Monthly Archives: November 2017

The holidays in the Netherlands: “Putting the ‘fun’ in fundraising”

The holidays are coming up, which is supposed to bring out the good in people, making it a good season for fundraising campaigns. In the United States there is Giving Tuesday, the philanthropic counterpart of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the Netherlands we have 3FM Serious Request, which by now has come to be a solid part of our holiday traditions.

Serious Request is a fundraising event organized by the 3FM radio station, in collaboration with the Red Cross. The 6 days before Christmas Eve, DJ’s from the radio station will live in a house made of glass, positioned somewhere on the main square of a city in the Netherlands. They will not eat for the entire period, and will be working 24/7 while people from all over the Netherlands come to visit them, request songs, and contribute to their cause.

serious request glass house

The 2016 edition of ‘the House of Glass’ took place in the Dutch city of Breda and raised €8,7 million for the violence against women in conflict areas program of the Red Cross.  

The goal of the event is to draw attention to, what they call, a silent disaster. The whole country mobilizes around this time of the year to come up with the most creative and jolly activities to raise money for the cause. In the past, these activities have included celebrities having a sleepover at the house with the DJ’s, individuals crocheting and selling hats, and whole schools organizing entire fundraising weeks.

This year, the DJ’s will enter the house in the city of Apeldoorn to raise funds to provide the Red Cross with the means to reunite families that have been ripped apart because of disaster or conflict.

Since the start in 2004 the amounts that have been raised have reached incredible heights, as shown in the figure below. figure graphic

Last year’s edition of Serious Request has reached almost 10 million people through the radio, TV and internet. Furthermore, the initiative has successfully spread to several countries within Europe, Africa and Asia.

 

Given that the amounts of money raised are very high, and the number of people involved are enormous (even during crisis years and in a country that lately is deeply divided on many topics). This makes you wonder; what makes this particular initiative so successful year after year?

Is it that there is a concrete goal specified? Is it that the DJs grand gesture inspires people to want to do their part? Is it actually the holiday spirit (whatever that might mean)? Or maybe it is related to the diminishing hours of sunlight, or just the drop in temperatures?

This is where science comes in; whether it is psychology, biology, economics or political science, research from all sorts of disciplines can identify some of the mechanisms working here. If we can find out what the drivers are, perhaps we could consider replicating this elsewhere.

Thanks to Vera Cuijpers, junior researcher at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU Amsterdam, for this contribution.

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ISTR in Amsterdam, here we go!

The biannual conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research will gather researchers from all over the world. Our team at The Center for Philanthropic Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam  is delighted to welcome you all to our campus and introduce you to the Dutch society of third sector practitioners and academics. For us, it will be a great opportunity to showcase the relevance of research in this field, contributing to the rise of modern philanthropy at the societal, political and policy agenda’s in the Netherlands.

Platanenhof

Philanthropy in the Netherlands blossomed during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) when many initiatives were undertaken for the socially disadvantaged. The picture above is the ‘Platanenhof’ a neighbourhood built for the elderly in the Jordan district of Amsterdam.

The civil society sector in the Netherlands has be receiving growing attention in recent decades, but can it still cannot be considered a mature sector. Philanthropy and the civil society are an unquestionable part of Dutch history, but because as it has been largely neglected for years, and has also insisted on its freedom to operate independently, civil society organizations haven’t focused on developing their own coherent sector. The quality of organization in the CSO sector is still in its early adolescence. What stages do organizations have to go through to be able to present a coherent and collective front? The sector needs a mission and a vision.

The sector has to be integrated into our welfare state model – a very difficult step to take. The philanthropy sector is barely organised, which makes it very hard to present a collective front to the authorities. Official bodies have a difficult time working out who they should deal with and who they should consult.

Also, the philanthropy sector, and CSOs more broadly, have to professionalize in order to become a mature sector. To do this, the sector urgently needs help from the scientific community, because scientific research and teaching are ‘conditio sine qua non’  to gain prestige.

More serious is the fact that many policymakers know little about what CSOs and philanthropic organizations actually do. In addition to this knowledge gap, government agencies and policymakers are often very hesitant about making contact with philanthropic organizations and reaching agreements with them. This attitude can be explained partly by the prejudice that still exists with regard to ‘philanthropy’. Wasn’t the welfare state created precisely in order to put an end to charity and philanthropy? Didn’t the welfare state mean the defeat of patronizing attitudes, paternalism and dependence?

 These questions are being addressed by scholars, not only in the Netherlands, but all around the world. The ISTR conference offers us the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned in other country contexts and strengthen our own work at home.

Democracy and Legitimacy:  The Role of the Third Sector in a Globalizing World is the 2018 theme of the ISTR conference. With the aim of addressing the potential and existing shortcomings of the organizations we study, the Amsterdam conference of ISTRs will offer suggestions for a way forward for sure.

See you in Amsterdam!

On behalf of the hosting committee,

foto © Bart Versteeg 14-06-11

Theo Schuyt

Professor Philanthropic Studies

Center for Philanthropic Studies

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam