The value of billionaires pledges
August 1, 2019 1:38 AM   Subscribe

After the fire at Notre Dame, billions in pledges arrived from some of the wealthiest people in France. Now that the bills have come due, the actual money is coming from small donations, with equal amounts coming from the United States and France.

The problem is that the cleanup of the 300 tons of lead that melted into the soil surrounding Notre Dame does not fit with the visions of the foundations that have pledged large amounts. None of the people and institutions that pledged large amounts of money wanted to " just to pay employees’ salaries." Instead, they want to be seen as the source of funds behind the permanent architectural rebuilding.

The minor exception is LVMH, which has donated 10 million of the 224 million euros pledged in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Notre Dame fire previously: 1, 2
posted by Hactar (18 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Within hours of the fire they pledged hundreds of millions of euros, In a weird bidding war. On top of not paying up now, you can be sure both Pinault and Arnaud, the two richest men in France, are negotiating with the government to get something in return. They never give away so much for free, it’s against their nature.
posted by SageLeVoid at 3:28 AM on August 1, 2019 [15 favorites]


Reminds me of some of the comments in this thread about "brutally honest" answers for grant proposals.

Please. Use my money for employees' salaries. Use it for cleanup. Use it for almost anything except asking me for more money. Not that I am wealthy, but my one of my biggest pet peeves these days is every time I donate to just about any cause it's immediately followed with another beg for money. This is even true of organizations that I have a recurring donation set up for.

Sorry... off on a tangent there.

I hope that this gets as much attention as it did when these people pledged the money in the first place. If you're running a non-profit, don't agree to publicize a donation until the money is in the bank. And if you're reporting on these sorts of things, the question should be "have you sent the money, or just said you will?"
posted by jzb at 4:16 AM on August 1, 2019 [30 favorites]


From the article:

"The 14 people from France who earned spots on Bloomberg's Billionaires Index ... have collectively become $78 billion more wealthy since Dec. 31."

I feel like the problems here go beyond the Notre Dame reconstruction.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:33 AM on August 1, 2019 [24 favorites]


but my one of my biggest pet peeves these days is every time I donate to just about any cause it's immediately followed with another beg for money.

The trouble is that it works. Dollar for dollar, the absolute top ROI for development is asking people who have already donated to donate more. And I would suspect that this is true even with people who feel the way you do!
posted by dmd at 5:34 AM on August 1, 2019 [8 favorites]


Philanthropy Roundtable rounded up various studies and sources on charitable giving, and generally found that among individual givers in the U.S., while the wealthy do their part (as you’ll see later in this essay), the vast predominance of offerings come from average citizens of moderate income, though that data may be dated.

In 2017, Market Watch reported that "the average American household is giving far less to charity than it did a decade ago, but this hides two vastly different patterns of charitable giving. Over the past 10 years, charitable giving deductions from lower-income donors have declined significantly, at almost the same rate that charitable giving from higher income donors increased," according to a study of tax filings titled Top-heavy Philanthropy in an Age of Extreme Inequality (PDF) by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. This study looked at IRS data from 2003-2013.

And now I think I just argued against my original point. But I wonder if SageLeVoid's point is more the focus: the mega-donations come with strings attached -- I give you this, but only if I get that, where small-dollar donors are more likely to just want to do some good.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:34 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm just glad Notre Dame is getting rebuilt.
posted by otherchaz at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


I, for one am shocked -- SHOCKED -- to learn that super wealthy people are reluctant to actually part with their money after making high-visibility promises to part with their money. Just shocked.
posted by spindrifter at 7:18 AM on August 1, 2019 [10 favorites]


it seems like the french have a time-honored and well-tested way of getting the rich to pay up, maybe they should try that
posted by entropicamericana at 7:24 AM on August 1, 2019 [24 favorites]


Pretty much every study shows that the poor and less well off give much more percentage proportion of their income to charitable efforts then rich people do.

It’s like that old line on how a million seconds is 10 days but a billion seconds is 31 years. If you have so much money you could give tens of millions away and it would be a rounding error but you still demand strings and concessions for your “charity” - what does that say about what wealth hoarding does to someone?

Maybe the real lesson from this is that we shouldn’t have billionaires. It seems unhealthy, for the person, for the public, for the arts, for everyone.
posted by The Whelk at 7:35 AM on August 1, 2019 [26 favorites]


Sadly I can see the wealthy holding on to money now, because given great tragedy, the systems in place can not properly account for all the money. I would estimate at a 10000% chance that some type of fraud or lawsuits will result in time spent repairing, designing, construction and the overall rebuild. See Boston Marathon and World Trade Center for previous examples of unscrupulous people making claims related rather than those truly impacted.
posted by brent at 7:50 AM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I think Notre Dame is a cultural heritage artifact that should be rebuilt. I am curious, however, about why the wealthiest organization in the world, the Catholic Church, isn't selling off some of the huge amounts of land it owns to fund this. You know, like the retreats that they send pedophile priests to for reflection.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2019 [7 favorites]


Nothing a temporary (or hey, why not permanent?) marginal tax couldn't fix, and then some. The dumbest thing about charity drives (and libertarians, by extension) is that people who only care about two things -- money and status -- get to decide where the funds go, which pretty much always ends up being a misallocation.

And yeah, they can start by taxing the church.
posted by klanawa at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


Notre Dame has been owned and maintained by the state since like the 1700s.

But it would be nice if The Church pulled out a bag of gold from under the bed. They probably have them stashed there like missing socks.
posted by sio42 at 10:19 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm still shocked that despite surviving literal bombs explosions wars and all sorts of terrors for centuries; our fantastic-a-wooble modern tech of the bestest fire safety systems ever...
Totally failed; and the place is all but a standing pile of rubble.

Honestly; I expect it to be rented out as a movie set for some action adventure any day now - MI9 or MI9 perhaps? Subsequently; a pillar gets bumped; and a massive domino effect occurs.

In an alternate version; Well. PornHub has Tesla action now; ergo I'm surprised (and not even going to go look) that there hasn't been XXX shot in the ruins yet. :/
posted by buzzman at 10:21 AM on August 1, 2019


the bestest fire safety systems ever...Totally failed

It didn't really have a fire safety system. It had a fire alarm system in lieu of sprinklers, fire breaks, etc. If they'd wanted to fireproof the roof they could have, but it would have significantly altered the ye olde timbers up there.

Unfortunately the fire alarms had a single point of failure: a human whose job it was to check to see if it was a false alarm. He went to the wrong roof, because the UI was confusing.

Anyway. If Macron wants to get this done, he should just impose a one time wealth tax on the people who pledged. After all, they admitted they didn't need the money, and wanted it to go to restoration.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


A few years ago the Globe and Mail had an expose of megarich donors to various Canadian projects who made big pledges, got their names on things and then took their sweet time writing the cheques. One prominent example was the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal renovation at the Royal Ontario Museum.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:29 AM on August 1, 2019 [5 favorites]


They never give away so much for free, it’s against their nature.

Virtue signaling, writ large.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2019


If Macron wants to get this done, he should re-impose the decades old wealth tax that he got rid of. Would also solve some of the issues with the gillets jaunes.
posted by rednikki at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


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