Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Philanthropy in France


Magazine article
  1. As at 31st December 2011 there were approximately 2,733 foundations in France. The number of foundations increased by 60% (72% by value of assets) between 2001 and 2010.
  2. Total assets of French foundations stood at €14.3 billion in 2009.
  3. “Le bruit ne fait pas de bien, et le bien ne fait pas de bruit.”* Saint François de Sales quote was, until recently, a widespread answer to questions regarding philanthropic engagements. Discretion, not to say secrecy, was a core feature in the culture of giving in France.*“Noise is of no good and good makes no noise.”
  4. There are eight different foundation statutes in France, which hamper the creation of foundations. The French Centre (CFF) has developed a table making it easier to choose the most appropriate model.See www.centre-francais-fondations.org
  5. Creating a fully-fledged foundation (Fondation Reconnue d’Utilité Publique) takes approximately two years, requires minimum of €1 million, and an opinion from the Council of State as well as the signature of the Prime Minister. Once the foundation is approved, the state appoints civil servants to the Board, or a Government Commissioner in a supervisory role.
  6. There are about 40 umbrella foundations in France which make it possible for smaller foundations to overcome the administrative burden and complexity and thus benefit from a philanthropic infrastructure. The most prestigious is the Institut de France, but Fondation de France and Fondation Caritas are growing their portfolios of what are commonly referred to as “sheltered” foundations. 
  7. Over the past 10 years, giving in France has benefitted from new tax incentives making the country one of the most favourable tax environments for philanthropy in the world. Individuals can now deduct 66% of their giving from their income tax (up to 20% of taxable income) and corporations 60% of their corporate income tax (up to 0.5% of turnover). Individuals liable to the ‘ISF’, the French wealth tax, are entitled to 75% off this tax (within €50,000).
  8. Investments in social enterprises by individuals also benefit from tax incentives applied to SMEs and certain social sector structures.
  9. In 2011, 5.4 million households declared €2.1 billion in giving to the tax authorities (compared to €1bn in 2001). The same year, fundraising by charities in France from individual donors is estimated to have reached €3.8 billion. In spite of year-on-year growth in volumes, donor numbers have stagnated and there is concern about the negative impact of potential changes to the tax environment.
  10. As early as 1443, Nicolas Rolin chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, founded the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, a hospital dedicated to the poor. From their inception, the Hospices de Beaune (now also famous for their Burgundy wine auctions!) showed surprisingly modern features of well-designed (and endowed) family philanthropy, including a particular care for the dignity of beneficiaries. 

This article is tagged under:

  • International giving