History

When the UBS Culture Foundation commenced business operations in June 1998, it also accepted the legacy of cultural and social commitment as practiced by its predecessors Union Bank of Switzerland (SBG) and Swiss Bank Corporation (SBV). In their over 100-year history both these institutions had developed a tradition of supporting cultural, social and charitable ventures in manifold ways. Particularly worth mentioning in this context are the Jubiläumsstiftung (Anniversary Foundations) which SBG and SBV each founded on the occasion their 100th anniversary. SBG established its foundation in 1962 with the purpose of enhancing cultural and scientific achievement; SBV followed 10 years later with the same aims, but also including social issues in its program. The two foundations are good examples to show how, in the course of the 1960s, the commitment to become engaged in cultural and social affairs grew in the business community in Switzerland. The two UBS Foundations - UBS Culture Foundation and UBS Foundation for Social Issues and Education - clearly follow in the footsteps of the tradition practiced by their predecessors.

The main purpose of the SBG Anniversary Foundation was "the promotion of cultural, artistic and scientific life and activities in Switzerland" (statutes, Jubiläumsstiftung SBG 1962) whereas the SBV-Foundation was additionally committed to the "support of [...…] charitable and social institutions and ventures." For this purpose SBG and SBV endowed their newly established foundations with a capital of 10 million and 15 million Swiss francs respectively. By 1992 the responsible bodies of SBG had raised the capital stock by further 15 million francs. This capital increase had direct influence on the foundation's funding potential since the annual gains on capital constituted the means through which the grants were financed. From the start, the founder companies SBG and SBV covered the costs of management and administration so that the entire capital yield could flow into funding and support activities.

Right from the start, the SBG and SBV foundations followed an independent funding policy, aimed at supporting and complementing the funding efforts by other public and private grant-making institutions in the cultural and social sector. In the field of culture they saw their task in supporting cultural projects and activities in all four language areas of Switzerland while, at the same time, finding a balance between culture conservation and innovation. In both foundations responsibility for the funding practice was borne by the Foundation Board, the members of which were nominated by the founder companies. Likewise, the Board of the present UBS Culture Foundation is made up of representatives of UBS as well as external representatives from various domains of culture, arts and society. The list of past and present Board members includes a number of prominent names of high-ranking bank executives and other people of renown from different domains of society; moreover, the list reflects the Foundation's efforts to provide competent, committed, responsible and independent support for the arts and culture, to the benefit of society as a whole. The Foundation Board is assisted by the Foundation Office whose staff is responsible for the operative and administrative side, prepares meetings and implements the Board's decisions.

Since 1962, when the SBG Foundation was established, and the founding of the UBS Culture Foundation in 1999 with a capital endowment of 30 million Swiss francs, not only the Foundation's financial means have grown, but notably also the number of grant proposals. In 1964, for example, the SBG Foundation processed 74 proposals and awarded 29 grants totaling a sum of CHF 341,000; by 1994 this number had risen to 531 proposals, out of which 76 proposals were awarded grants to the total amount of CHF 1,262,000. After 1999 the number of applications climbed even higher and the UBS Culture Foundation was processing something between 650 and 800 grant proposals per year. On average, 10 to 15 percent of the applications received approval and were awarded grants, totaling between 1.5 and 2 million Swiss francs. Subsequently the comparatively high rejection rate was reduced significantly by means of improved communication concerning the fields eligible for support, the guidelines, as well as the application criteria. From 2008 on especially the newly designed website helped to reduce the number of proposals that did not match the required profile of the areas eligible for funding. Today, approximately only half of the 500 to 600 applications do not comply with the expected requirements. In relation to the total figure of applications, 15 to 20 percent of the proposals now receive approval and support. This positive development becomes even more evident when one takes the ratio between approved proposals and the number of applications which complied with the requirements in the different fields of funding. More than 30 percent of the proposals receive a grant out of the total promotion fund of 1 to 1.5 million Swiss francs set aside by the Foundation. Although the rejection rate has reclined markedly over the last few years there still exists in the arts and culture sector a distinctive gap between the number of projects in need of financial support and the existing financial resources. This evident gap between the doable and the wishable poses a challenge to all public and private funding institutions, forcing them to develop more profiled, goal-oriented and transparent funding policies and practices. The UBS Culture Foundation's intention, as formulated in the statutes, to allocate the means at its disposal to those areas "where others are not in a position to support artistic and cultural creativity" (statutes UBS Culture Foundation 1999) is to be seen against this background.

The evident gap between the doable and the wishable is characteristic of the arts and culture sector and poses a challenge to all public and private funding institutions, forcing them to develop more profiled, goal-oriented and transparent funding policies and practices. The UBS Culture Foundation's intention, as formulated in the statutes, to allocate the means at its disposal to those areas "where others are not in a position to support artistic and cultural creativity" (statutes UBS Culture Foundation 1999) is to be seen against this background. For this reason the UBS Culture Foundation - like its predecessor foundations - endorses close cooperation between public and private cultural funding institutions; it especially advocates an open exchange between private foundations engaged in the field of culture. The UBS Culture Foundation is a founding member of SwissFoundations, the Association of Swiss Grant-making Foundations (2001), and has been an active participant in FORUM · KULTUR UND ÖKONOMIE since 2001.

Conscious of its historical roots the UBS Culture Foundation is committed to a practice of support and promotion of the arts and culture in, and for, Switzerland that is independent and complementary, innovative as well as preserving, prioritizing as well as balanced and, above all, professional, goal-oriented and sustainable.