Research Proposal

Research Proposal: The Motivation of the New Generation

By Karel de Leeuw


A qualitative research on the motives of young donors to give to arts and culture in the Netherlands


In the past the Dutch society was often perceived as a welfare state, but in the current day and age the welfare state seems to be eroding, and a different kind of society seems to take its place: a participatory society. Even though this is a process that has been going on for quite some time, it  more or less became official when the Dutch King Willem Alexander stated this change in the Speech from the Throne in 2013. The King said:

It is unmistakable that people are more articulate and independent in this new era of networking and information. That, in combination with the need to reduce the large deficits that the government now is facing, is slowly but surely changing the welfare state into participatory society. Everyone who is eligible is called upon to take responsibility for his or her own life and community (Het is onmiskenbaar dat mensen in onze huidige netwerk- en informatiesamenleving mondiger en zelfstandiger zijn dan vroeger. Gecombineerd met de noodzaak om het tekort van de overheid terug te dringen, leidt dit ertoe dat de klassieke verzorgingsstaat langzaam maar zeker verandert in een participatiesamenleving. Van iedereen die dat kan, wordt gevraagd verantwoordelijkheid te nemen voor zijn of haar eigen leven en omgeving).

The participatory society is most visible in the fact that the government has withdrawn some of its aid in certain sectors and has put more responsibility in the hands of the citizens. Sectors like health care see a decrease in (funding for) professional aid and more and more work comes in the hands of caregivers. Arts and culture, often named as one sector in the Netherlands, also have seen their subsidies declining. In 2005 the government spent 1,2 per cent of its total budget on arts and culture, and in 2013 (the year of the King’s Speech from the Throne) it was already down to 1,1 percent. The empty void left by the withdrawing government should be filled up by participating and caring members of society. This is where art philanthropy comes in.

Art philanthropy is becoming a more important source of income for artists and cultural organizations by donating money. Even though art philanthropy is taking up a more prominent role, sufficient studies about this topic are lacking at the moment and especially the younger art philanthropists remain an almost unstudied group. It is unfortunate that so little research has been done about this group, because the older generation of philanthropists will eventually disappear and the younger one will have to take over that position. To gain more insight in the motivation of young people to donate money to art and culture could benefit the sector by engaging more with these donors and perhaps persuade more people into giving. That is why the aim of this research will be to investigate the motivation of the young art philanthropists to give.

Field Setting

The research currently being conducted by Renée Steenbergen is about young donors (< 50) who give to the arts. She has divided her field into two groups:

  1. Trust funds
  2. Individual donors

The first groups consists of wealthy owners of trust funds that donate money to art and culture in the Netherlands. Their donations are typically of considerable size, ranging from a few thousand euros to over a million. The second group are individual donors who give a relative smaller amount of money. The individual donors are often connected to a certain institution via some sort of group or membership (i.e. Rijksvriend for the Rijksmuseum).

In terms of accessibility the second group is the most interesting for our research, since it is very hard to come in to contact with the trust funds and even harder to get them to cooperate with a research like this, so we will be focussing on the individual donors, specifically the donors of Club Foam.

About Foam and Club Foam

Foam is an international orientated photography museum in Amsterdam. Their aim is to try to inspire and inform a broad  audience by showing all the facets of photography. They don’t just do exhibitions, but also organize educational projects, host debates and so on.

Club Foam is a group art and photography lovers who are actively involved with Foam. The Club explicitly targets a young audience, ranging from 25 to 40 years old. The membership fee is €450 per year (or €39 a month), though the actual costs are lower due to tax deductions. With tax deductions included a membership costs between €255-€299.

Members of Club Foam have certain privileges, such as free admission to Foam and several other photography museums, invitations to exclusive dinners and tours, a photography workshop and a subscription to Foam magazine. The website of Foam doesn’t mention the size of Club Foam, but fortunately Renée Steenbergen had already done research among this group and could tell us that the group currently consists of 36 members. Other demographics are currently unavailable, but will be shared with us later on. What we can say is that the average member of is somewhat well off. By this I mean to say that a 25 year old who has €450 to spare for a photography museum membership probably has more economic capital that his contemporaries.


Why would people give to culture? In the case of elite philanthropy Ostrower says the following: “The prominence of culture is distinctive feature of elite philanthropy, for culture is a relative minor recipient of charitable giving in general.” It could then be said that giving to culture is something that stands out and could be used by elite philanthropists to distinguish themselves from givers in other sectors. Even though the term elite that Ostrower uses is might not cover group that I will research, her research does offer a good starting point. Besides that it has to be noted that the members of Club Foam might not be elite in a traditional sense, but are still (at least in economical perspective) people that are well off.

Returning to the why, an answer stating that elite and culture have an apparent bond is too simple of a statement and is unsatisfying. If we look further into the act of giving (to culture), the phenomenon could be related to acquiring capital. Hereby I do not just mean to attain capital in the economical sense, because according to Pierre Bourdieu “[i]t is in fact impossible to account for the structure and functioning of the social world unless one reintroduces capital in all its forms and not solely in the form recognized by economic theory.” The other forms of capital that the French author recognizes are cultural and social.

Cultural capital has three different forms: the embodied state, the objectified state and the institutionalized state. The embodied state of cultural capital is acquired knowledge and this kind of capital is not instantaneously exchangeable to economic capital. The objectified state is property that is only defined in accordance to embodied cultural capital. Examples of the objectified state are books, paintings or sculptures. Institutionalized cultural capital is a legal qualification of embodied cultural capital. Most often it comes in the form of academic titles.

Social capital is on some points closely related to cultural capital, but is a separate form of capital. It “[…] is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words, to membership in a group – which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectively-owned capital.” This means that the magnitude of the social capital acquired is caused by the size of the network and the capital (in all its forms) involved in that network.

After looking at the theory by Bourdieu it can be said that if one joins Club Foam his or her capital will grow in multiple ways. The social capital of members of Club Foam grows by the network that is created through Club Foam. It offers several activities that are exclusively meant for the members and during these events members can actively engage with each other. By doing so they will enlarge their own network and thus their social capital.

Besides the social capital the cultural capital is also of importance, mainly due to the nature of the club (as it is a part of a photography museum). During the aforementioned activities members have the chance to enhance their knowledge on the art of photography and thus improve on their cultural capital in the embodied state. It might also be that cultural capital in the institutionalized state could be of relevance (e.g. acquired certificates after completing workshops).

Ostrower has done research on the elite that give to culture and to see whether there is a connection to be made to the term cultural capital and as she sees it the connection is present. “[T]he fact that culture is so prominent in elite philanthropy, and that elites so value associations with arts institutions testifies to the enduring interest, value, and social cachet associated with high culture in elite circles.” Arts and the accompanied cultural capital can thus be seen as a contributing factor into the cohesion of class.

Brown and Ferris looked at social capital in combination with philanthropy. They conclude that “[i]ndividuals with a greater stock of network-based social capital tend to give more to religious causes and to give more to secular causes.” So if a person has more social capital, chances are that the person is more likely to give.

Even though both researches are of great importance, they do not completely answer why someone would give. For that question it is interesting to look at the results from a different perspective and to test if the findings are also applicable the other way around. By that I wish to try to see if gaining in cultural or social capital might be a motive to start giving, as opposed to giving because it suits your cultural or social capital.

Research Design/Methodology

For this research I will focus on the members of Club Foam and to learn more about their motivation to give towards arts and culture. Renée Steenbergen is currently doing a quantitative research on these individuals to get more clues as to why they are giving. I will follow up on her work and do qualitative research among the same group of people. First I will analyze the data that Renée Steenbergen as accumulated. Once the data has been organized and coded I can start to look for patterns. I plan on using the findings for follow-up interviews. Also it might be that after analysis of the quantitative data I can conclude that certain topics have remained untouched or perhaps should be asked in a different way. This will also be something that is going to be processed in the interviews.

For the interviews I will send the members of Club Foam an invitation via e-mail to see if they have the time and energy to participate in this research. Even though I am fully aware of the fact that they might not want to participate in another research, I do hold hope for responses. The invitation will be formal and transparent of nature. I will state my purpose and will ask them for an hour of their time. They will be able to decide the time and place, as long as it is a place where they will feel comfortable (e.g. on a train or a similar location will not do for this research), since I want the participants to be as open and as frank as possible.

In an effort to let the participants speak as freely as possible I think it is useful that the members of Club Foam know who I am before they receive my e-mail. This is why I propose to that I attend several of the non-exclusive activities that these individuals will take part in. It is a conscious decision to only attend non-exclusive activities, since I do not want to be a disruptive factor in this group. By attending some of these activities I also hope to gather some information on the group behavior of the members of Club Foam. They might say certain things to one another that they might not share with me in a one-on-one session.



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