Summary in English

Culture Change is Hard: Evidence from A Tax Reform in the Netherlands

In 2012, the government of the Netherlands reformed the tax law on charitable donations to support giving to culture. The legal reform enhanced the deductibility of gifts to cultural organizations and allowed cultural organizations to earn more commercial income. The goal of the law was to reduce the dependency of the cultural sector on government grants, by encouraging both philanthropic giving by private donors and corporations as well as entrepreneurship by cultural institutions. Using data from annual reports and surveys among cultural institutions in the past 7 years, we document the slow changes on the path towards revenue diversification in the cultural sector. Results are available in chapter 25 of the Routledge Handbook of Taxation and Philanthropy, edited by Henry Peter and Giedre Lideikyte-Huber.

Cultural nonprofit organizations in the Netherlands: Changes in giving behavior, fundraising and income between 2011 and 2014

Saskia Franssen and René Bekkers – Center for Philanthropic Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – June 9, 2016 – PDF version here


  • In 2012 the Law on Giving was introduced which increased the level at which donations to cultural nonprofit organizations can be deducted by households and corporations. In addition, the Giving Law gave cultural nonprofit organizations more freedom to earn commercial income.
  • We measured canges in contributions by households, corporations and high net worth households between 2011 and 2014. In addition, we collected and analyzed data on the activities and income sources of cultural nonprofit organizations between 2012 and 2014.
  • Households in the Netherlands have not donated more to cultural nonprofit organizations after the reform of the charitable deduction in 2012. The level of sponsoring by corporations has increased.
  • Cultural nonprofit organizations have become more active in raising private contributions and commercial income. Around 40% of the institutions have been successful.  However, the increase in fundraising income in 2013 has not compensated the decline in subsidies to nonprofit organizations. In 2014 total income was at the 2012 level again.

Context and research questions

  • The introduction of the Law on Giving coincided with large cuts in government subsidies to nonprofit organizations and a call for more entrepreneurship. As a result, many institutions were forced to find alternative sources of income and have started to raise funds from donors and corporations.
  • How have households and corporations in the Netherlands reacted to the enhanced level of deduction? Have they increased their contributions? And how have cultural nonprofit organizations changed their behavior in response to the cuts and the Law on Giving? Which organizations have been able to shift gears to cultural entrepreneurship? These questions have been answered in the current research.

Study on giving by households, corporations and high net worth households

  • The donation behavior of households in the Netherlands has not increased, despite the introduction of a multiplier of 1.25, which allows households to deduct 125% of donations made to cultural nonprofit organizations.
  • Among high net worth households giving to cultural nonprofit organizations became more popular, but the amount donated has not increased.
  • Corporations have increased their contributions considerably after the introduction of a multiplier of 1.50, which allows them to deduct 150% of contributions to cultural nonprofit organizations.
  • Knowledge of consequences of the Law on Giving is lacking among large parts of the populations studied. Almost half of high net worth households does not know that contributions to cultural nonprofit organizations can be deducted at a higher rate. Among corporations two thirds does not know this. Among all households in the Netherlands three quarters does not know about the higher rate of deduction for donations to cultural nonprofit organizations.

Study on cultural nonprofit organizations

  • The multiplier in the Law on Giving in itself does not increase private contributions to nonprofit organizations to a level that compensates the decline in government subsidies. Cultural nonprofit organizations also need to increase their efforts approaching potential donors and informing them about the consequences of the legal reform.
  • Cultural nonprofit organizations of all sizes, from very small to very large, are changing. Institutions that had no experience with fundraising or generating commercial income have started to experiment and became more active in these areas.
  • Cultural nonprofit organizations of almost all sizes see their income grow when they actively inform donors about the tax reform. These findings suggest that the Law on Giving may work in the long run.
  • Investments in marketing, fundraising and communication about the Law on Giving have proven to be crucial conditions to increase income from donations and sponsoring.
  • We find a Matthew Effect among cultural nonprofit organizations. Those institutions that have actively informed potential donors about the tax reform have been able to increase their fundraising income most strongly when they had prior experience and success with fundraising.
  • Investments in fundraising pay off in the long run, but for many cultural nonprofit organizations it is a new activity. They need more time to become more professional in fundraising.


  • This study reports on research conducted by the Center for Philanthropic Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
  • The research relies on Giving in the Netherlands surveys among representative samples of more than 1,000 households and 1,100 corporations reporting on private contributions in 2011, 2013 and 2014. In addition, more than 800 high net worth households responded to the surveys in each of the years. Almost 1,400 cultural nonprofit organizations registered at the tax authorities responded to surveys on their activities in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Longitudinal samples include about 500 households and 300 cultural nonprofit organizations.


Please direct questions on this study to René Bekkers, More information on the Center for Philanthropic Studies is available at

%d bloggers liken dit: