The article discusses how the structure of the German cultural landscape shapes the self-understanding and positioning of philanthropic foundations that engage in art and culture. The contribution undertakes a mapping of the different forms of roles and relationships that foundations use to gain impact in this field of activity. The main argument is that in a field characterized by a high multiplicity of actors with partly overlapping and sometimes competing competencies that enable manifold possibilities for complementary partnerships and relatively high, but still scarce financial resources, the durability of foundations becomes their most important characteristic. As a result, cultural foundations take a more conservative approach than foundations in other fields. Typically set up with rather small endowments and with an operating focus, they are built to serve niches of cultural supply and demand that gives them versatile manifestations that have in common the goal of preserving tradition.