The bank for a changing world

BNP Paribas Wealth Management publishes its first qualitative study on Wealth and Philanthropy in Continental Europe

  • 18.06.2009
BNP Paribas Wealth Management is the Eurozone's leading Private Bank committed to philanthropy's awareness, offering philanthropic services to its clients and stimulating discussion on the topic.

Since 2007, the bank has held an international conference on Philanthropy and Sustainable Development, and in 2008 it launched the first “BNP Paribas Prize for Philanthropy” in recognition of outstanding initiatives by individual philanthropists.

BNP Paribas Wealth Management also funds research and studies designed to better understand the determining factors behind philanthropists' actions and offer insights into their behaviour and motivations.

BNP Paribas Wealth Management commissioned its first qualitative research study on Wealth and Philanthropy in order to gain a better understanding of European philanthropy.

Although there have been previous qualitative and quantitative studies of philanthropy in the Anglo-Saxon countries, knowledge of the subject in continental Europe remains limited due to insufficient data and to the absence of information on profiles and motivations of large donors. Existing analyses tend to be based on interpretations by those indirectly involved (e.g. philanthropy consultants, foundation directors, family offices etc.).

For BNP Paribas' study, academic researchers carried out 63 face-to-face interviews with wealthy philanthropists (i.e. with at least €5 million of assets available) in four countries: France, Spain, Italy and Belgium.

The primary objective was to identify the behaviours, recurrences and values considered decisive for philanthropic action, as well as the trigger factor(s), so as to highlight the salient features of European philanthropy and the values that inspire philanthropists. The aim was also to try and define a typology of philanthropic behaviour.

The scope of this research therefore makes this the first such study to be carried out in continental Europe. It pinpoints the specificities of continental Europe's wealthiest philanthropists' practices, which are different from those of Anglo-Saxon philanthropists, especially Americans.

The Results:

The study shows, there are two co-existing approaches to philanthropy: the passionate approach – defined as the philanthropic initiative being triggered by an event, an encounter with an individual or an organisation – and the reasoned approach whereby the philanthropist analyses a societal issue, develops a cause (helping street children, the unemployed etc.), before researching the organisations in the sector likely to contribute in the most efficient way.

The study also shows that the desire to commit oneself revolves around core values such as the family, religion, emotion and intimacy.

Family values are pre-eminent in Europe and in France. Philanthropy is sometimes a legacy; it is always seen as the consolidation for family cohesion and as a moral value that is passed on.
Religious values are also strongly evident, as a fundamental driver of giving. Donations do not necessarily go to religious causes or charities, but religious virtues influence the ethos behind the donations and play a structuring role in them.

Conceived as a spiritual adventure more than a rational undertaking, the European philanthropist's approach is typically an individual journey prompted by personal motives. Philanthropic activity becomes a means of individual expression.

Another characteristic of European philanthropists is that they do not seek self-promotion, preferring discretion. They see over-emphasis on their personal involvement as antithetical to the values they believe in.

And lastly, the study categorised the key characteristics motivating philanthropic initiatives, resulting in the definition of seven philanthropist “profiles”:

- The Believer
- The Humanist
- The Activist
- The Heir
- The Passionate Philanthropist
- The Venture Philanthropist
- The Entrepreneur or Self-made man

Compared to the United States, two categories appear to be missing:

- the Socialite: in the USA, philanthropy is a key aspect of the social life of the wealthy. It is important to be on the board of a cultural institution, make a donation to one's alma mater, or give regular donations to a medical research foundation etc.
- the Networker: once again, belonging to certain philanthropic circles or not-for-profit institutions is a way of building social networks that can be useful professionally. This utilitarian approach to philanthropy is not found in continental Europe.

As regards development, some of our respondents expressed an interest in a more entrepreneurial type of philanthropy, with the emphasis on concrete results and an evaluation of the impact of supported projects on the community. Sharing experiences and developing networks appear to be likely future stages of European philanthropy.


Notes to editors:

The authors:
Professor Marc Abélès is Director of the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Institutions and des Organisations Sociales (CNRS) and Research Director at the EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) where he is an expert on the anthropology of institutions, particularly the role of philanthropy today, analysing the motivations and mode of operation of the major donors. He is the author of Les Nouveaux Riches. Un ethnologue dans la Silicon Valley (Odile Jacob, 2002).

Jérôme Kohler has taught at the Paris Institute in Political Studies and as associate researcher at HEC Montréal. He belongs to several international networks of experts in the field of philanthropy including the International Network in Strategic Philanthropy, European Venture Philanthropy Association (whose he is the French representative), Americans for the Arts and the European Foundation Center. He is on the boards of the Fondation Demeter and Humanity in Action Inc., and is a member of the PlanetFinance loans committee and of the Paris-Musées steering committee. A specialist in philanthropy and sponsorship, Jérôme Kohler is director of l'Initiative Philanthropique.


Why philanthropy for BNP Paribas

As a banking group, BNP Paribas is strongly committed to sustainable development. In the early 1980s, the bank led the way in corporate giving with the Fondation BNP Paribas supporting the cultural heritage of the past and of the future and encouraging medical research, etc. For 15 years, BNP Paribas has been involved in micro-loans and expanding its support for international microfinance.

With a demanding wealthy private banking clientele, BNP Paribas Wealth Management delivers bespoke wealth management and diversification services drawing on a range of selected products that are both effective and innovative and managed according to each customer's individual needs.

BNP Paribas's Wealth Management's philanthropy offer comprises a unique and comprehensive range of services, managed by a specialist team. Setting up a philanthropic project is a very personal step. An initial diagnosis with a Philanthropy Advisor directs clients to the most appropriate solution for them:
- The Fondation de l'Orangerie for individual philanthropy: a simple and efficient solution for making donations. International in coverage, recognised as being of public utility in Switzerland, and in France under the aegis of the Fondation de France since April 2008, the Fondation de l'Orangerie was established by BNP Paribas Wealth Management to collect donations from its clients and allocate them in the most efficient manner to projects that are rigorous, transparent and original. It guarantees the best use of the funds donated and provides detailed reports during and after the implementation period of the projects supported.
- Personal philanthropy advisory services: a wide range of services for bespoke support. According to clients' situations and needs, a wide range of philanthropy services can be taken independently or as a global service covering 4 key stages: strategy, structuring, implementation and assessment.
Press contact(s)
Press contact (and for copies of the full report):

Céline Castex, + 33 (0)1 42 98 15 91 – celine.castex [at] bnpparibas (dot) com