Philanthropy: mapping of French foundations working for international development

Produced by the Centre d’étude et de recherche sur la Philanthropie (CerPhi) in partnership with the Observatoire de la philanthropie of the Fondation de France, for the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, this study, published in May 2019, aimed to establish a geographical and statistical mapping of the development aid provided by French foundations. The reader will be able to access the entire restitution of the study on the CerPhi.

The study analysed the responses of some 30 French foundations and endowments, a figure that might seem low. But if we compare these results with the number of foundations claiming an intervention in the perimeter concerned, we have a much better perspective: 32 out of 165 foundations.

In terms of amount, this ratio is even more favourable if it is compared with the amounts received by the main French international solidarity organisations (ISOs). For 2015, the reference year of the study, the amount posted by these organisations from foundations amounts to 87 million euros.

This amount should also be linked to the results of the Fondation de France’s study, which estimates the total amount spent on international aid by the 165 funds and foundations active in this field at 121 million euros.

This figure may seem low, but it is consistent with the fact that less than 5% of funds and foundations are active in the field of international aid.

It should be recalled in this regard that the OECD study published in 2018 gives an overall estimate for the foundations surveyed (i.e. the largest in the field) of $8 billion over one year, or about €7 billion, representing almost 5% of the volume of ODA. The share of French funds and foundations would be about 1.7%.

Presentation conference of the study at the MEAE, June 24, 2019.

What emerges from this study is the fairly consistent share, in relative value, of the weight of foundations, whatever their origin, in development aid. This share should be seen in the context of the support provided by migrants from these countries, which represents 470 billion euros.

This weakness only confirms that foundations that operate, distribute, endow and even collect more systematically turn to domestic projects: social action, culture, heritage protection and medical research in their own territories.

I let the reader discover all the results of the study on the CerPhi website, to submit to him this reflection which becomes recurrent in the analysis of the philanthropic actions of international foundations.

Philanthropic foundations can change the face of the world and their interventions are sometimes decisive, but in development aid, with the exception of the increasingly criticized Gates Foundation, we are far from enough.

It is a real question of the style and methods of Anglo-American foundations, which, thanks to their prophetic visions and power, have shown their power of influence for decades.

The Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, more recently Soros, and of course Gates foundations have, through the power and alliances they are able to build, influenced entire sectors of the economy and society:

  • green revolution in India,
  • social security in France,
  • higher education in Africa,
  • and more recently the eradication of epidemic diseases.
  • Few foundations in continental Europe and France, in particular, have shown such capacity, power and collaboration.

It is true that inheritance law on the continent is less favourable than in the United States and the United Kingdom and that collaborations in the land of parochial quarrels are more complicated.

But the rapid rise of French billionaires in the world ranking of the richest, a certain form of “protestantization” of French society1 and a possible evolution of inheritance law, and consequently philanthropy, should bring these practices closer together.

Antoine Vaccaro
President of CerPhi

1 Où en sommes nous ? Une esquisse de l’histoire Humaine, Emmanuel Todd. Seuil (2017).

Antoine Vaccaro, a doctor of science in non-market organizations and economies, is President of Cerphi (Centre d’étude et de recherche sur la philanthropie) and FAIRCOM, a communication agency of general interest. He is also the founder of Non-Profit and the Excel agency and has worked in organizations such as the Fondation de France and Médecins du Monde. Finally, he is also a lecturer at Celsa, the University of Association Management and the french College : Les Mines.

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