The Fire of Notre Dame: Donation Levels Reach Controversial Heights

Donations continue to pour in from the around the world to go towards the exponential costs of repair, following the terrible fires that engulfed Notre Dame in Paris, France just over two weeks ago.

The New York Times reported that donations had reached almost $1 Billion USD with some of the world’s largest organisations and wealthiest individuals pledging their financial support to aid in the reconstruction of the 856 year old cathedral. 

However, this enlarged response has now begun attract a negative response with many arguing that the size of the monetary response and donations have become excessive

Just this weekend a benefit concert was hosted in the US capital, Washington D.C, with the money raised from the event going towards the costs of repair for the Parisian cathedral. Former Baywatch Star Pamela Anderson said she had attended a gala raising funds for “children suffering in Marseille” earlier last week when a “big surprise auction item” came up raising funds to rebuild the Notre-Dame.

She went on tweet that a ‘’surely the children suffering in Marseille could have used the 100,000 € more than the church that has already received over a billion in donations by billionaires.’’. 

Markus Renner, marketing and brand reputation expert, said to BBC that organisations had pledged too much too soon. “I used to work within companies and my advice would always be to send a message that you’re willing to donate, but depending on how much money is needed, not overreacting the way they did’’, he said. ‘’It is a building, nobody died.”

A generous solidarity – Notre Dame Cathedral Donations

The inflated response to the fire of Notre Dame, whilst seemingly positive and innocent in response, has seemingly exposed flaws in modern day Philanthropy. Donations have already well exceeded initial estimates for repair costs of 300-600 million euros, yet money still continues to flood in for the state-owned cathedral despite officials saying that all major pieces of artwork were rescued and no loss of life and had been sustained.

Whilst support skyrockets for Notre Dame, other tragedies around the globe continue to struggle for aid despite months and in some cases, years passing by since tragedy struck. It has been almost two years since Hurricane Maria completely destroyed the island nation of Puerto Rico yet the countries people are still struggling to pick up the pieces. Total donations, both public and privately donated, still fall short some 70 billion USD short of the estimated costs of repair.

Today there are still almost 600 million people living in extreme poverty (Less than $1.90 USD per day) around the world with prevalent issues such as global warming still woefully underfunded and lacking in support and funding to affect a meaningful change in the world.

In the case of Notre Dame, it provides support to the theory that philanthropy is more likely to succeed when it is attached something tangible, familiar and relatable. Humans have traditionally always found it difficult to establish a connection to something without a direct or indirect attachment. Notre Dame represents a beacon of traditional, western society that extend beyond the borders of religion due to its notoriety and public standing. The call to donate has been led by some high society’s wealthiest members including Francois-Henri Pinault (CEO of Kerring) and Tim Cook (CEO of Apple.)

Yet in the case of the Grenfell Towers tragedy, donations reached a meagre £26.5m, according to the Charity Commission for England and Wales; despite the fact that seventy-one people lost their lives. The call to donate was led by the British Red Cross, the Kensington & Chelsea Foundation, and the London Community Foundation/Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund.

Both of these incidents attracted a similar amount of international attention and outcry yet the current disparity in recorded monetary contributions stands at an estimated 800 Billion Euros. Despite the loss of 71 lives, Grenfell Towers falls nearly three hundred times short the amount of donations that Notre Dame has received.

Perhaps no there is only one question that remains after reading that statistic.


Photos: Shutterstock

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