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Funding for the media has been slashed and the Media Fund is to be dismantled.


In 2011 volunteers represented 73% of the total labour force in museums, 44% in libraries and 63% in pop music venues.


The American practice of buying a position on the board of trustees has been introduced but for now has been restricted to private cultural enterprises.

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Netherlands/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

There is a complex system of subsidies in the cultural sector. The following chapter will explain how the subsidy system works in these fields: arts and cultural heritage; media and entertainment; and creative industries.

The arts and cultural heritage

Performing arts

The performing arts sector includes music, music theatre, drama and dance. Within these four disciplines, there are a great many sub-genres, including opera, popular music, musical, ballet, mime, etc. The Performing Arts Fund NL is the most important subsidy source for the performing arts. From 2017, the Performing Arts Fund will provide a multi-annual funding to 84 cultural organisations. Applicants were judged on the following criteria: artistic quality, entrepreneurship, diversity and geographical spread. For festivals and competitions applies a fifth criterion: contribution to the development of the performing arts (see chapter 8.1.2).

The maintenance and management of theatre, music and opera buildings is the responsibility of the local authorities.

Visual arts

The government supports visual arts and cultural heritage through the Mondriaan Fund. The fund aims to encourage innovation and excellence in these fields by supporting outstanding artists, cultural heritage and art organisations and projects, both in the Netherlands and abroad (see chapter 8.1.2). Many of the Mondriaan Fund's grants are aimed at encouraging cooperation between organisations, artists, mediators, clients and / or other private or public parties. In order to stimulate the private market for art, the Mondriaan Fund has created the Private Art Buyers Scheme [KunstKoop]. Under this scheme, people can buy art on credit at over a hundred galleries spread across the Netherlands. The artwork can then be paid for in monthly instalments instead of all at once.

In 2015, the Mondriaan Fund grants EUR 1.4 million to the multiannual programs of 20 museums and other heritage institutions. In 2016 the fund grants EUR 1.9 million to twelve presentation institutions for contemporary art. The total budget for the period 2017-2020 amounts EUR 24.39 million per year.

Libraries, language and literature

Language and literature are financed through The Dutch Foundation for Literature. This foundation has the task of supporting writers and translators, and of promoting Dutch literature abroad. It invests in the quality and diversity of literature through grants for writers, translators, publishers and festivals, and contributes to the production and distribution of Dutch and Frisian literature in the Netherlands and abroad (see chapter 8.1.2).

In January 2015, a new libraries act was implemented. The government aims to create a centralised comprehensive network of libraries, both physical and digital (see chapter 5.3.4).

For the period 2017-2020 the total budget amounts EUR 10.15 million per year. Three support organisations for literature and one for libraries are part of the national basic infrastructure. There is room for support for literary magazines. Flanders and the Netherlands being guest countries at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016 is of great importance.


Central government, the provinces and the municipalities are cooperating in the development of a digital infrastructure for national and local archives. The National Archive is the archive of central government.

Together with the archives of the larger municipalities, the National Archive is working on the development of a so-called "e-depot". The National Archive aims to make digital archives permanently accessible for citizens (click here for the English website of the National Archive).

Cultural heritage

The central government subsidises 48 museums, of which 30 are part of the Basic National Infrastructure (BIS). The 18 remaining museums funded by central government receive subsidies from other ministries (for example, the Army Museum is subsidised by the Ministry of Defence). In 2012, the museums under the BIS umbrella generated 29% of their income through their own activities. Their private income rates vary widely. The Van Gogh Museum, for example, generated 70% of its 2012 income through ticket sales, sponsorship, private gifts and commercial activities. In addition to the BIS, a great number of museums is subsidised by local government. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, presented a Museum Letter in 2013, in which she reveals her vision on the museum system and proposes some measures in order to improve the system. She particularly stresses the need for more cooperation between museums across the country.

The Cultural Heritage Agency is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage in the Netherlands. The agency, which is part of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, awards grants for monuments and historic buildings, archaeology and cultural landscapes, and implements the Monuments and Historic Buildings Act. It takes action whenever the cultural heritage comes under threat (see chapter 4.2.2 and chapter 5.3.3; click here for the English website).

Media and entertainment


Most of the national budget for film is distributed through the Netherlands Film Fund. The fund is responsible for supporting film production nationwide. It focuses on the quality and diversity of feature films, documentaries, shorts, animation and experimental films. Its operations cover participation in development, production and distribution. Furthermore, it supports film-related activities such as festivals, co-production markets and individual training for film professionals. It is also responsible for promoting an enabling environment for the national film industry (see chapter 8.1.2; click here for the English website). 

At the end of 2013, the government decided to earmark an additional 20 million EUR to improve the competitiveness of the Dutch film industry, and to stimulate foreign filmmakers to move to the Netherlands. The Netherlands Film Fund will be responsible for distributing the additional grants. The share of Dutch films in Dutch cinemas has increased over the last few years. In 2007, 14% of the films showing in Dutch cinemas were Dutch; by the first six months of 2013, this proportion had increased to 17.4%.

For the period 2013-2016, three film festivals and one support organisation for film are part of the Basic National Infrastructure. The support organisation is the Eye Film Institute Netherlands, the Dutch centre for film culture and heritage, which is dedicated to developing a vigorous film culture in the Netherlands (click here for the English website).


Media affairs are supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. State Secretary Dekker of the VVD (Liberal Party) is responsible for the media portfolio. Legislation on media is laid down in the Media Act 2008 (see chapter 5.3.7).  The media is not incorporated in the Basic National Infrastructure and the actual media funds are not law-based. As explained earlier in this document, the main role of the government vis à vis the media is to safeguard pluriformity, accessibility and affordability (see chapter 4.2.6).

In the Netherlands, there are three funds regarding media affairs: the Dutch Cultural Media Fund [Mediafonds], the Co-production Fund for National Public Broadcasting [Co-productiefonds Binnenlandse omroep] and the Press Stimulation Fund [Stimuleringsfonds voor de pers]. The Dutch Cultural Media Fund is the largest of the three. It promotes the development and production of high-quality artistic programmes by the national and regional public-broadcasting corporations. The fund provides more than 16 million EUR in subsidies annually for radio and television programmes in the fields of drama, documentary, feature film, youth, new media and performing arts. The fund also stimulates new genres, like video clips and games, in collaboration with other organisations and funds (click here for the English website).

Following the earlier decision to reduce the budget for public broadcasting by 200 million EUR, the Rutte I Cabinet (2010-2012) announced a further cut of 100 million EUR. However, the new Rutte II Cabinet was subsequently forced by parliament to limit the second cut to 50 million EUR. The Media Fund will be dismantled and its tasks will be taken over by the public broadcast service.

Creative Industries

For the period 2013-2016, a new cultural fund was created: the Creative Industries Fund NL (click here for the English website). The term "creative industries" encompasses a broad range of different fields, including design, architecture, urban development, landscape architecture, graphic design, fashion, new media and gaming. The government aims to stimulate the development of the creative industries by making the cluster one of its ten "top sectors" in its "top-sector policy" (see chapter 4.2.3).

The three sector institutes concerning the creative industries (the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Premsela: the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion, and the Virtual Platform, the e-culture knowledge institute) have now merged to form the New Institute [Het Nieuwe Instituut]. The activities of the New Institute are grounded in the principles of design and innovation. It organises exhibitions, lectures and fellowships, and carries out research and development projects around three multi-annual programmes. The themes of the three programmes are Landscape and Interiors, Objects and Materials, plus a changing annual theme (click here for the English website). The New Institute is part of the Basic National Infrastructure for the period 2013-2016.

Cooperation models and additional forms of financing

Before state funding came into being, the cultural support system in the Netherlands was built around private initiative and social associations. In the second half of the 19th century, many important Dutch museums were initiated, mostly in cooperation with municipalities. The museums were financed and managed by a small, elite group. After World War II, central government intensified policy-making in the field of the arts and culture. From the 1960s on, almost all major institutions received subsidies from the state. But many of them were still managed by private board members. Together with central government, the board members formed the governance structure of a non-profit foundation [stichting].

Towards the end of the 20th century, these public-private organisation models returned to prominence. In the 1990s, both central government and the municipalities distanced themselves from museums. The museums were privatised; they became foundations with an autonomous management, separated from the subsidising governments. Due to the economic crisis of 2008 and the growing focus on the "value" debate, cultural institutions had to devote more energy to obtaining private income. It became a general belief that institutions could show their importance (and hence value) and impact by generating additional private funding. Especially in the so-called "participation society" (a term introduced by the Rutte II Cabinet in September 2013 during the announcement of the Budget Memorandum 2014), private initiative and private income moved to the centre of the cultural policy system. 

Private associations and foundations

Next to government subsidies, funding comes from private associations and foundations. Some private foundations, such as the Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation [Prins Bernhard CultuurFonds] and the VandenEnde Foundation, have specific social and cultural aims as part of their statutes. The Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation is the largest private cultural foundations in the Netherlands. It stimulates the conservation of nature and culture by supporting over 3 500 initiatives, individuals and projects every year. The VandenEnde Foundation was founded in 2001. Its focus is on stimulating cultural entrepreneurship and increasing the interest of young people in culture. It offers scholarships for talented young people, to enable them to further develop their opportunities (click here for English website).

Friends' societies and volunteers

A growing number of subsidised cultural institutions have friends' societies or private support systems. These allied organisations derive their income from membership fees, gifts and legacies. Especially in the museum sector, friends' societies can play an important role. But this kind of support is also important in other sectors. The Royal Concertgebouw has a friends' society with over 20 000 "friends". Friends are important, both for the additional money they bring and the social support they generate. About 250 000 people are in one way or another related to the many museums in the Netherlands (source: Smithuijsen and Van Woersem [2013] Boekman 97, p 86).

In times of economic recession, cultural institutions are more dependent on volunteers. In the museum sector, the number of volunteers increased by 59% between 2001 and 2011. In 2011, the total number of volunteers in museums was 28 364, while paid employees numbered 10 549. Volunteers therefore represent 73% of the total labour force in museums (in terms of people, not in terms of working hours). In the library sector, the proportion of volunteers had increased to 44% by 2011; in pop music venues, volunteers grew to comprise 63% of all staff as of 2011 (source: Cultuur in Beeld p 52-54). In general, smaller institutes attract a relatively larger number of volunteers. In the amateur arts sector, volunteers play a highly important role as well. As of 2009, one million volunteers were active in this sector, in which they organise exhibitions and performances, make costumes or even play a leading role as they do in amateur arts organisations. In 2009, volunteers spent between four and 28 hours a month on activities related to amateur arts. On average, 28 hours a month were spent on voluntary activities related to new media (photography, film), 21 hours on instrumental music and 19 hours on the visual arts. Men spent twice as much time on voluntary work in the amateur arts as women did (source: Kunstfactor 2009, factsheet 1).  


Another source of cultural funding is the contribution made by commercial enterprises to cultural institutions or facilities: in other words, sponsorship.

In the 1990s, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science drew up a code for the sponsors of cultural events, called the Culture Sponsor Code [Code Cultuursponsoring]. In this code, various rules for a sponsor relationship are defined and the framework for sponsorship agreements is stipulated. The most important aspect of the code is that, in principle, the sponsor is not allowed to influence the actual content of the activity organised by its cultural public partner. Most large banks, including ABN AMRO and Rabobank, have their own departments dealing with culture sponsorship.

Recently the American practice of buying a position on the board of trustees has been introduced to the Netherlands. For the time being however, the practice has been restricted to purely private cultural enterprises – in this case the Museum Beelden aan Zee. 


The government wants the cultural sector to become less dependent on government subsidies and to generate more money from private sources. For this reason, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science set up the Cultural Entrepreneurship Programme (2012-2016). Cultural organisations and producers are supported in their entrepreneurial efforts and helped with advice, coaching and supervision to find alternative funding. The main aim is to reinforce entrepreneurship in the cultural sector among both organisations and makers (see chapter 4.2.9). An important part of this policy is to encourage "giving to culture". The government aims to support donations to the arts and culture with its Gift and Inheritance Tax Act [Geefwet] and donation campaign.

Giving to culture helps to increase the public's engagement with the cultural sector. In 2009, the Dutch gave approximately 4.7 billion EUR to good causes. About 10% of that amount, 454 million EUR, went to culture. Since 2009 however, donations to culture have been declining. In 2011, the Dutch gave approximately 4.3 billion EUR to good causes. Approximately 7% of that amount, 287 million EUR, went to culture (see chapter 6.3).

With the Gift and Inheritance Tax Act [Geefwet], which was implemented in the Netherlands on 1 January 2012, the government hopes to encourage private individuals to make donations to cultural institutions by offering (additional) income tax benefits. The act also introduces a multiplier of 125 per cent, which applies to donations made to cultural institutions – up to a maximum of 5 000 EUR. This means that a larger sum can be deducted and a lower net amount can be paid, while the total donation to the institution stays the same (see chapter 5.1.5 and chapter 6.3). Since the act was implemented only in 2012, the effects have yet to be measured. An audit will take place in 2014.


Crowdfunding, the practice of funding a project or artist by raising small amounts of money from a large group of people, mostly via the internet, is gaining ground in the Netherlands. Since the state budget cuts to culture were announced in 2011, a lot of artists and institutions have started using the crowdfunding model to (attempt to) finance their projects, albums, plays etc. In the Netherlands, with its wide range of digital crowdfunding platforms, the amount of money collected in this way has increased exponentially, from 0.5 million EUR in 2010, to 2.5 million EUR in 2011 and 14 million EUR in 2012. Of the 14 million EUR collected in 2012, 1.9 million EUR went to creative projects. In 2012, 262 out of the 570 projects and institutions financed by crowdfunding were of a creative nature.

Investments and loans


In 2006, the first general investment fund in culture was established by the Triodos Bank. Its Culture Fund has the character of an obligations fund: if the interest on the finance market rises, the exchange rate decreases. The Culture Fund is a semi-open-ended fund, meaning that the issuing of shares passes through a bank, and the purchasing of shares is possible via all the Dutch banks. In 2013, the fund volume of the Culture Fund was 103.6 million EUR. There are other investment trusts which invest at least 70% of their capital in artistic and cultural projects. 


The platform Culture-Entrepreneurship [Cultuur-Ondernemen] provides loans to artists, creative people and cultural institutions. For credits between 10 000 and 50 000 EUR, Culture-Entrepreneurship cooperates with the Triodos Bank. The loan is intended for durable investments, like the financing of musical instruments or the renovation or building of an atelier. For larger cultural institutions, it is also possible to request a larger credit from the Triodos Bank (click here for the English website).

Chapter published: 19-03-2017

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