Six reasons for choosing Zurich as a location for your foundation

Locally based, globally connected

With over 2,200 charitable foundations, the Canton of Zurich is the largest and most important location for foundations in Switzerland. Founders and foundations benefit from Zurich’s international appeal and its economic and financial strength. Zurich houses many important partner organisations, including universities, research institutes, NGOs and cultural institutions. The Canton of Zurich is a truly international location for foundations, where every second foundation is active on a national or global level.

The foundation sector in Zurich successfully blends tradition with innovation. Zurich is where Switzerland’s first foundation laws were introduced in 1835. That said, with some 60% of all charitable foundations in Zurich established within the last 25 years, Zurich is also a young and modern location for foundations.

Foundation-friendly environment

Charitable foundations based in the Canton of Zurich are subject to supervision by the Zurich Cantonal Tax Office and the Supervisory Authority of the Canton of Zurich.  The approach adopted by both is dynamic and foundation-friendly, giving foundations considerable leeway while setting a clear framework for foundations to operate within.

Tax-exempt foundations in the Canton of Zurich are permitted to pay appropriate remuneration to their board of trustee members and operate internationally, provided their activities are deemed worthy of support from a Swiss overall perspective. In addition, entrepreneurial funding models, such as loans, social impact bonds and development impact bonds, convertible loans or equity investments into social causes do not stand in the way of tax exemption in the Canton of Zurich. This makes it one of the few locations in Switzerland with a dedicated foundation-friendly tax system.

A professional environment

Nowadays, modern governance constitutes a crucial factor for credibility and effectiveness of foundations. It ensures that foundations act transparently, responsibly and in the best interest of their beneficiary groups. This also includes having foundation board diversity. There are a total of 10,951 registered foundation board mandates in Zurich.

Considered one of the world’s most high-profile good governance codes for charitable foundations, the Swiss Foundation Code provides a directional framework for implementing modern governance. The said Code is published by SwissFoundations (association of Swiss grant-making foundations) that has offices in Zurich and Geneva.

Professional consulting services in the domains of strategy, finance and law are equally important, with a large number of these services available in Zurich. Another valuable resource is the renowned Zurich Foundation Law Day, hosted by the Center for Foundation Law of the University of Zurich.  This annual event is attended by experts hailing from all over the world.

Leading economic and financial centre

Zurich is known as the heart of the Swiss economy for good reason. In line with its economic strength, the canton is also where a particularly high number of foundations are based, whose total assets amount to more than CHF 18 billion. This is equal to 20% of all foundation assets in Switzerland and underlines Zurich’s significance as a foundation hub. A considerable portion of these assets are tied up within the canton, be it as real estate or as financial assets managed by the Zurich financial centre.

The Canton of Zurich is not just a renowned financial centre, but also a highly innovative and successful business location. A correspondingly large number of companies have set up corporate foundations in Zurich. This, in turn, highlights the commitment of Zurich’s business community to social, cultural and environmental causes.

Pioneering innovation

Innovation is a top priority in Zurich. Home to several world-renowned research institutions, including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), the University of Zurich and various other science-centred organisations, the Canton of Zurich is a magnet that attracts world-class researchers and students who make a significant contribution to the Zurich’s dynamic innovation landscape.

 This strategic positioning creates an ideal environment for devising innovative solutions to current challenges faced by society. The fact that 22% of Zurich’s foundations are active in the field of science and research is thus no coincidence. They benefit from a unique atmosphere of science and innovation.

Dialogue with government and administration

In 2021, the Government Council of the Canton of Zurich decided to actively strengthen the location for charitable foundations. This decision also reflects the social significance it attaches to the foundation sector. Foundations generate considerable social and financial added value in the canton. They support art and culture, promote social causes and contribute to diversity in Zurich’s science and research sector.

This is why, the Canton of Zurich initiated a foundation dialogue series for foundations and their representatives: together with SwissFoundations (the association of Swiss grant-making foundations), the Canton of Zurich invites state funding agencies and the foundation sector to share and exchange information on specific topics, and to network. This dialogue event is held annually around 1 October, which is the European Day of Foundations and Donors.