Press release of 26 März 2019

HEKS/EPER opts for stabilization and greater focus in a difficult environment

Over the past year, Swiss Church Aid (HEKS/EPER), like many other Swiss NGOs, has had to cope with an ever more difficult environment. At CHF 66.2 million, operating income was below expectations, while expenditure of CHF 75 million remained within the budgeted framework. For HEKS/EPER, however, the current year 2019 as well as 2020 will be marked by financial stabilization and more focused project work. With this in view, the Executive Board and Board of Trustees have already introduced a series of measures in operations both in Switzerland and abroad, as well as in management and administration. These also entail staff cuts.

In 2018 HEKS/EPER supported some 300 projects to the tune of CHF 64.3 million in Switzerland and in 32 other countries spanning four continents.  This helped improve living conditions for over a million people. CHF 19.5 million went to supporting development cooperation projects in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Another CHF 2.6 million was allocated to church cooperation projects in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. HEKS/EPER provided emergency humanitarian aid worth CHF 7 million in the wake of droughts and natural disasters as well as in conflict zones. CHF 25.7 million was invested in projects in Switzerland as follows: CHF 19.4 million devoted to fostering the integration of socially disadvantaged people, and CHF 6 million for legal advice provided by HEKS/EPER to asylum seekers, recognized refugees and other target groups.
HEKS setzt auf Stabilisierung und Fokussierung in schwierigem Umfeld

Economic pressure and competitive environment

The HEKS/EPER 2018 Annual Result reflects the increasingly challenging environment with which many Swiss charities have been grappling for some time. Noticeably greater financial pressure in a more competitive environment especially as regards mandates abroad or service contracts in Switzerland, as well as generally declining proceeds from donations for emergency humanitarian aid projects and from institutional donors necessitated a capital drawdown of CHF 7.7 million from existing funds, which was invested in project work.

Revenue from work in Switzerland amounted to CHF 26.7 million (40%). Cantonal churches, local church parishes and other church organizations contributed CHF 13.2 million (20%). Contributions from the federal government, cantons and communes amounted to CHF 14.9 million (23%), from private persons CHF 11.5 million (17%) and from Swiss Solidarity CHF 3 million (5%). The services provided by the five German-speaking Regional Offices and the Business Office for Western Switzerland contributed CHF 16.5 million (25%) to overall income.

The share of administrative costs in overall expenditure totalled CHF 10.8 million (ZEWO rate 14.5%). HEKS/EPER is therefore below the average for ZEWO-certified non-profit organizations (21%).

Tighter focus in programme work

In the light of the current imbalance between expenditure and income, the HEKS/EPER Board of Trustees and Executive Board have decided on a range of measures – with the overarching aim of ceasing drawdowns from funds by 2020 at the latest. In this connection, HEKS/EPER will further concentrate its project portfolio abroad, among other things. This will mean successively terminating projects in Moldova and Zimbabwe in the coming months, without endangering what has been accomplished so far. In both Colombia and Israel/Palestine, HEKS/EPER will reduce the number of projects, focusing in future on conflict transformation.

Independently of the current situation, the Board of Trustees and Executive Board had already decided months ago to end HEKS/EPER activities in India. Decades ago, India was one of the first countries where HEKS/EPER became active. Under the principle of helping people help themselves, HEKS/EPER hopes that ending its activities in India will foster and promote self-responsibility on the part of local partner organizations.

Regional Offices in Switzerland will be retrenching programmes under some of their projects. Measures have also been introduced to cut programme support costs.

Also bound up with the greater concentration of programme work and cost-cutting measures is a reduction in the staff complement by six employees in Switzerland. Staff cuts will affect not only operational aspects in Switzerland and abroad, but more specifically also administration and communications at all locations. In implementing these measures, the Board of Trustees and Executive Board will be mindful of their social responsibility towards staff members.

The measures already introduced are laying the groundwork to enable HEKS/EPER to continue to fulfil its aspiration in the future – that of making big changes from small beginnings for the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Dieter Wüthrich
Head of Media and Information Department
Dieter Wüthrich

Phone: +41 44 360 88 66
Mobile: +41 76 461 88 70