Before state funding came into being, the cultural support system in the Netherlands was built around private initiatives 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 onwards, almost all major institutions received subsidies from the state. However, they mostly functioned relatively autonomous from central state policy and often still had private board members.
Towards the end of the 20th century, this autonomous position of cultural institutions was strengthened. In the 1990s, both the 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, 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.
The government is stimulating artists and cultural institutes to generate funds themselves, which is a development that finds its roots in the 1980s. It was put on the agenda strongly by State Secretary Rick van der Ploeg (1998-2002), who introduced the term cultural entrepreneurship. The development culminated in the policy of State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra in the Rutte I Cabinet (2010-2012). This cabinet initiated the Cultural Entrepreneurship Programme (2012- 2016). The organisation Culture+Entrepreneurship develops programmes and training courses to stimulate the entrepreneurship of cultural organisations and artists.