4 European Philanthropic Models

January 10, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Americans like to think that they have originated just about everything, that despite the arrival on the American land mass of people from all over the world, all that is Made in the USA is sui generis.

In her book “Diversity and Philanthropy,” Lilya Wagner wrote that the background of the nonprofit sector in the United States can be found in European philanthropy, a thought that should be kept in mind as fundraising keep spreading beyond national borders.

The four models of civil society that Wagner cites are:

  • The Anglo-Saxon model. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are viewed as being a counterweight to government and the state. In an ideal world, they foster pluralism in their societies and cast themselves in the role of critics of the state and advocates of reform.
  • The Rhine model (which includes Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands). This is characterized by strong CSOs that are like institutions and often receive contracts from the state in the form of “societal corporatism” rather than operating as a counterweight to the state.
  • The Latin/Mediterranean model. The role of the state is strong with clear division between church and state. Traditionally, the church does charity work and the state is responsible for delivering goods and services.
  •  The Scandinavian model. The state plays a strong role, but personal initiative is a positive. There is a strong welfare state, but volunteerism is a powerful force. CSOs thrive and fulfill a complementary role to bridge gaps in the system.