The third sector in the Netherlands is extraordinarily diverse and defies easy categorization. It comprises a broad variety of different organisations, ranging from neighbourhood initiatives to professionalized umbrella organisations, and from civic associations, advocacy networks to charity foundations. Dutch third sector organisations are active and highly visible in various policy fields, especially in health and social services, sports, culture and arts. Its development has to some extent been path-dependent, conditioned by formative choices about the shape of the welfare state made in the early 20th century. A key element of these choices was that third sector organisations became the foremost vehicles for expanding welfare programmes. Organisations tend to identify most with other organisations in their field (say education or health care), regardless of whether they are third sector or not. Inter-organisational collaboration tends to be within rather than across policy fields.

How have organisations responded to economic and societal changes that have taken place in the Netherlands over the past two decades? And what role does the Dutch third sector play in the changing relationship between citizens and the state? This report aims to identify the major trends in third sector development in the Netherlands. It thereby focuses on barriers and opportunities for development. Using an organizational field approach it is based on a literatire review, an online survey and case study work. Key characteristics and developments in the third sector in the Netherlands are presented in a brief overview, which focuses on employment, membership and the development of private donations. The report describes the main common trends of third sector development in the Netherlands and analyses the development of TSO in four policy fields (health and social services, sports, culture and arts, international cooperation) with special attention to volunteering, which is relevant to TSO in various policy fields.

The report concludes with the main barriers and opportunities to third sector development in the Netherlands:

  • Although all TSOs adapt to a changing policy environment, the impact of cuts in public funding have been more pronounced in those fields that are closely linked to the public sector, e.g. through co-financing mechanisms.
  • Third sector organisations have adopted more entrepreneurial, business-like forms of organisation and management, a general trend which is described as ‘managerialism’. TSOs have diversified their sources of income and strengthened sponsoring and commercial activities.
  • On the whole, the Dutch third sector has proven resilient in the face of a demanding environment. All organisations face changed economic circumstances. Despite that, there has been sufficient stability on the crucial indicators to keep the sector in a strong position.

You can download the full report below. See also TSI’s policy brief, formulation recommendations to remove third sector barriers in the Netherlands.