NEWS RELEASE | The World’s Third Largest Charitable Foundation—A byproduct of the PtP concept

Contact: Chelsea Newhouse

We are pleased to announce the publication of an in-depth case study of the newest and largest foundation to emerge from the implementation of the PtP Concept—a recently discovered, but powerful, “third route” to the creation of significant, charitable endowments around the world through the capture of all or a portion of the proceeds of transactions involving the privatization of government-owned or -controlled assets.

Prepared by Johns Hopkins University Professor and PtP Project Director Dr. Lester M. Salamon with the technical assistance of Dr. Juan-Cruz Alli-Turrillas, a noted authority on Spanish foundations and Professor at Spain’s National University of Distance Education (UNED), “Spain’s ‘la Caixa” Banking Foundation: A Global PtP Model” focuses on one of the largest charitable foundations in the world, with an estimated Gross Asset Value of €25.8 billion (roughly US$29 billion) at its founding, and annual philanthropic expenditures approaching €500 million.

As this case study shows, this foundation emerged from the transformation during the 2009-12 global financial crisis of Spain’s network of trustee savings banks into for-profit banks, in the course of which the charitable arms and accumulated assets of the previous savings banks were transferred to free-standing, private charitable foundations. As such, it is an outstanding example of just one of nine different assets classes that the PtP Project has identified as parts of a “third route” to the creation of such endowed foundations. More specifically, the “la Caixa” Banking Foundation emerged from the transformation of the largest and most successful of these Spanish savings banks, the la Caixa group, which had established a separate investment fund in possession of a sizable pool of investment assets that became the property of the new charitable foundation in the course of the PtP transformation process.

The case study explains how and why this transformation occurred, how the “PtP route” involving the creation of a free-standing charitable endowment came to be adopted, what governance structures and transparency provisions were put in place to ensure the independence and accountability of the resulting institution, and what programmatic achievements this PtP institution has produced.

In the process, this case study illustrates how a variety of significant transactions already under way around the world can yield enormous new assets with which to address some of the glaring problems revealed by the on-going pandemic crisis, such as grossly uneven broadband access, inadequate health care, limited low-income housing, and widespread poverty.

What is PtP?
Philanthropication thru Privatization—or PtP for short—is the name we have given to what turns out to be a wide assortment of privatization-type processes through which government-owned or -controlled assets have been transformed in whole or in part into charitable endowments managed by private foundations. Such transactions have so far been identified involving nine different asset classes:

  1. Sales of state-owned enterprises;
  2. Transfers of other state property;
  3. Royalties or concessions paid to governments in return for access to government-regulated activities (e.g., running lotteries or extracting minerals);
  4. Debt swaps in which creditors relieve debtor nations of financial obligations in return for debtor governments’ paying an equivalent amount in local currency into charitable endowments;
  5. De-mutualization—the sale or conversion of quasi-public, nonprofit, or cooperative institutions into for-profit enterprises;
  6. Stolen assets resulting from bribes or corruption;
  7. Legal penalties levied by governments for corporate malfeasance;
  8. Stranded or dormant assets in accounts without legitimate claimants; and
  9. Proceeds from broadband auction sales or from set-asides of free broadband licenses for priority uses.


By vesting these resources in foundations, PtP offers a way to ensure that a nation’s people receive some direct benefits from such transactions that transform public assets into private hands. This case study is one of a number of products examining the over 630 charitable foundations around the world that have been discovered to have emerged from such privatization-type transactions, broadly conceived.

Properly designed and executed, PtP can revolutionize the charitable landscape of countries while transforming privatization into a “win-win” process for citizens, governments, and investors alike. It is to call attention to this possibility and promote its application that the PtP Project is dedicated, as detailed in Philanthropication thru Privatization: Building Permanent Endowments for the Common Good.

Click here to download “Spain’s ‘la Caixa’ Banking Foundation: A Global PtP model”


Visit the PtP Project website to learn more about the PtP concept



About the PtP Projectemail
The Philanthropication thru Privatization (PtP) Project seeks to promote an option for the creation of independent charitable foundations around the world by capturing all or a portion of an assortment of “privatization” transactions involving the transformation of publicly-owned or -controlled assets into private wealth. The PtP Project is directed by Dr. Lester M. Salamon, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University and director of the 
Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS). Administrative and technical support for the Project is provided by the East-West Management Institute (EWMI) with generous support from the Volkswagen, Charles Stewart Mott, and King Baudouin foundations as well as eight Italian foundations of banking origin through their Association of Italian Foundations and Savings Banks (ACRI). Support for the case study presented here was provided by “la Caixa” Banking Foundation. For more information about the PtP Project, visit

Chelsea Newhouse

View posts by Chelsea Newhouse
Chelsea Newhouse served as the Center's Communications Manager and managed the Nonprofit Economic Data and Philanthropication thru Privatization Projects. Prior to joining the Center in 2008, she worked for the Johns Hopkins University Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, the Baltimore Sun, and as a community organizer for Clean Water Action and the Democratic National Committee. She holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Virginia. Following the Center's closing, Chelsea now serves as Project Manager at the East-West Management Institute, where she continues to work on the Philanthropication thru Privatization Project and other civil society development initiatives around the world. Chelsea can be reached at