Category Archives: Dutch hosts

Crowdfunding to fetch our T-rex: A lot of coins for a lot of old bones

Guest post by Claire van Teunenbroek, 3rd year PhD student at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU University. You can read more about Claire’s research on her blog here.

Trix the T.rex: a successful Dutch crowdfunding project

A long time ago far away from Amsterdam, ‘Trix’ the Tyrannosaurus (T-rex) roamed the earth. She stood twelve meters tall, weighed five thousand kilos and had more than 50 sharp teeth of about 20 centimetres long. These days, the T-rex skeleton (lovingly dubbed “Trix,” which is a common Dutch pet name and the nickname for our previous queen) travels through Europe thanks to more than 23,000 Dutch donors. After the tour, the T-rex will be on permanent display at the Naturalis, a Dutch museum of Biodiversity.

The bones of this beautiful female T-Rex, who lived about 66 to 67 million years ago, were found in Montana, USA during an expedition in 2013.  When the cost to collect all the bones and ship them to the Netherlands proved to be too high, the museum started a charitable campaign to collect money to make their dream of displaying a complete T-rex skeleton come true.

Crowdfunding: transparent, democratic and full of rewards

Fortunately for the museum, much of the Dutch population shared their dream and were more than willing to contribute small donations to the cause.  The museum decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign and assembled 5 million Euros in mostly small donations (e.g. most donors gave 10 euros).

Online crowdfunding developed in 2006, primarily in the arts and creative-based industries.  One of the first crowdfunding platforms was the music oriented platform Sellaband, developed in the Netherlands in 2006. Crowdfunding is an increasingly applied instrument; the reward-based crowdfunding platform Voordekunst hosted 712 projects with a success rate of 81% and 40.107 donors contributed a total donation amount of €3.558.549.

piggy bank

An interesting characteristic of crowdfunding is the transparent nature of the funding tool: the solicitor provides a detailed description of how they will use the funds up front.  In the case of our T-rex, the museum had to describe where Trix would be displayed. And because crowdfunding engages more people, it could be described as more democratic than previously used door-to-door campaigns. By donating to the T-rex cause, the Dutch donors were able to validate the campaign to bring Trix to the Netherlands.

Why is the transparency of crowdfunding important?

Worldwide, donors are more critical and conscious about the effect of their donation and expect non-profits to be more open both before and after receiving the donation.   Non-profits that are more transparent about how the funding will be used to have an impact attract more donors.  Moreover, are increasingly involving their donors in conversations and letting the donors take leadership in deciding which projects to start.

Why is the democratic factor in crowdfunding important?

Maintaining transparency after a donation is made is just as important, reflecting a shift from the donor as ‘giver’ towards ‘contributor.’ More than ever, individuals want to do more than opening their wallets, they want to be included and expect some form of a lasting relationship after the donation is made that allows the donor to observe the lasting impact of their donation.

 Crowdfunding for the cultural sector in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, it is not uncommon or new for the cultural sector to turn towards philanthropy as a method of financial survival. Financial aid in the form of donations for the cultural sector can be traced back as far as the Golden Age, when a group called the Maecenas started to financially support cultural institutions and individual artists.

After the financial crisis of 2008, the Dutch economy faced important challenges. First, the government was forced to decrease spending, which especially impacted the cultural sector, which had been heavily dependent on government subsidies.

cultural sector

However, the increasing pressure on philanthropic sources might not be ideal for the cultural sector. Most Dutch individuals (93%) judge the cultural sector as an unimportant goal for the general public. Not surprisingly, the cultural sector receives few donations (12% of the Dutch households donate to cultural projects). In an attempt to fill the financial gap, the government has encouraged an increased support from the third sector. For example, to stimulate donations to cultural projects, the Dutch government multiplied donations made to cultural institutions. However, this strategy did not result in more donations.

Crowdfunding as the next step?

Crowdfunding will not solve all the funding problems of the third sector, but this new funding tool could help to increase the reach of charitable organizations.  I think that crowdfunding is a logical next step for the non-profit sector as government support decreases because crowdfunding is a relatively cheap method for reaching a large crowd. Also, it might attract new donors who are more critically about the return on their investment and are concerned about impact and transparency.   More practically, crowdfunding connects with the current lifestyle of donors who spend daily time online.

Still, the impact of crowdfunding in charity is relatively small; in 2011 only 9% per cent of the Dutch population contributed online to charity organizations. Amounts raised through crowdfunding increase, but they account for less than 1% of giving in the Netherlands.

Trix will be on display at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris during the ISTR Conference (she is currently in Barcelona), but we hope you will come back and visit in 2019 when the museum reopens.

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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.

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