One year, “already”, but what a long and heavy year it has been. For some of us it has been dramatic. Bereavements, illness, the impact of the economic and social crisis with consequences that are still difficult to estimate.
And in this slump, the generosity of the French continues to grow, as it does during each humanitarian, climatic or health disaster.
In April 2020, I put forward the hypothesis of a bubble of generosity, as with every disaster, with a singularity: unlike tsunamis, earthquakes or other consequences of conflicts, this crisis also affects the whole population, including the one that usually donates. Would the latter behave as usual or would they withdraw, considering that it was up to the public authorities to take on such a challenge?
Well, it has to be said that a bubble of generosity has formed and that the French have mobilised themselves vigorously. The first indicators show a 20% growth in generosity from the general public (vs. -10% of GDP) and we are waiting for the figures from corporate sponsorship, which should not be outdone.
We still need to refine these figures and take a closer look at where this generosity has gone?
Logically enough, we might have thought that donations would be concentrated, “selfishly”, towards structures in the health and medical research sector, at the heart of the fight against the pandemic, which are able to help us.
But this is not the case. We were able to identify three circles of beneficiaries with varying degrees of resources.
The first circle, as seen above, is all the causes linked to the fight against Covid.
A second circle concerns organisations that help vulnerable and fragile populations, such as Secours Populaire, Secours Catholique, Emmaüs, the French Red Cross and the Salvation Army, to which should be added the NGOs that intervene abroad, such as MSF, MDM, ACF and HI.
This is one of the main characteristics of French and European (or at least continental) generosity, unlike the powerful American philanthropy, which gives mainly to causes that benefit its own donors.
Finally, a third circle, which concerns cultural organisations, heritage protection or various sporting activities that have been hit hard by this epidemic, has received little support because they are far removed from the concerns of the French during this period.
As in every crisis, there are winners and losers, and the organisations that suffer the most are those that are not very well known or that do not have a great capacity to solicit donors.
This bubble is also the result of the incredible inventiveness and vivacity of organisations of all sizes to solicit the generosity of the French. To traditional fundraising methods have been added innovative forms such as gaming, online auctions and solidarity lotteries, which have flourished with impressive success.
The explosion of these initiatives is helped by the digitalisation of fundraising and payment methods.
If at the end of 2019, we were worried about the weak rebound of digital donations over the last two or three years, with a growth rate of more than 230%, the transfer to this vector of generosity has finally happened and we will not go back.
Civil society has shown great resilience. I mentioned Seneca in a recent editorial in the CerPhi news letter. I recalled that the philosopher had developed, in seven books, a Stoic analysis of the notions of ethics, gratitude, ingratitude and beneficence, and offered numerous tips for granting, receiving and returning benefits appropriately.
But his point is to assert the necessity of gratitude and benevolence, which for him are the most powerful bonds in human society.
In this time of pandemic and the incredible rupture that such a crisis constitutes, the need for gratitude and benevolence becomes a categorical imperative.
As we emerge from this crisis, which we hope will soon be over, how will the generosity of French companies and households evolve?
This year, which has seen half of the world’s population living at the rhythm of stop-and-go sequences, will impact our societies for a long time to come, on an economic, social, political and even geopolitical level.
The consequences are not yet fully known and very clear, but we cannot ignore this reality for long and go on as if nothing had happened.
A few economic sectors seem to be flying over this disaster. The world’s stock markets are back to their February 2020 levels and everything seems to be going well in the best of all possible worlds.
This disconnection between finance and the real economy, which has been denounced by many, adds to the obscene nature of the situation. Many sectors of the economy are on their knees and the stock markets are once again flying from record to record on the mountain of debt that countries are accumulating to avoid another global crash and that will have to be repaid year after year.
The philanthropic sector has also been spared by this crisis for the time being, but it is emerging ever stronger, as it does in the case of any major crisis or humanitarian disaster, given the explosion in social needs and the ever greater need to express generosity.
For the general public, its main contributors are senior citizens, the vast majority of whom are retired, who, having received their pensions as they do every month, are convinced that their savings are still protected and continue their unfailing support for associations and foundations.
On the large philanthropy side, donors who are part of the 1% who hold 50% of the wealth of all humanity, continue their philanthropic commitment, because they understand that their absence from the bedside of the most disadvantaged could come back to them in a boomerang.
The future of philanthropy may look bright, but there are some warning signs.
- On the corporate side, despite the underlying trend of philanthropy, CSR and “good”, the economic sector, confronted with multiple challenges, is at risk of muffling its societal commitments.
- As for large-scale philanthropy, the taxation of the highest incomes and assets is almost inevitable, which could lead to the defection of certain high taxpayers, who consider that their tax is already a significant contribution to the general interest.
- Finally, will the general public resist for long if their savings and income collapse as the crisis worsens?
Let’s not play the Cassandra and bet on a positive outcome for the whole sector.
Antoine Vaccaro, President of CerPhi
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Who is Antoine Vaccaro ?
Antoine Vaccaro holds a doctorate in organisational science – Management of non-market economies, Paris-Dauphine, 1985.
After a professional career in large non-governmental organisations and communication groups: Fondation de France, Médecins du Monde, TBWA; he chairs the CerPhi (Centre for Study and Research on Philanthropy) Force For Good and the Fund-raising Lab. He holds various volunteer positions within associations and foundations and is also co-founder of several professional organisations promoting private funding of general interest causes: “Association Française des fundraisers, Comité de la charte de déontologie des organismes faisant appel à la générosité publique, Euconsult, La chaire de Philanthropie de l’Essec, 2011”.
He has published various books and articles on philanthropy and fund-raising.