Civil society – commitment to society

Every third person in Germany spends some of their spare time helping the common good. On average citizens devote 14 to 21 hours a month to sport and leisure time activities, to working with children and young people, their church, healthcare and social affairs, or culture and education. The past few years have seen an increase in this commitment overall, though there has been a shift away from the large associations to small, self-organized groups and changing projects. The “third sector” between the state and the market is also assuming economic significance. The number of working hours per annum put in by citizens is estimated to be in excess of 4.6 billion, making the voluntary work performed worth 35 billion euros to the economy – around two percent of the German national income. Yet German civil society has even more pillars: Since the reform of the law governing non-profit-making organizations in 2007, German foundations have been experiencing a boom. Today more than 16,000 civil law foundations with legal capacity manage estimated assets of 100 billion euros. In 2008 they spent a total of some 15 billion euros – for social purposes, education, science and culture. Much in favor at the moment are community foundations, in which several citizens and companies act as benefactors. The joint capital of the more than 200 community foundations now totals more than 100 billion euros.