Tonika Hirdman - Foundations: the smarter way to give in 2023
All of us can make a positive impact on the world around us, but some by using their wealth can make an even greater impression. As a financial hub, it makes sense that Luxembourg could also be a centre for philanthropy, but is it? We spoke to Tonika Hirdman the Director General of the Fondation de Luxembourg on her views.
Why is the development of Foundations happening in Luxembourg?
Well, the idea originally came from the private banking sector. It was one of the private banks in Luxembourg, who noticed an increase in interest among their clients to engage in philanthropy. They started lobbying, because they thought this kind of infrastructure should be created by the Luxembourg government. And so, in 2008, in a conference that was organised by Jean-Claude Juncker, the then Prime Minister of Luxembourg they launched the idea to create an umbrella foundation in Luxembourg, simply to facilitate for people to engage in philanthropy.
How many foundations have been created now?
Well, last year, we had a very nice milestone, we created our 100th Foundation, and today we have created 109 Foundations and very soon we will have our 110th.
Did you expect it to become this big when you took on the role?
Well, I strongly believed in it actually, I thought there was a real potential in it, otherwise, I wouldn't have gone into it. But I think there were a lot of people who hesitated and who had a doubt whether it would really take off, not least the government, because at the time, if you remember, in 2008-2009, there was a crisis. It spread in the whole world, but especially in Luxembourg and people thought "why would people start giving money away when they're losing money?". Actually it was the opposite. “People felt the responsibility that came with having wealth and being well off, to share and to help others.”
Luxembourg has a mixed reputation when it comes to philanthropy, we hear about the government being generous, but I'm not always so sure that Luxembourg is a generous nation. Do you agree?
Well, I agree that the Luxembourg government is very generous. It's one of the few countries who reached 1% of GDP in development aid and I have to say that there is also a history of sharing and giving among the ordinary Luxembourgers, which is very profound. However, there's not the history of setting up foundations here. So our first donors, they were not Luxembourgers, they were foreigners. It has only been five years that Luxembourgers have started to come to us now that they see what it's about.