European Cultural Institutions Increasingly Look to Private Donations

A growing number of European cultural institutions are following the lead of their American counterparts and relying more on private donations to help fund special projects and their day-to-day operations, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to Richard Busby, CEO of the UK-based consulting firm BDS Sponsorship, cultural organizations in continental Europe are catching up to the UK and the United States in terms of developing robust fundraising operations and with that shift has come a growing focus on the overseas market. The Louvre in Paris, for example, has gone from raising 6 percent of its operating revenue from private sources as recently as 2003 to 16 percent this year, while the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has launched a campaign to raise €45 million ($67.6 million) in private funds as part of its effort to reopen with a new building in 2013.

Elsewhere, iconic institutions such as the Tate in London and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg have set up American or international friends groups over the past decade to take advantage of philanthropic interest outside their home countries and to allow foreign supporters to take advantage of domestic tax deductions.

In turn, the increased institutional focus on private donations has created more opportunities for donors, both domestically and abroad. These days, most cultural organizations offer trips, tickets to special exhibitions and galas, and other perks to individuals who support specific projects. At the same time, donors can take advantage of the unique networking opportunities that high-profile institutions can provide. "The research I've seen shows that opera and contemporary art are the two most popular among captains of industry and politicians," Busby told the Journal. "If you go to a concert, the networking opportunities are much more limited than they are in museums or galleries, where you can stand around and have a glass of wine in front of the works of art and still talk to people."

Paul Sonne. "The Culture of Giving." Wall Street Journal 11/27/2009.