs came into force in 2016 and are intended to contribute to sustainable development on an economic, social and environmental level. The third sector plays a crucial role in achieving these goals, but to date there has been little research investigating how and to what extent NPOs contribute to achieving the SDGs (Meier, 2023). The aim of this project is to explore the contribution of NPOs to the SDGs and thereby identify any gaps or inefficiencies in the contribution of NPOs to the SDGs. Among other things, this will be investigated using a method co-developed at CEPS, which can be used to analyze whether a text refers to the SDGs or not (Meier et al., 2021). An analysis of NPO mission statements using this method thus shows the extent to which these NPOs are committed to the SDGs.


  • Meier, D. S. (2023). The evolution of SDG-related third sector and public administration literature: an analysis and call for more SDG-related research.  Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 19 (1):
  • Meier, D. S./ Mata, R./ Wulff, D. U. (2021). Text2sdg: An open-source solution to monitoring sustainable development goals from text. arXiv preprint:

Project start: 2023
Project end: 2025
Contact: Dr. Dominik Meier

Crowdfunding via platforms such as wemakeit and GoFundMe can be used to collect donations for projects with little effort and a wide reach. As a large donation base can be achieved with little effort, these platforms are becoming increasingly popular. However, the low effort required to create a crowdfunding campaign is offset by the low chances of success: less than 30% of projects on GoFundMe reach their funding target (Schneiderhan & Lukk, 2023). The aim of this research project is to use GoFundMe data to investigate the success factors of these campaigns. This is driven by both data and theory. On the one hand, machine learning algorithms will be used to identify data-driven success factors for these campaigns. On the other hand, it will be investigated whether existing theories on social preferences can be confirmed with data from GoFundMe. For example, "compassion fade" was tested for the first time with data from GoFundMe that did not originate from a laboratory experiment (Meier, 2023).

Sources and publications:

  • Schneiderhan, E./ Lukk, M. (2023). GOFAILME: The Unfulfilled Promise of Digital Crowdfunding. Stanford University Press.
  • Meier, D. S. (2023). Compassion for All: Real-world Online Donations Contradict Compassion Fade. CEPS Working Paper Series, No. 21, Basel: CEPS.

Start of project: 2023
End of project: 2026
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

Philanthropic action is getting smaller. Episodic volunteering, micro-donations and clictivism are some of the new methods, all built on the idea that small efforts by many people lead to a big result.

The objective of this research project, conducted together with Prof. Dr. Lucas Meijs from Erasmus University Rotterdam, is to better understand these new micro-forms of philanthropy. To this end, three aspects will be investigated. First, similarities and differences between these methods will be elaborated in order to sharpen the understanding. Secondly, the development and dissemination of these new methods will be examined. An international research project on episodic volunteering (Cnaan et al. 2021), for example, has been able to show how widespread this phenomenon is internationally. Thirdly, the connections to classic philanthropy methods will be analysed. Is there a crowding-in effect that can turn short-term volunteers into long-term volunteers, or is the opposite the case, and the comparatively high appreciation of small contributions lowers the willingness to make larger gifts?

Start of project: 2023
End of project: 2026
Contact: Prof. Georg von Schnurbein

The LIFT project (Foundations in the Upper Rhine territories) coming from to field of social sciences and humanities intends to share knowledge on foundations and their actions in the Upper Rhine Region. The objective is to identify the strategies of foundations and their interactions with territorial actors and governments within a multidisciplinary framework. The main expected results are the creation of a knowledge database on the Upper Rhine foundations as well as the preparation of an Interreg project in 2025, associating researchers and territorial partners. The project is led by the Université de Haute-Alsace (UHA) and is carried out in cooperation with the universities of Basel, Freiburg, Strasbourg as well as the KIT. Eucor – The European Campus supports the consortium with the Seed Money funding instrument in the funding line “Research and Innovation”.

You can find the project description on Eucor here.

Start of project: 2021
End of project: 2024
Contact: Lucca Nietlispach

Social innovation is characterized by the creation of new solutions for societal problems. In the context of this dissertation, the research question will be answered as to how the scaling of social innovations can be supported. Since strong collaborations between different actors are often a characteristic of successful systemic social innovations, the focus will be on fields that are characterized by intensive collaborations between NPOs and companies. Social incubators and accelerators are active in this field. As intermediaries in the innovation process, they run programs in which participating young organizations are taught key skills that are important for scaling social innovation. Participants also benefit from the network that is enlarged.

To begin the dissertation project, a literature review will be conducted to review existing literature on scaling social innovation and the tension between mission-driven and profit-driven organizations and to elicit existing findings. Furthermore, a social incubator will be analyzed through a qualitative-empirical, holistic case study. Thus, success factors for scaling social innovation can be explored. Finally, the resulting hypotheses are examined through quantitative analyses of globally operating social incubators and accelerators.

Start of project: 2023
End of project: 2027
Contact: Anja Rogenmoser

The number and influence of corporate foundations has steadily increased in recent years. Within nonprofit research, they are still considered the "new kid on the block" (Swen et al., 2020, p. 281). However, various Swiss companies established their own charitable foundations over the course of the 20th century, which they fed from their profits. The CIBA Foundation (founded in 1934), for example, pursued the foundation's purpose of "making contributions to chemical and medical research at the University of Basel" (Novartis Firmenarchiv: Firmenarchiv CIBA). In the case of others, the affiliation to the company is not apparent, such as the Foundation for the Promotion of Art + Welfare (1963), which is dedicated to the "promotion of the fine arts, literature and charitable and benevolent endeavors" (Schweizerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv: Firmenarchiv Suter und Suter AG, Architekten) was dedicated to this cause.

The field of tension between profit and public benefit is the starting point of the study. The contribution of the dissertation project is, in a first step, to provide an overview of the landscape of corporate foundations in the 20th century. In a second step, this aspect of Swiss corporate history, which has received little attention to date, will be examined in greater depth using case studies from the two most common areas of funding: science/education and culture/art. Four dimensions will be analyzed: I. founding motives, II. elites and networks of individuals, III. ties between foundation and company over time, and IV. positioning in socio-political discourse and society.

Sources and literature:

  • Novartis Firmenarchiv: Firmenarchiv CIBA, RE 15.00 Stiftungen.
  • Schweizerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv: Firmenarchiv Suter und Suter AG, Architekten, SWA PA 510.
  • Swen, S., Roza, L., Meijs, L., Maas, A., 2020. Nonprofit Organizations’ Views on Corporate Foundations, in: Roza, L., Bethmann, S., Meijs, L., von Schnurbein, G. (Eds.), Handbook on Corporate Foundations: Corporate and Civil Society Perspectives, Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 271–285.

Start of project:2023
End of project: 2027
Contact: Kinga Zsofia Horvath

Philanthropy – including giving, volunteering, and the operation of nonprofits – has rapidly globalized in the last decades. The growth of international non-governmental organizations and the increasing number of global partnerships – such as the “G-Foundations”– has shaped the structure of global philanthropy and accelerated its impact on development. Switzerland has appealed to numerous international nonprofits and global partnerships to establish their headquarters in the country. However, data on the Swiss international nonprofit sector is scarce. Similarly, comparative global data on international philanthropy – especially on the size and scope of international nonprofits and their charitable contributions – is also limited. Thus, this research will provide a comprehensive analysis on the Swiss international nonprofit sector and explore the role of international philanthropy in global development.

The research will respond the following research questions using innovative qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as machine learning techniques:

  • What are the main economic, political, and social characteristics of international nonprofits based on the current literature?
  • What are the main characteristics of the Swiss international nonprofit sector and the size and scope of its international charitable contribution?
  • What is the added value of global intermediaries in times of localization and decolonization of philanthropy?

This research will contribute to the development of innovative and comprehensive data tracking methods on international philanthropy in times of increasing global challenges.

Start of project: 2017
End of project: 2026
Contact: Dr. Oto Potluka

The project aims to contribute to solving current and future problems of cultural and social integration caused by the unforeseen scale of demographic transitions and the increasingly urban population. We argue that these problems can be overcome through qualified leadership from inhabitants who voluntarily engage in nonprofit sector activities in cultural programs and public spaces. Our project therefore focuses on thoroughly analysing the current role, impact, and challenges of nonprofit organizations (NPO) leaders. The study will provide knowledge about effective measures and useful strategies for bottom-up solutions to one of the most significant problems in contemporary Europe.

The governance of cities undergoing changes in their population structure is, however, a more difficult problem to address, and it requires social innovations that provide solutions for the emergence of unexpected social tensions. In this process, NPO and the voluntary engagement of citizens can play a major role in solving such problems, but to do so, they must be guided by leadership at an individual and collective level. The core of our research project investigates the mechanisms for achieving such leadership.

Based on the data, we identify the best leadership strategies. These are associated with the most successful outcomes in public spaces, and social integration. These findings will enable us to design leadership models aimed at achieving the greatest possible reduction in social tension and at developing sustainable public spaces.

ERASMUS+ Project: Urban Planning for Social Resilience in Urban Neighbourhoods: Transformative Change through Civic Engagement (UPRUN).

  • Analysis of civil society ownership in urban areas (potential for resilience and democratic development)
  • Identification of strategies for both civil society initiatives and urban planners
  • Activities: Data collection (survey), database of case studies, knowledge and learning platform


  • Potluka, O., Svecova, L. & Zarubova, L. (2023). Do voluntary civic engagement and non-profit leadership challenge local political leadership in urban development?, Urban Research & Practice, 16:3, 332-350, DOI: 10.1080/17535069.2021.2023210
  • Potluka, O., & Schubnell, L. (2023). Non-profit organizations and territorial cohesion: The case of cross-border collaboration. In E. Medeiros (Ed.), Public policies for territorial cohesion (pp. 65-82): Springer Cham. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-031-26228-9_4
  • von Schnurbein, G., Potluka, O., & Mayer, A. (2023). Creating social innovation in urban development through collaborative processes, Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research,36:2, 316-332, DOI: 10.1080/13511610.2021.1910800
  • Potluka, O., Sancino, A., Diamond, J., & Rees, J. (2021). Place leadership and the role of the third sector and civil society, Voluntary Sector Review, 12(1), 3-12, DOI: 10.1332/204080521x16106633884165
  • Potluka, O., & Fanta, P. (2021). Rural non-profit leaders and their (in)formal role in local development, Voluntary Sector Review, 12(1), 13-39, DOI: 10.1332/204080520X15874664170938 
  • Potluka, O. (2020). Cohesion Policy or Politics? A Case on the Participation of Civil Society, In. (Musiałkowska, I., Idczak, P., Potluka, O., (eds.) Successes & Failures in EU Cohesion Policy: An Introduction to EU cohesion policy in Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe, Warsaw: De Gruyter.
  • Potluka, O., Kalman, J., Musiałkowska, I., & Idczak, P. (2019). Civic engagement in local politics in Central Europe. In R. Kerley, P. T. Dunning, & J. Liddle (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of International Local Government (pp. 344-360). Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Pelucha, M., Kveton, V., & Potluka, O. (2019). Using mixed method approach in measuring effects of training in firms: case study of the European Social Fund support. Evaluation and Program Planning, 73, 146-155. DOI: 10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2018.12.008
  • Potluka, O., & Perez, M. (2019). Do candidates from non-profit organisations who adopt party political values improve their chances of electoral success? Policy & Politics. 47(1), 57-76, DOI: 10.1332/030557318X15296528666750

Start of project: 2020
End of project: 2021
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

During the Corona crisis, many Swiss people have gotten involved as volunteers, not least via various online platforms that match helpers and help-seekers. Using survey methods, this project investigates the experiences of these Corona volunteers to better understand the contribution of volunteering and coordination via platforms to the management of the crisis. From this, insights shall be gained about volunteer engagement in the future.


  • Trautwein, S. / Liberatore, F. / Lindenmeier, J. / von Schnurbein, G. (2020). Satisfaction With Informal Volunteering During the COVID-19 Crisis: An Empirical Study Considering a Swiss Online Volunteering Platform, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, online first:

Start of project: July 2017
End of project: July 2021
Contact: Alice Hengevoss

The number of international nonprofit organizations (INPO) is constantly increasing worldwide. The management literature, however, provides relatively little insights on the internationalization decisions of such organizations and the processes involved. The existing theory primarily defines factors relevant to the internationalization of for-profit organizations (FPO). As NPOs and FPOs significantly differ in their underlying objectives (profit maximization vs. maximization of societal welfare), their societal role, their financing structure, the control mechanisms, and their targeted markets, we may expect differences in their decisions of expanding abroad and the processes involved. The present research project therefore investigates the NPOs' market entry decisions and subsequent internationalization strategies.

An important body of the management literature on an organization’s internationalization is based on institutional theory. The approach suggests that the institutional environment and its underlying structures, formal and informal rules, and norms significantly shape an organization’s behavior. Internationally operating organizations therefore face a multitude of different institutional demands to which they ought to respond in order to be effective. Entering a new market and venturing into a new institutional context therefore entails significant transaction costs which ultimately influence the market entry decision and strategy. This research project therefore addresses an NPO’s transactions and analyses how they influence the organization’s market entry and strategic decisions. The goal is to contribute to a better understanding of successful NPO internationalization.

Start of project: October 2019
End of project: 2022
Contact: Dominik Meier

Humans are social beings. We do not only strive for our own well-being, but also for that of others. With social contacts such as friendships, there is certainly self-interest involved. Other pro-social activities such as supporting social institutions in the form of donations, on the other hand, seem completely selfless.

This type of altruistic behavior is not uncommon. According to a survey conducted by Swissfundraising in 2015, 75% of those surveyed donate at least once a year (Swissfundraising, 2015). Why people donate has been researched in detail and it has been shown that behind seemingly altruistic activities such as money donations there is also a certain self-interest. For example, people often feel better after a donation, they feel a so-called «warm glow». There are even studies that show that we are happier after spending money on others rather than on ourselves (Dunn, Aknin & Norton, 2008).

Although donations leave a good feeling, situations in which donations can be made are often avoided. In one study, for example, people took a detour to avoid the entrance to a shopping center occupied by fundraisers (Andreoni, Rao & Trachtman, 2017). In experiments, half of the subjects consciously avoid situations in which they could give (donate) part of the assets received in an experiment to another person (Cain, Dana & Newman, 2014). They are even willing to pay to avoid such situations (Broberg, Ellingsen & Johannesson, 2007). However, if these people do get into a situation where they can donate, they then do so, even though they first tried to avoid the situation.

Hence, some people donate reluctantly. Figuratively speaking, one gives money to the beggar, although one would have preferred to avoid him. The aim of this project is to investigate the causes and consequences of this «reluctant sharing».


  • Andreoni, J., Rao, J. M., & Trachtman, H. (2017). Avoiding the ask: A field experiment on altruism, empathy, and charitable giving. Journal of Political Economy125(3), 625-653.
  • Broberg, T., Ellingsen, T., & Johannesson, M. (2007). Is generosity involuntary? Economics Letters, 94(1), 32–37.
  • Cain, D. M., Dana, J., & Newman, G. E. (2014). Giving Versus Giving In. The Academy of Management Annals, 8(1), 505–533.
  • Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science319(5870), 1687-1688.
  • Swissfundraising. (2015). Spendenmarkt Schweiz

Start of project: June 2017
End of project: June 2021
Contact: Nicholas Arnold

Interactions between nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and companies are attracting growing academic attention. A common theme appearing in research in this area relates to the fact that NPOs seem to be increasingly engaging directly with companies in their efforts to influence corporate responsibility

Regarding the nature of NPOs’ approaches toward companies, two important strands of literature can be juxtaposed. Authors within the «collaborative strand» observe that the nonprofit sector is increasingly entering into more collaborative forms of interaction – such as stakeholder dialogue and partnerships with companies – arguing that this gives NPOs significant opportunities to positively influence corporate responsibility. In contrast, scholars within the «confrontational strand» assert that more antagonistic approaches by NPOs towards companies – such as scrutiny of corporate (responsibility) behavior and anti-corporate activism – remain very common, as many NPOs view this approach as an important instrument by which to influence corporate responsibility.

The way in which these two approaches interact, i.e. how (NPOs adopting a) collaborative and confrontational approaches affect each other with respect to influencing corporate responsibility, has received limited scholarly attention. Investigating this process in more detail is the main objective of this research project.


  • Arnold, N. (2022), Pointing Fingers and Holding Hands: Effects of Collaborative and Confrontational NPO Approaches on Households’ Consumption and Donation Decisions, International Journal of Consumer Studies, online first:
  • Arnold, N. (2021). Of Small Steps and Big Leaps: Collaborators Impact on Confronters’ Ability to Influence Corporate Responsibility. CEPS Working Paper Series, No. 19, Basel: CEPS.

Start of project: September 2019
End of project: September 2021
Contact: Damian Schweighauser

In order to pursue their statutory objectives, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) sometimes operate in the same markets as companies with commercial purposes. As a result, the latter feel increasingly challenged by nonprofit organizations – and react accordingly. An example is the case recently heard before EU courts, according to which the operator of a nonprofit youth hostel (under German law) was no longer allowed to receive financial support from the state, as this would have privileged it over a profit-oriented hostel operator (plaintiff in that case).

This case clearly shows the incompatibility that can arise between a charitable purpose and commercial means: An organization receives nonprofit status (which in Switzerland is defined purely by tax law) primarily because of its charitable purpose. However, the means used to fulfill this purpose may also, to a certain extent, come from entrepreneurial activity. This can lead to competitive situations with profit-oriented companies. Furthermore, the exercise of the purpose itself may constitute participation in the economic process in terms of competition law (e.g. free legal advice provided by an NPO). In Switzerland, the conflict between nonprofit and competition law is not only evident in the area of antitrust law or unfair competition law (classic competition law), but also in procurement, subsidy or tax law itself. In this respect, nonprofit organizations in Switzerland are also coming under increasing pressure to comply with competition law requirements.

The present project investigates to what extent nonprofit organizations in the sense of Swiss tax law are covered by the scope of application of competition law in a broader sense. In this context, it will be examined whether exceptions should be created to protect the benefits of non-profit activities from the harsh winds of competition law. The investigation of the issue is primarily done by examining the different areas of application of competition law decrees to non-profit organizations.

Start of project: October 2015
End of project: September 2021
Contact: Theresa Gehringer

In the large body of literature on CSR, corporate philanthropy only holds a small share. Due to scarcity of data, empirical research is – with a few exceptions – limited to US-based corporations and their philanthropic activities. This is the first research project that covers all three aspects of Corporate Philanthropy in Switzerland: Corporate Giving, Corporate Volunteering and Corporate Foundations. So far no comprehensive study was ever conducted on this subject with data from Swiss companies and their Corporate Philanthropy activities.

The overarching aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of the interdependencies of CSR and corporate philanthropy. Especially to help understand, if and how corporate philanthropy activities create a win-win-situation for both business and society.

The descriptive research aim is to conduct a first conclusive overview of the different forms of corporate philanthropy and their state of action in Switzerland. Additionally, a better understanding of the linkages between corporate philanthropy, CSR and firm profitability will be developed using the collected data on corporate philanthropy in Switzerland. The explorative research aim of the project is to detect rules and criteria to value the impact of corporate philanthropy on the company’s social embeddedness (as civil society actor).

The findings of this research project will have a major effect on the theoretical debate on corporate philanthropy and corporate social behavior in general. By looking at the current debate on Corporate Philanthropy and taking Switzerland as a mini-laboratory, we lay the ground for a distinct theory of corporate philanthropy.


  • Gehringer, T. (2021). Corporate Foundations as Hybrid Organizations: A Systematic Review of Literature, Voluntas, online first:
  • Gehringer, T. (2020). Corporate Foundations as Partnership Brokers in Supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sustainability, 12(18), 7820
  • Gehringer, T. / von Schnurbein, G. (2020). Corporate Foundations in Europe, in: Roza L., Bethmann S., Meijs L., von Schnurbein G. (eds) Handbook on Corporate Foundations. Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies (An International Multidisciplinary Series), Cham, Springer
  • Gehringer, T. (2018). Auf Taten Worte folgen lassen: Wie Top-Unternehmen in der Schweiz ihr philanthropisches Engagement kommunizieren, in: Andessner, R./ Greiling, D./ Gmür, M./ Theuvsen, L. (eds): Wohin entwickelt sich der Dritte Sektor? Konzeptionelle und empirische Beiträge aus der Forschung, Freiburg, Verbandsmanagement Institut (VMI)

Start of project: February 2016
End of project: 2019
Contact: Sara Stühlinger

The economization of societal sectors has increased over the last years. This has affected the nonprofit sector as well: philanthropic activities are increasingly considered to be investments rather than donations or alms and the boundary between investment management and funding activities becomes blurred.

These developments affect nonprofit organizations (NPO) as investors and as capital seekers. As investors NPO have to address the question of the alignment of investment decisions to their missions and the involvement of financial intermediaries in its implementation. Trends such as impact investing require a discussion about financing instruments as well as the future role of NPO as investor as well as investee.

Investments play a crucial role, not merely in the external financing but also in the internal financing. Due to the mission driven character of a NPO and its asymmetric exchange patterns, the efficiency of a NPO cannot be explored by the market and hence greater attention is needed. This efficiency pressure leads to the unintended effects of underinvestment. We approach these research questions by empirical analyses. For this purpose we collect financial data and further characteristics of NPO and investment objects.


  • Stühlinger, S. (2021). Investments in and for Nonprofit Organizations: Four Essays on Influencing Factors and Effects of Investment in and for Nonprofits, Basel: CEPS.
  • Hersberger‐Langloh / S.E., Stühlinger, S. / von Schnurbein, G. (2020). Institutional isomorphism and nonprofit managerialism: For better or worse? Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 2020, 1– 20, online first:
  • Stühlinger, S. (2018). In Need of Clarification: Current Perceptions of Impact Investing in the German and Swiss Foundation Sectors. CEPS Working Paper Series, No. 13, Basel, CEPS.

Start of project: April 2016
End of project: 2020
Contact: Sophie Hersberger

As soon as non-profit organizations (NPOs) offer services, set prices or acquire resources, they face challenges similar to those faced by for-profit companies: they must focus on the needs of their stakeholder groups and satisfy these needs. In the case of for-profit companies, as the saying goes, the customer is king. NPOs, however, face a much more complex circle of markets and stakeholders. They not only focus on clients or customers, who can often be divided into different sub-groups, but also have to meet the requirements of the donors and sponsors, comply with the standards of the supervisory authorities or state guidelines, recruit and manage voluntary employees and at the same time take care of their public perception, cost-efficient procurement of resources and competitors or partners from the public, private and non-profit sectors. And all this in the face of increasing scarcity or stagnation of public funds and a growing number of NPOs.

Many researchers have criticized the increasing "marketization" of NPOs, but there is no empirically supported concept for measuring the market orientation of NPOs. Due to the dominance of not-for-profit objectives in NPO and their complex stakeholder structures, the transfer of a market orientation concept from the private sector, such as MARKTOR or MKTOR, is not satisfactory. Many NPOs have a strong inward-looking management perspective, which assumes that the organization knows best what clients need. The needs of the market are thus not taken into account or satisfied. The assessment of the market orientation of many NPOs is therefore largely based on self-assessment, without a direct possibility of comparison with other organisations.

The aim of the dissertation is to close this research gap and to create an understanding of the interactions between NPOs and their stakeholder groups. In a first step, the market environment of an organization is modelled and classified into theories of the emergence of NPOs. In a further step, the market orientation of NPOs in different sectors will be empirically investigated and linked to performance variables in order to gain a better understanding of how market orientation affects the performance of a NPO. This study is intended to supplement the existing non-profit literature with a theoretical and empirical analysis of this topic, as no comprehensive research has been carried out to date. On the other hand, the results should help practitioners to align their management culture in such a way that the needs of the important stakeholders in their organization are really met. A better understanding of market orientation and its effects in the nonprofit context can have an impact on an organization's performance and strategy.


  • Hersberger-Langloh, S. (2021). Between Donors and Beneficiaries: Towards a Theory of Dynamic Two-Sided Markets, Voluntary Sector Review, online first:
  • Hersberger-Langloh, S. (2021). The Marketization of Nonprofits: Four Essays on Stakeholder Management and Market Orientation in Nonprofit Organizations, Basel: CEPS.
  • Hersberger‐Langloh, S., Stühlinger, S., von Schnurbein, G. (2020). Institutional isomorphism and nonprofit managerialism: For better or worse? Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 2020, 1– 20, online first:
  • Hersberger-Langloh, S. (2020). A Stakeholder Perspective on the Market Orientation of Swiss Nonprofit Organizations, Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, online first:

Start of project: July 2014
End of project: December 2020
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

In their entrepreneurial activities, nonprofit organizations (NPO) pursue factual and not monetary goals. These goals are directly derived from the values inherent in the organization’s mission. Therefore, the realization of financial profits is only instrumental to the achievement of the organization’s goals – however, crucial for their organizational survival. NPO not only operate in the area of conflict between financial and factual goals, but also between state and market forces. As a result, their means of income as well as their term-structure of cash flows substantially differ from for-profit organizations. Given these differences, the application of common operating figures used by for-profit organizations to judge their financial stability and diversity (hence, their financial “health”) is not reasonable for NPO.

We will examine this subject by applying various research designs. First, this research project aims to analyze the financial stability and diversity of fundraising in NPO, similar to recent studies conducted in the USA. Therefore, we focus on the changes in diversification vs. concentration of income sources, the reasons that lead to these changes, and recognizing the effective strategies in terms of support they offer the organization's financial health. Scholars still disagree about whether a higher degree of diversification or the concentration of revenue sources is strategically more successful. Moreover, we study the strategic management of financial resources. Traditional research often builds on financial data. We want to close this research gap by conducting case studies and using data triangulation. 


  • von Schnurbein, G. (2017). Nonprofit Financial Growth and Path Dependency. CEPS Working Paper Series, No. 12, Basel: CEPS.
  • von Schnurbein, G. / Fritz, T.M. (2017): Benefits and Drivers of Nonprofit Revenue Concentration, in: Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Vol. 46, Nr. 5, S. 922-943
  • von Schnurbein, G.: Finanzierung und Wachstum von Nonprofit-Organisationen, in: Die Unternehmung, Jg. 71, Nr. 2, 2017, S. 147-164.

Start of project: July 2015
End of project: October 2019
Contact: Theresa Gehringer
Partner: Rotterdam School of Managment, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Even though research on foundations has considerably grown during the last couple of years, little attention has been directed at Corporate Foundations as particular type of philanthropic foundations. Corporate foundations differ from private foundations set up by individuals, as they show a complex relationship with the founding organization in terms of governance, ownership, management and funding/resources. They operate on the margins of two institutional logics: the profit making aims of the corporation and the social civil society orientation of philanthropic institutions.

Although some preliminary research on Corporate Foundations is available, much remains unknown. Lucas Meijs, Lonneke Roza (Rotterdam School of Management), Georg von Schnurbein, Steffen Bethmann and Theresa Gehringer (CEPS) have joint forces to edit a research book on Corporate Foundations. The overall aim is to develop and present a specific overview of the contemporary body of knowledge and the future (international) research agenda on Corporate Foundations.

The resulting research handbook provides legitimacy for the topic in academia, displays seminal knowledge on Corporate Foundations, creates new avenues to look at this phenomenon, includes contemporary and new research on the topic and creates a research agenda for future research. Next to its academic contribution, the project aims to develop insights for managerial practice, especially for Corporate Foundations and their stakeholders, such as the company, non-profit organizations and civil society. As separate but integrated result, several thematic brochures and workshops for practitioners will be developed from the newly generated knowledge in order to provide support in governance and management related questions of Corporate Foundations.


  • Bethmann, S. / von Schnurbein, G. (2015). Effective Governance of Corporate Foundations. CEPS Working Paper Series No. 8. Basel: CEPS.
  • Roza, L. / Bethmann, S. / Meijs, L. / von Schnurbein, G. (Eds). Handbook on Corporate Foundation: Corporate and Civil Society Perspectives, Springer International Publishing, 2019
  • Gehringer, T. / von Schnurbein, G. (2019). Corporate Foundations in Europe, In: Roza L., Bethmann S., Meijs L., von Schnurbein G. (Eds) Handbook on Corporate Foundation. Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies (An International Multidisciplinary Series). Springer, Cham
  • Bethmann, S. / von Schnurbein, G. (2019). Strategic in What Sense? Corporate Foundation Models in Terms of Their Institutional Independence and Closeness to Core Business, In: Roza L., Bethmann S., Meijs L., von Schnurbein G. (Eds) Handbook on Corporate Foundation. Nonprofit and Civil Society Studies (An International Multidisciplinary Series). Springer, Cham

Start of project: January 2016
End of project: December 2018
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

Research on nonprofit governance has increased over the past years. However, the majority of existing literature falls short on several aspects. First, the focus lies predominantly on the board or the relation between the board and the executive director. Second, most studies concentrate on a single organization structure, neglecting the more complex structures of federalist or multi-level organizations that are common in practice. Finally, the theoretical grounding is often driven by normative or positivist approaches.

One solution to overcome some of these limitations of existing research is the network governance approach developed by Bradshaw (2009) and Renz (2006). The basic idea is that governance structures go beyond the board and even beyond the single organization. In this study, we apply the network governance approach to the board and committee structure of global health partnerships, such as The Global Fund or GAVI. These supranational organizations are a rather new phenomenon of nonprofit organizations and connect constituents from business, nonprofit, and state sector. As the primary purpose of the organization is the connection of diverse interest groups, governance is critical to the effectiveness and success of these networks (Provan & Milward 1995).

Our research questions are:

  • How is board composition structured in network governance?
  • What are the abilities of network governance structures to transport and share information?

In order to answer these questions, we have collected data on a total of 523 board and committee members of ten global health partnerships. Using network analysis, we can show, which actors in the network have the best positions to either send information through the network or to transfer information. Both criteria are important to value the overall structure of the network.

Preliminary results show that over the ten global health partnerships with very different missions and distant geographic locations, one single network develops if one looks at the level of boards and committees. Thus, the boards and committees fulfill an important role as information traders within a global network. In a more detailed perspective, some actors obtain a very central and highly influential role for the information flow of the network. However, other organizations gain influence as gate keepers, because they act as a single connection between the network center and one further cluster. These findings highlight different roles and strategies of influence in a network governance system.


  • Perez, M. (2017): Transaction Cost Perspectives on Cooperation: A Study of Hybrids Through Foundations Lobbying in the EU, in: VOLUNTAS, 2017, online first: doi: 10.1007/s11266-017-9928-z

Start of project: July 2012
End of project: September 2018
Kontakt: Steffen Bethmann
Partner: Centrum für Soziale Investitionen und Innovation (CSI), Universität Heidelberg

There is an unexpectedly large gap between foundations’ quest to being drivers and initiators of social innovation and actually realising the concept and dealing with the process of social innovation. When reviewing the literature of social sciences of the past few years, it becomes evident that a lot of effort goes into establishing “social innovation” as a research field in its own right. On the basis of this development, it becomes possible to critically question the role of foundations as social innovators. This research project examines the extent to which foundations can be drivers and supporters of social innovation.

The first part consists of an analysis of the functions of foundations in society and their role in the welfare state. Then, the term “social innovation” is defined as a concept and theoretically supported. The next step is to transfer our results to the strategies foundations apply when intending to create social change. And finally, the study will formulate prerequisites for a foundation’s strategy that will help to effectively initiate and support social innovations.


Start of project: November 2015
End of project: December 2017
Dr. Marybel Perez 

The project seeks to explain how foundations participate in European policymaking. The project starts with an analysis of the European Transparency Register with the purpose of showing what kinds of foundations participate in EU consultations, in what type of consultation processes they participate and what policies attract foundations the most. 

Start of project: January 2013
End of project: April 2016
Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

The recent turmoil on the global financial markets has lead foundations to review their investment policies. In the light of decreasing yields and returns there is a growing need for investment strategies that support the effective implementation of the organization’s mission. Mission Investing (MI), also known as Mission-Related Investing (MRI), offers the possibility to pursue the organization’s mission while the assets are kept invested. The concept of incorporating the funding strategy in the investment policy therefore aims to reduce the dependence on financial returns.

MI is an umbrella term that incorporates and overlaps various value-based investment concepts (e.g. Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) or Impact Investing). This multitude of concepts and the lack of a generally accepted definition of MI impede the topic’s scientific discussion. Additionally, in order to prove the economic legitimacy of such concepts, methods to quantify the qualitative impact of such investments are necessary. However, these instruments are still underdeveloped, as well as the empirical coverage of the practical implementation of MI. In face of the increasing interest of foundations and financial service providers in that certain topic, an academic examination of MI is crucial.

This research project aims at defining transparent and measurable criteria to evaluate and legitimate the adequate implementation of MI with the help of established methods from financial market theory. Further, it tries to promote the understanding to what extent MI can be an appropriate investment tool, by analyzing the mission-specific trade-off between value-based and purely profit-seeking investment strategies.


  • Fritz, T. und von Schnurbein, G.(2013). ‘Mission Related Investing bei Schweizer Förderstiftungen‘. In: von Schnurbein, G. und Egger Ph. (Hrsg.). Innovation statt Stagnation, Foundation Governance Bd. 10, Verlag Helbing Lichtenhahn
  • Fritz, Tizian: Mission Investing. Four Essays on Mission-based Investment Strategies in the Context of Nonprofit Organizations.

Further information:

Start of project: March 2013
End of project: January 2014
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

The research project "Generous People" is a comparative study about philanthropic donations in over 20 countries. Our Centre is responsible for the Swiss part. For each country first a historical overview about philanthropy is provided. Then donation behaviour is analyzed by using multivariate analysis. Through logistic regression the influence of various variables on religious and secular giving is measured. By using a tobit regression the influence of the same variables on the amount donated is tested. The results are published in an edited volume.


  • Wiepking, P. and Handy, F. (2015). The Palgrave Handbook of Global Philanthropy. Palgrave Macmillan. Hampshire, England.

Start of project: January 2014
End of project: December 2015
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

Within the scope of corporate citizenship and as an instrument to engage in charitable activities, many companies establish foundations with charitable missions. These foundations often differ significantly from classic grant-making foundations. First of all, a company usually endures longer than a founder, therefore exerting a more permanent influence. Secondly, the corporate foundation isn’t generally equipped with extensive foundation assets, but is moreover supported annually, thereby increasing the foundation’s dependence to the company. Thirdly, the question of which references between the company’s core business and the foundation’s charitable engagement with regards to contents, make sense, are allowed, and proven to be efficient.

In several individual projects and in collaboration with international partners, the CEPS examines the management and governance of corporate foundations. The foundation’s perspective is hereby explicitly adopted, since existing literature largely focusses on the topic from a corporate point of view.

The following research questions are of core interest:

  • Is Corporate Philanthropy part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
  • Does the shared-value approach provide the highest possible societal benefit from the foundation’s activities?
  • How does the existing relationship to the company affect the foundation’s governance?


Start of project: 2009
End of project: June 2015
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein
Partner: Stiftung Mercator Schweiz

In contrast to private companies, evaluating projects of NPO turn out to be a challenging task cause of the different type of objects to measure. In grantmaking foundations the trilateral organization structure of giving grants presents an additional difficulty. Such foundations do not operate projects by themselves and are required to control other organizations or institutions which they support.

The research project Foundation Evaluation, kindly funded by the Stiftung Mercator Schweiz, is searching for solutions to perform trilateral evaluations in grantmaking foundations. In the first step, existing evaluation methods, which are often used in NPO, are collected and analysed. Afterwards, qualitative and quantitative studies will give enquire the evaluation situation in Swiss foundations. In the end the study will give insights about the evaluation activities of Swiss foundations and provide practioners with evaluation instructions


  • Wyser R. (2016): Evaluation von Förderprojekten. Governance-Analyse einer spezifischen Evaluationssituation unter Anwendung der Prinzipal-Agenten- und der Vertrauenstheorie, BoD.
  • von Schnurbein, G. / Wyser, R. (2012). Governance-Beziehungen in einer trilateralen Evaluationssituation. In: Gmür, M.; Schauer, R.; Theuvsen, L. (Hrsg.). Performance Management in Nonprofit-Organisationen, VMI, Haupt, Bern.

Start of project: September 2012
End of project: September 2014
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein
Partners: Freie Universität Amsterdam, ERNOP, EU-Commission, Gebert Rüf Foundation

The financing of research at Swiss Universities continues to be understood as being dependant on Government expenditure by the greater part of the political environment and society. Today, the proportion of Governmental funding within the total budget of Universities is declining and funding is supplemented by Government and private research promotion funds attained through successful research applications and performance evaluations. Besides ample subsidies from the EU and the Swiss ‘Nationalfonds’, there is a growing interest from private donors to support science, be it sponsorship, Foundations or corporations. Besides large donations that make it into the public eye, such as the donation of the Adolphe Merkle Institut to the University of Fribourg or the recent donation by the ‘UBS Foundation of Economics in Society’ to the University of Zurich, there are a large number of private Foundations offering financial support for research and education at Universities. There is, however, up to date no scientific account of the number and value of donations, purpose or conditions of spending and the different types of sponsorship. Valid predictions on the potential of private funds for science and projections on future developments are impossible without a solid database. Switzerland is not the only country lacking this kind of information, which is why the European Commission has launched a study to identify the Foundations supporting science in all EU countries. The CEPS is participating in this project (“Tender Study on Foundations Supporting Research and Innovation in the EU”) with a country study on Switzerland.

The CEPS plans to carry out a more in-depth and substantiated analysis of the role of private support for science through Foundations in Switzerland. Initially, a comprehensive descriptive inventory of science supporting actions by Foundations will be produced. Secondly, the situation in Switzerland will be compared with other European countries. Thirdly, on an interdisciplinary level, the opportunities and challenges for the further development of private sponsorship of science will be identified. The results will then be integrated into the EU comparison study, which will form the basis for the next project: an interdisciplinary analysis of societal, educational and economic challenges and opportunities of private support of science. Besides funding from the EU Commission the project is receiving considerable support from the Foundation Gebert Rüf Foundation.


Start of project: April 2010
End of project: March 2014
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

More than one third of all working hours in the nonprofit sector are conducted by volunteers. Targeted coordination of volunteers can help to optimize their contribution, in the backdrop of achieving a particular goal.  Until now, literature on volunteer coordination was mostly influenced by classic Human Resource Management (HRM) practices.

For the first time, the CEPS project opposes this “functional volunteer coordination” of classic HRM to “interactional volunteer coordination.” Interactional volunteer coordination positions volunteers as an own stakeholder group in the organization and mediates between volunteers and other stakeholder groups, especially paid staff.

After an intensive analysis of literature and 22 problem-centered interviews, data from a pool of around 400 NPO was evaluated, using multivariate analysis methods. Seven dimensions of interactional volunteer coordination could thereby be identified: balancing interests & beliefs, participation & codetermination, strategic commitment, coordination beyond organizational boundaries, role clarity, team spirit of paid staff, and respect & informal appraisal. There is a significant relation between these dimensions and the desired outcome of volunteer coordination. It can be shown that interactional volunteer coordination essentially adds to HRM instruments. Further organizational features were included in the analysis as frame conditions, whereby especially resources for volunteer coordination (time, know-how) and job attributes supporting satisfaction proved to be most constructive.


  • Studer, S. (2016). Volunteer management: responding to the uniqueness of volunteers. Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly. Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • Studer, S. (2013). Integrierte Freiwilligenkoordination: Ein Leitfaden für Schweizer NPO. CEPS Forschung & Praxis Bd. 9. Basel: CEPS.
  • Studer, S. / von Schnurbein, G. (2013). Organizational factors affecting volunteers: A literature review on volunteer coordination. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 24(2), 403-440.
  • Studer, S. / von Schnurbein, G. (2012). Volunteers as a unique organizational resource: Conceptualizations in practice and management responses - Lessons from Switzerland. International Journal of Volunteer Administration, 19(2), 40-51.

Start of project: June 2009
End of project: June 2011
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

The management structures of NPOs have undergone enormous progress and have become more professional in recent years. The time is right to examine the links between specific management structures and the success of an organisation and also, to determine the underlying criteria leading to certain management structures.

The starting point was a quantitative survey carried out among all certified Swiss non-profit organisations. The intention was to include only organisations demonstrating a certain degree of professionalism and depency on fundraising. Of a total of 520 organisations that were contacted, 180 organisations responded, an encouraging rate of 34.6%.

The study results were presented at numerous scientific conferences throughout 2010.

Start of project: July 2010
End of project: March 2011
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein
Partners: Prof. Dr. Daniel Zöbeli, Prof. Dr. Claus Kos

The introduction of Swiss GAAP FER 21 for fundraising NPOs in 2002 has improved and streamlined accounting procedures in the non-profit sector in Switzerland. Over time, the call to follow the expert recommendations was issued to all NPOs, as in the Swiss Foundation Code 2009 for grant-making Foundations. A first detailed description of the main accounting and audit topics for grant-making Foundations was published in the serial edition ‘Foundation Governance’ Volume Eight. The articles by eleven authors highlight economic and legal aspects and show best practice examples and approaches of how grant-making Foundations can design their accounting procedures to legal standards and improved transparency.


  • Egger, Ph./ von Schnurbein, G./ Zöbeli, D./ Koss, C. (Hrsg.): Rechnungslegung und Revision von Förderstiftungen – Handlungsempfehlungen für die Praxis, Foundation Governance Bd. 8, Basel: Verlag Helbing Lichtenhahn, 2011

Start of project: 2009
End of project: 2010
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

Venture Philanthropy is a composite of the terms ‘Venture Capital’ (off-exchange participation in risk bearing ventures) and ‘Philanthropy’ (private voluntary action with a charitable purpose). Philanthropic objectives can be attained not only through donations, but also, for example, through the issueing of loans or allowing for participation in the equity held by charitable organisations.

A particular characteristic of Venture Philanthropy is that the beneficiaries are given access to networks, consulting services and contacts. The Foundation and its executive bodies can be active members of various boards, they coach and mentor the beneficiaries and are included in important decision making processes. Foundations and their executive body play a much more active role, which is why Venture Philanthropy is also known as ‘high-engagement philanthropy’.

In Switzerland, no legal study on questions concerning Venture Philanthropy has been carried out until now. The contributions of this research project could help to fill this gap. Different forms of financing were examined with regards to how a more active commitment of Foundations is in accordance with Swiss law.

The main aim of the study in this context was to demonstrate the risks and consequences of liability for Swiss Foundations and their executive bodies. We were able to highlight certain areas that actors within ‘high-engagement philanthropy’ need to consider in order to avoid any possible liability.


  • Schönenberg, D.: Venture Philanthropy. Zulässigkeit und haftungsrechtliche Konsequenzen für Schweizer Stiftungen und deren Organe, Basel: Helbing Lichtenhahn Verlag, 2011
  • Schönenberg, D.: Venture Philanthropy - Haftung von Stiftungen für Strategieberatung am Beispiel des Schweizer Rechts, in: Non Profit Law Yearbook 2010|2011, Das Jahrbuch des Instituts für Stiftungsrecht und das Recht der Non-Profit-Organisationen, 2011, S. 137 - 158

Start of project: June 2009
End of project: Juni 2011
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

Associations and foundations are the most common legal forms to pursuit charitable purposes in Switzerland. There are considerable differences of these two legal forms under legal and managerial aspects. But until now there exist far more associations than foundations. In the last few years a trend to foundations could be observed. It was not only a matter of the establishment of new foundations, but also of the transformation of associations into foundations.

In this research project, it was looked into the reasons and the implications of these transformation under legal and managerial aspects. In an interdisciplinary analysis, the effects of the transformation to important aspects like member rights, control and accountability as well as the managerial consequences were analyzed.

The aim of this project was to identify an efficient proceeding for this transformation and to compile elements which give information about the benefits and feasibility of a transformation.


  • von Schnurbein, G. / Schönenberg, D.: Legal Forms of Civil Society Organizations as a Governance Problem: The Case of Switzerland, in: International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, Vol. 12, Nr. 3, 2010, S. 90-101
  • Schönenberg, D. / von Schnurbein, G.: Transformation vom Verein in eine Stiftung: Juristische und betriebswirtschaftliche Folgen, in: Jusletter 7. September 2009
  • von Schnurbein, G. / Schönenberg, D.: Transformationen von Vereinen zu Stiftungen in der Schweiz, in: Stiftung & Sponsoring, Nr. 5/09, S. 30-31
  • Schönenberg, D.: Transformation vom Verein in eine Stiftung im Schweizer Recht, in: Zeitschrift für das Recht der Non Profit Organisationen, Heft 3/2009, S. 64-67

Start of project: January 2008
End of project: March 2010
Contact: Prof. Dr. Georg von Schnurbein

In recent years many countries have produced a number of different governance codes for non-profit organisations. We were able to identify 15 different non-profit governance codes for Switzerland and Germany alone.

The multitude of non-profit governance codes called for closer examination to find out more about differences and commonalities. The focus of this research project was on the analysis of content, design and the authors of the respective codes. The following questions were asked:

  1. When comparing the governance codes, how does the content differ?
  2. What influence do the authors of a particular code have on its content?


  • Philanthropie Aktuell 1/2011
  • von Schnurbein, G. / Stöckli, S.: Die Gestaltung von Nonprofit Governance Kodizes in Deutschland und der Schweiz – eine komparative Inhaltsanalyse, in: Die Betriebswirtschaft, Vol. 70, Heft 6, 2010, S. 493-509