Starting up a philanthropic foundation

L'Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm) is France’s national institute of health and medical research. As Europe’s largest biomedical research institute, Inserm unites 15,000 experts across disciplines, sectors and countries to find the answers to some of society’s most pressing medical challenges. Founded in 1964 and operating under the joint authority of the French Ministries of Health and Research, Inserm has benefited significantly from public funding to support its activity. While supplemented to a small degree by philanthropy, the Institute experienced growing support from donors during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, they approached More Partnership to explore an ambition to develop the Institute’s first philanthropic Foundation. (Read this case study in French)

The brief
“We really wanted to know whether it was a possibility to create a foundation and take a more proactive step into fundraising. We wanted to know ‘would it even be successful?’,” explains Carine Delrieu, Director of Communications at Inserm.

Help was on hand through More consultants Nathalie Levallois and Maarten Vervaat, whose extensive experience of the philanthropic landscape in France proved an important asset to Inserm. “More were very experienced not only in working in France but across Europe, and had supported fundraising at other leading medical research institutions,” says Carine.

Laying the groundwork
“The first step More took was to review the landscape that Inserm would be operating in,” says Carine. “They completed a benchmarking exercise and landscape review of research institutions and foundations, mainly in France and the UK. That showed us and Inserm’s President at the time, the level of budget and staff resource we would need to fully commit to philanthropy, as well as the likely financial return for that institutional investment”.

Following that, the More team interviewed Directors of Inserm Institutes across France to explore the appetite for philanthropic funding. “The interest in private fundraising across Inserm was high,” explains More Associate Nathalie. “Everyone could see the value philanthropy could bring, including the scientific freedom it could enable. While public funding is the core source of funds for Inserm teams, that funding often comes with very specific restrictions.”

More was able to advise Inserm on what type of Foundation to create, as the types of donations to prioritise. This was particularly important for Inserm operating in a busy research landscape in France, with many research partners also raising philanthropic funds.

Telling the story
The second part of More’s work with Inserm was to develop the Foundation’s very first case for support. To deliver that work, Maarten and Nathalie brought in the experience of Communications expert and More Partner, Dr Laura Phipps. Drawing on her own medical research background, Laura and Nathalie worked with key academic leaders within Inserm to prioritise the areas of funding need that would appeal most to donors.

“Having been given a clear steer from Inserm’s CEO on areas of strategic importance for the institute’s fundraising, we brought academic leaders together in a workshop. Our aim was to develop clear and compelling answers to the questions we knew donors would ask,” explains Laura. “For an institute like Inserm, a key focus of that discussion was what philanthropy could achieve that government funding couldn’t and why giving to Inserm would make the greatest difference in a very competitive medical research landscape within France.”

More then pulled together a narrative framework for discussion with the Inserm team, that was developed further into a full case for support, written both in English and French language.

The impact of our work
Carine said: “The work with More Partnership gave us the confidence to move forward with our ambition to create a Foundation for Inserm, and how to take those early steps. It was particularly helpful to identify the types of donors for the Foundation to prioritise and start to put in place the governance and materials we need to build momentum. Now, we're in a position to enable philanthropy to make an even bigger difference to the Institute's critical work to improve health.”

To find out more about the bespoke support we could provide your organisation, contact us on info@morepartnership.com or 01382 224730.