Donors to French Schools Make Their Mark
Several years ago, French engineering schools began naming their facilities after their donors. Originally a marketing tool, this practice gives schools the chance to diversify their sources of funding.
The Anglo-Saxon tradition of naming school facilities after donors is gaining ground in France. French engineering schools, like French business schools before them, are using this practice to find new funding and thank their benefactors.
Grab a Seat
At Mines ParisTech, the Adopt a Chair program will fund the renovation of the Schlumberger lecture hall. Regarding the €2,000 price tag, Solenne Couraye du Parc, head of development and alumni relations, says "We kept the price fairly accessible to attract new donors." Those willing to pay €10 thousand get a gold-colored nameplate and the chance to choose their chair's location. So far, 65 of the 142 chairs have been adopted.
The Giving Tree
Yet students and graduates have some reserves. L'X development director Laurent Mellier recalls, "The proposal was heavily criticized at first. Some people, especially young graduates, felt that we were selling l'X off to the highest bidder and that this went against our values as a French public university. In the end though, they came around."
Now donors can name items such as lecture hall seats for €10 thousand, classrooms for €150 thousand and trees for €25 thousand. The cost differs for individual and corporate donors. Mellier says, "We took into account the importance of different places and donors' interests. We wanted to offer a wide selection with several donation levels so that all our alumni could participate." One donor proposed a "time capsule by the roots of a tree with a message for students 50 years from now. It's still under discussion but we thought it was a beautiful idea."
Pay It Forward
All these funds are earmarked for specific purposes. The €20 thousand raised by the naming of a Supélec lecture hall will be split evenly between merit scholarships and the foundation itself. At Telecom ParisTech, donors can choose between social diversity, scientific excellence, international outreach and entrepreneurship. Naming also teaches students to give. For Delphine Baron, head of individual giving at Telecom, "Students learn that their school relies on donations to fund projects. It trains them to become donors once they graduate."