The Center for Philanthropic Studies conducts research on all aspects of philanthropy, including charitable giving, foundation grants, blood donations and volunteering. We are part of the Department of Sociology at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam. Members of the Center contribute to education at the Bachelor and Master level throughout the Faculty of Social Sciences. The Center also offers post-academic programs for professionals in the Dutch philanthropic sector.



The Center for Philanthropic Studies produces high-quality research and education that contributes to the professionalization of philanthropy.


Philanthropy stands for contributions in the form of money, goods, time (expertise) and/or life (blood, organs), made available voluntarily by individuals and organizations (foundations, corporations, churches), primarily supporting the public good.


In search of more knowledge about the phenomenon “Philanthropy”, Theo Schuyt came into contact with the Giving USA studies during his study trips to the US in 1989 and 1993. Since 1955, the giving behavior of American households, funds and companies has been mapped macro-economically by researchers at the University of Indianapolis.

Schuyt found it striking that such an overview did not yet exist in the Netherlands, and thus the idea for the Giving in the Netherlands study was born. In 1997, this resulted in in the first edition of the book Giving in the Netherlands, in which the giving behavior of households, companies, and foundations in 1995 was mapped macro-economically. A new issue of Giving in the Netherlands is published every other year: fifteen issues have since been published.

Since 2001, Theo Schuyt has been special professor of Philanthropy, Sponsoring and Volunteering at Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam. In 2006 this special chair was converted into a permanent chair in Philanthropic Studies.

The Center’s focus has increasingly shifted to Europe. To stimulate international cooperation, the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) was established in 2007.

In addition to Theo Schuyt, the Center welcomed a second professor in 2013, when René Bekkers was appointed extraordinary professor of Social Aspects of Prosocial Behavior, supported by the Van der Gaag Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Bekkers has been involved with Giving in the Netherlands since 2001. He obtained his PhD in Sociology at Utrecht University in 2004 and joined the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2008.

On January 1, 2014, Bekkers took over from Schuyt as director of the Center for Philanthropic Studies. Theo Schuyt remained a professor at VU Amsterdam. In 2015, Schuyt was appointed professor by special appointment in Philanthropy and Social Innovation at Maastricht University on behalf of the Elisabeth Strouven foundation.

René Bekkers received a permanent chair in Philanthropy at VU in March 2018. A year later, the Center added a third professor. On January 1, 2019, Pamala Wiepking was appointed professor of ‘Social significance of charity lotteries’.

 In 2019, Eva-Maria Merz joined the Center with group of researchers on donations of blood, plasma, organs and other substances of human origin funded by the ERC project DONORS. She gave her inaugural lecture as full professor of Donor Behavior in 2022.

In 2023 the Center for Philanthropic Studies is an active academic department with deep roots in the philanthropy sector. In addition to ongoing Giving in the Netherlands research, the Center works on a variety of research projects and offers Postgraduate education at the VU University, Amsterdam.