Who says patrons does not necessarily say big donors or big companies. In its latest study, Admical, points out the rise of small businesses in the closed world of sponsorship and its very high representation in the number of corporate sponsors (72%). However, these are not always, or not yet, very organized or very visible. The two main reasons are both financial and lack of dedicated human resources.
The 2003 French law (called Aillagon law), which caps tax exemption at 0.5% of the company’s turnover, is a real obstacle for an SME. With an annual turnover of 1 million euros it can thus tax only 5 000 euros investment in sponsorship, which is little for a large cultural structure for example. The counterparties proposed by this structure will thus be very weak and do not encourage SMEs to engage in sponsorship.
SMEs must also focus on their core business: finding customers and meeting their needs. For this reason, their teams are essentially made up of sales people, qualified operators, and sometimes, when they can afford it, marketing managers. Dedicating a position, or even a half-post to sponsorship is often not thinkable.
Unity makes strength
So, rather than waiting for a hypothetical evolution of the patronage law for SMEs, why not join forces and create a business circle? Mécène & Loire is exemplary in this respect. In 10 years of activities (2007–2017) this French Corporate Foundation composed of 28 companies has supported 205 projects and invested 1,472,000 euros on its territory in the fields of culture, solidarity, heritage, science and the environment. A real collective strike force!
This example has spread and similar Corporate Foundations have emerged in other regions of France. Nevertheless, today only 14% of French companies are patrons. With more than 2 million companies in France we can imagine that much remains to be done in this area, especially since the concept of general interest as defined by law is very broad: “Is of general interest any work that is useful to the community at a given time, be it a philanthropic, educational, scientific, social, humanitarian, sports, family, cultural or artistic heritage, the defense of the natural environment or the dissemination of French culture, language and scientific knowledge. “
Circles of patrons: a turnkey solution for companies
For their part, public interest organizations have clearly understood the challenge of grouping SMEs in a “circle of patrons”. The Louvre-Lens Museum for example has set up since its creation the “Cercle Louvre-Lens Entreprises”, accessible from just 1,200 euros.
Being a member of this circle allows the company to advertise itself as patron of the Louvre-Lens, to take advantage of its image and its regional, national and international influence.
“Being part of this circle allows business leaders to be invited to exclusive events: meetings with museum management and teams, invitations to private museum tours, temporary exhibitions, as well as opening exhibitions and events that punctuate the life of the museum. It also allows them to integrate a network and build relationships with their peers, “explains Karine Desombre, Head of Sponsorship at Louvre-Lens. “Associate and Benefactor members also have the opportunity to organize public relations events in our dedicated spaces and can offer their employees, customers or other target audience, special moments of cultural discovery and conviviality.”
Patronage is a real challenge for the heritage and the attractiveness of the territories; SMEs, present in all Regions, are one of the strongest links.
 Admical is a French network of members and key organisations composed mostly of compagnies and foundations having philanthropic actions as well as charities.