For a long time, Peter Dornier considered charitable contributions to be an entirely personal matter. It was a family custom that on Sunday mornings he would withdraw to his study, and there he would make considered gifts to charitable organizations and non-profit initiatives. This form of philanthropy assumed a larger dimension in 1985 when in the wake of the corporate wrangling with Daimler-Benz AG he established the Peter Dornier Foundation. From now on, one tenth of everything he and his employees at LiDO earned would be directed to the public good. Initially, Peter Dornier shunned any publicity, holding true to the biblical maxim: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." But he quickly realized that the company employees who benefited from local and regional projects supported by the foundation should be informed about its purposes. Over the decades of its existence, Peter Dornier’s private act of charity became a highly respected source of funds for non-profit projects in and around Lindau.
The purpose of the foundation, the foundation objectives often also reflect the personality, preferences and visions of its founder. So the Peter Dornier Foundation also affords a glimpse of the wide ranging sensibilities of the man. It reveals his feeling of responsibility toward the weak, the disadvantaged and those in need of help in society. For example, as a man with a vivid imagination he was keenly affected by the thought of being blind or mentally disabled. Accordingly, he gave instructions for donations to be made to caregivers in facilities for the disabled as a mark of his high regard for this demanding work.
Regarding social justice, he was deeply moved by the misery of the starving and refugees, most particularly of homeless children. Correspondingly, projects in this field were funded successfully in Mexico, Bolivia and elsewhere. His special relationship with Nature, particularly trees, is the reason why protection of the rainforests remains an important pillar of the foundation to this day.
Conservation of a livable planet for future generations was always an objective close to his heart. Other foundation donations reveal his respect for ethnic and cultural diversity, his love of music (classical and jazz) and the aesthetic arts. This last also embraces the preservation of cultural heritage with protection for memorials and historic monuments. Consequently, since the German Reunificaton foundation funds have been directed to volunteer programs to restore fieldstone churches in the former GDR and make them usable for religious and cultural gatherings. For Peter Dornier, who had a keen eye for elegant and original architecture, this was a particularly satisfying field of activity. During his lifetime, the founder also expressed the wish to establish a prize to recognize to young people engaged in technical activities, both research and practical. This wish will be realized for the first time on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
Peter Dornier approached his life as a businessman and an engineer with passion and compassion, without fear or favor. This is also how he led his foundation. And this is how it will continue.