NEF was created 40 years ago as a consortium of European foundations to enable the philanthropic sector to engage on key societal or institutional developments that pave the way of our European societies.

NEF has catalyzed joint efforts of the sector to engage in areas where philanthropy has experience and could add value, such as democracy strengthening.

Nef Milestones & European Project


Expanding European integration- Treaty of adhesion of Denmark, Ireland and UK

NEF is set up as a ‘Fund for European Cooperation’ (1977).
For the following 10 years, NEF supports public private partnerships with a focus on fostering ‘greater understanding between Europeans’


Fall of Berlin Wall Free movement of people within the Schengen area

NEF manages substantial EU funding streams. We focus on bridging the East-West divides, funding a vast array of projects that aim at strengthening democracy and pluralism


The European Union reaches 25 members with the adhesion of 10 new states

NEF launches several collaborative projects to respond to the key European political developments, where foundations decide to unite their forces to strengthen civil society in addressing challenges

2005: launch of the European Programme on Integration and Migration, EPIM is now acknowledged as an important progressive funder in the field


Signature of the Lisbon Treaty – enshrines the principle of subsidiarity

2007: the Belgrade branch opens to support democratic development in all Balkan countries
2010: launch of our work on dementia-friendly and inclusive society that will translate in forging a network of 33 partners organizations across Europe
2012: 'Fikra' (meaning 'Idea' in Arabic) is designed to support community leaders in the North West region of Tunisia in developing community-based projects, in response to the Arab spring


European integration loses its impetus: From the migration crisis to Brexit, a series of crisis shakes the European project

Through NEF collaborative projects, European foundations support solidarity and democracy in Europe during these uncertain and fast-evolving times

2018: launch of Civitates with the overarching objectives of strengthening the resilience of the civil society sector, fostering a healthy digital public sphere and supporting independent, public interest journalism in Europe
2019: the TransForm advocates for ‘integrated community care’ as a systemic way to improve the preparedness and resilience of our health and care system across Europe
2020: launch of the European Artificial Intelligence Fund to shape the direction of AI in Europe in a context of unprecedented dependence on technology