The American Way of Giving ; European Museums Look to Private Sector as Government Support Falls

By Fabrikant, Geraldine | International New York Times, March 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

The American Way of Giving ; European Museums Look to Private Sector as Government Support Falls


Fabrikant, Geraldine, International New York Times


With shrinking support from governments, museums in Europe are focusing both on home and Americans as they seek private and corporate donations.

Museums in the United States, helped by favorable tax laws, are sustained by a culture of giving by private donors and a universe of trained development officials.

That culture isn't common in other parts of the world, where governments often support museums.

"It is not as ingrained as it is in the U.S.," said Richard Hamilton, director of the Tate Americas Foundation, which raises money for the Tate museums in England. "People love leaving things to dogs and cats, but not to museums," he said.

That is changing.

Governments in Europe are cutting back their support of museums, and so these museums are adapting the American model and increasingly are turning to private citizens and corporations for donations. They are looking both to their own citizens, and to Americans who are fond of certain major European museums.

"They are becoming more hip to what Americans are doing as they shift from public to private funding," said Ellena E. Fotinatos, deputy director of donor and nonprofit services at the King Baudouin Foundation United States, whose mandate is to help European and African nonprofits raise money in this country. "With increased austerity in Europe, professional fund-raising is growing more focused around this area."

Some large cultural institutions have long had American outposts. Others are just beginning a major push. In Spain, the Prado's Amigos del Museo del Prado foundation boasts 29,000 members and raised more than $5 million last year. (Marie-Josee Kravis, a philanthropist who is the president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, contributes to the Spanish group.)

That support is crucial. In 2006, the Prado received 64.9 percent of its funding from the government. Last year, the government provided just 32.4 percent of the museum's 38.5 million euro budget.

The Prado is expanding what was once a small American effort offering no tax benefits for donors. It will start an American Friends of the Prado website this year and establish a nonprofit group that will allow American donors to receive the tax benefits of their gifts from the government.

"Lots of Americans love the Prado," said Christine Simmons, an American who has lived in Madrid since 1998 and is on the board of the American Friends of the Prado. "Last year, of our 2.6 million visitors, 200,000 came from the United States."

In the Netherlands, the newly redesigned Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has seen government funding drop to 40 percent of the budget after supplying as much as 70 percent in 2012. The museum's development office now has 15 people, up from three in 2009, according to Hendrikje Crebolder, head of development. This year, the Rijksmuseum will lend "Small Wonders," a collection of small medieval prayer pieces, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to be exhibited at the Cloisters. Among the benefits of such loans is the opportunity to cultivate relationships in the United States, Ms. Crebolder noted.

Europeans who want to learn more about fund-raising are taking their cues from Americans. Next month, representatives of 38 organizations are expected for the King Baudouin Foundation United States' annual spring seminar in New York on "The Art and Science of the American Fundraising Model." Three years ago, there were representatives from just 25 institutions. The event, which kicks off with cocktails at the Whitney Museum of American Art, will include officials from the Prado, the Rijksmuseum, the Benaki Museum in Athens and the City of Rome, as well as the Pompeii Project and the Archaeological Park at Paestum in Italy. …

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