The Three Graces and The Future of Fundraising in France

In November 2010, the Louvre Museum succeeded in raising 1.2 million Euros from more than 7,000 individual donors in just a few weeks for the purchase of the painting The Three Graces, a 1531 oil painting on wood. This Renaissance masterpiece was on sale by its actual owner, Lucas Cranach the Elder - it belonged to the same family since 1932 - and French law gave the museum the first opportunity to purchase it before it entered the auction market.

This campaign was made possible by a creative website, www.troisgraces.fr, launched for the occasion, encouraging the public to "participate in the acquisition of a masterpiece.” In order to acquire this painting, the Louvre had already gathered 3 million Euros thanks to its own acquisition budget and thanks to corporate giving, mainly from Mazars Company.

The individual donors, mostly French, gave from 1 to 40,000 Euros, with an average gift of 150 Euros. The painting is now publicly available; and for three months, the names of all the donors will be visible on the wall of the museum.

Thirty years ago, The Louvre, like most of the French museums, was financed entirely by government subsidies. Yet, today, those funds are rarefying and the museum is now financed at 52% by private resources. Thus the success of The Louvre’s The Three Graces campaign is worth examining for several reasons.

First, it proves that French people, although they are accustomed to a long-term tax redistribution system to finance their nonprofit organizations, understand the value and necessity of charitable giving. In addition, the success of this online campaign shows that they are also receptive to the use of new technology to fundraise. In fact, the campaign wouldn’t have been possible in such a short amount of time without an online tool.

Recently, the legal structure also evolved in order to encourage French people to invest in the civil society. In 2003, a law passed to increase the tax deduction from income for charitable giving. With the law Aillagon, the tax deduction is now equal to 66% of the total gifts, in the annual limit of 20% of the gross income, with an opportunity to report the exceeding tax deduction over five years. This gives France a similar charitable deduction system as the United States. Another law, passed in 2008, gives the possibility for nonprofit organizations to collect private money for their endowments, mainly used by hospitals and universities, in 2 years, 500 endowments were already created.

The face of French fundraising is evolving. Looking at fundraising trends in Europe would not have crossed our minds only a few years ago. However, recent events show us that things are changing.

Sandrine Delattre is a M.S. Candidate in Fundraising and Grantmaking in the George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising of New York University. She is an emerging practitioner in the field with an interest in fundraising in the arts sector. Originally from France, Sandrine previously worked at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria and New York. Mrs. Delattre holds a M.A. in Arts Administration from the University of Aix-Marseille and a Bachelor in Economics from the University of Paris 10-Nanterre.



Carvajal, Doreen (2010, December 17), 5,000 Donors help Louvre buy a painting. Retrieved from

Deimling, Kate (2010, November 17), The Louvre launches an unprecedented Fundraising appeal for Cranach’s “The Three Graces”. Retrieved from http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/36366/the-louvre- launches-an-unprecedented-fundraising-appeal-for-cranachs-the-three-graces/

Lion, Valérie (2011, February 10), Les patrons philanthropiques en France, une espèce rare. Retrieved from http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/economie/les-patrons-philanthropes-en-france-une-espece-rare_960820.html

Milot, Olivier (2009, March 24), Henri Loyrette, pdg du Louvre: “La crise n’affecte pas le mécénat de long terme”. Retrieved from http://www.telerama.fr/scenes/henri-loyrette-pdg-du-louvre-la-crise-n-affecte-pas-le-mecenat-de-long-terme,39600.php 

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