4 Arts Fundraising Tips from Germany

By Amanda Rigali on

Nadja Degen was Arts Fundraising Fellow for Apples and Snakes until September 2016, and has remained at the organisation as Development Co-ordinator.

How the Städel Museum in Frankfurt inspired a whole city to fundraise…

Nadja Degen ProfileAs a native Berliner my curiosity for fundraising practices in my home country is somewhat self-evident. In the minds of many, Germany will not be equated with game changing fundraising, not least because public support for the arts has traditionally been strong in the land of poets and thinkers.

However, in recent years fundraising in Germany has undergone steady change. I’d like to review the state of fundraising in the Republic and introduce lessons from an award-winning campaign by the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.

Philanthropy has a long tradition in Germany; their oldest foundations go back to the first millennium, mostly connected to the church. Secular foundations in Germany also have a long history that goes as far back as the Middle Ages. With the First World War and the subsequent global economic downturn, the capacity to give decreased significantly in Germany. The persecution and expulsion of German Jews by the Nazis diminished the foundation system almost completely.

During the post-war years the German civil sector recovered partially but particularly since the millennium civil engagement is on the rise again. Between 2001 and 2015, the number of foundations has doubled; in 2013, the volume of donations reached a record high with €4.7 billion. Is this a new age of philanthropy in Germany?

Bundesverband Duetscher Stiftungen

Unfortunately, in international comparison philanthropy in Germany still remains behind. Germans on average donate only 0.4% of their income to charitable causes, 0.9% including church tax (a tax imposed on members of religious congregations in Germany). US citizens on average make 2% in philanthropic donations. Ulf Schrader, co-author of the 2008 McKinsey report on philanthropy in Germany, estimates that the volume of donations could increase by an enormous 50%.

However, Germans excel in their engagement as volunteers. More than 70% of all German citizens donate time and energy as volunteers in charitable organisations and 36% serve as volunteers on a long-term basis.

The Städel Museum in Frankfurt, one of the most famous art institutions in Germany established in 1815, capitalised on this distinctive desire to be involved on the frontline of charitable work. In 2013, the museum won the award for Innovative Fundraising Campaign at the Global Awards for Fundraising. The target of the campaign was to raise €52 million to build a new wing (€34 million for the new wing, €18 million to renovate and connect the existing buildings). About half of the budget was to come from municipal sources, whilst the other half was to be raised from corporations, foundations and individuals. The campaign was extraordinarily successful in involving all reaches of society.

Stadel BootThe campaign slogan “Frankfurt is building the new Städel. Help build it,” allowed numerous partners from different fields to become engaged: the soccer club Eintracht Frankfurt kicked, the neighbourhood school painted, the night club danced.

A yellow boot became the visual icon for the campaign and stood symbolically for lending a hand and (almost physically) building the museum. Celebrities, donors and politicians wore the boot in order to show their support and raise awareness.

The public campaign exceeded its target of €5 million by 9%, and the museum gained numerous new friends and supporters: “The campaign developed its own spirit and we had wonderful support from so many citizens. Donors told us that the Städel was not ‘just a museum’ to them, but rather that they felt like being part of a big family. What else could you wish for?” Sophie Athié, Head of Development.

Four lessons that can be learnt from the campaign:

  1. Activate your target audience: The campaign encouraged at least 10,000 citizens to participate in fundraising activities. Not least due to its activating and involving slogan.
  2. Create awareness and public interest: Local celebrities supported the cause and raised initial public awareness levels.
  3. Engage donors on all levels: The campaign appealed to the citizens’ sense of honour and declared the Städel to be a project for the whole of Frankfurt.
  4. Think visual: The yellow builder boot was a vehicle to create spectacular press material and thus a perfect activator that helped the Städel and all citizens build an entire story of events and beneficial activities.

It is inspiring to see such unique fundraising gain widespread support for the arts in Germany. And maybe it is time to revisit the idea of Germany as a country that has no fundraising culture.

What do you think? We’d love to hear examples of other fundraising campaigns across Europe that are making a difference.

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

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