Establishing a European NGO as a US Nonprofit

Question:

Being a US-based nonprofit, we’re looking to expand our presence into Europe. Which European countries would you recommend considering the following criteria: 1) Incorporation costs; 2) Simplicity and speed of the registration process; 3) Ongoing maintenance costs; 4) Necessity of a physical office, given our remote work model; and 5) Other notable advantages or challenges specific to each country?

Answer:

There are many options to consider, but in my opinion, some of the major countries are too cumbersome or have too much administrative burden (for example Germany, France).

The Netherlands is a popular choice for many international NGOs, as it is relatively easy to set up and manage a foundation there. Additionally, the Netherlands has an English-speaking population. 

  • From my experience, the setup costs as well as maintenance fees are on the lower end compared to other European countries.
  • It typically takes a few weeks to set up a foundation there.
  • A physical office is not a requirement, but you should have a decent business address / virtual office. Not just any p.o. box will do. The tax authorities and company registrar could check this. Check out providers here.

Below is more information on setting up a foundation in the Netherlands.

The following questions will need to be answered during the process of the setup of a Stichting/Foundation:

  1. Name of the foundation:     
  2. Address + phone number;    
  3. Statutory seat (headquarters);
  4. The purpose of the foundation;
  5. Will the foundation receive a ANBI-status? (more info via this link)    
  6. Name(s) of the founders and directors with a position (chairman, vice-chairman etc.)

Furthermore, we will need passport copies and proof of address of everyone involved in this foundation.

Below you’ll find an overview of the prices for a Foundation in the Netherlands:

  • Incorporation: Foundation €1500,00
  • Research costs of Notary €20,00 per person
  • Translation of Documents to English €100,00
  • Registration Costs €75,00 (paid to Chamber of Commerce after incorporation)

More on pricing of services in the Netherlands on this page.

Alternatives include the United Kingdom, it is home to many NGO’s, is English-speaking and has relatively low administrative and tax burdens. Downsides are that it is outside of the EU which could make it complicated as a base for the entire EU. Furthermore, the future of the regulatory and tax landscape there is a bit uncertain in my opinion.

Some of the Nordic countries could also make sense, particularly Sweden. However, remember that the price level for professional services in Sweden and the Nordics is generally much higher, both in terms of setting up and running the foundation.

A final option is Belgium as it is centrally located and houses many other NGO’s as its capital Brussels is the de-facto capital of the EU. Belgium is generally more bureaucratic and more cumbersome than other Northern European countries.

There is no right or wrong answer here, but I hope the above can give you some guidance.

Feel free to contact us with your questions about starting up in Europe in the form below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Further reading:

Best countries in Europe to move to for American entrepreneurs

× How can I help you?