Alleviating the Financial Burden of Associations

14th October 2022

As the world enters a new era of its existence, uncertainty has forced associations to review the way they operate. At the core of their sustainability lie their finances and the way they manage their cash flow. In that regard, the Netherlands have come up with a special Fund designed to reduce the risks they take when they organize events. Project leader Paul Gruijthuijsen and Eric Bakermans, Director Marketing Meetings and Conventions, Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, tell Boardroom all about it.

Words Remi Deve

Can you (re)introduce the Pre-financing & Guarantee Fund (VGF) to the readers of Boardroom who might not be familiar with it?

Paul Gruijthuijsen: The VGF is an independent foundation set up in the late 1980s. Our aim is to take away or reduce any financial concerns conference organizers might have when starting the initial preparations of an international conference in the Netherlands. In order to support them, we’ve founded the VGF in which you will find two schemes, the Pre-financing scheme and the Guarantee scheme.

With the Pre-financing scheme we offer some financial support in the beginning of the organization of the conference when the first invoices need to be settled, but no money has come in yet as registration has not begun. To bridge that financial gap we offer a free-of-charge rent-free loan, designed for organizers to do, for instance, a down payment on the venue or start some marketing activities such as building a website or creating brochures and first announcements.

The Guarantee scheme offers a sort of financial insurance, also at no costs whatsoever, in case the conference ends up having fewer delegates than anticipated, resulting in a financial deficit for the association. By offering a financial guarantee (up to € 90.000) we hope to bring some financial reassurance. In case of a loss on the conference budget, the VGF will cover the loss up to the agreed upon amount.

These two schemes can be used separately or combined.

Of course, there are some conditions, but these are far more favourable in comparison to the often-extensive exclusion list a professional event or congress assurance offers. These are:

  • The conference needs to take place in the Netherlands
  • It needs to be a multiple day conference where exchange of knowledge is the focus
  • The organization is handled by a party that has considerable experience in organizing international conferences
  • The application needs to be done eight months prior to the conference

The amount for Pre-Financing or Guarantee depends on the budget and the history of the conference.

In what ways can it help the Netherlands’ recovery plan?

Eric Bakermans: It’s a part of something bigger, next to what the Netherlands already has to offer. The advantage lies in the fact that a certain amount of financial security is offered, both before and after the congress. It’s fairly unique in the world as far as we know and the conditions are fairly easy to meet. In particular it’s attractive to the somewhat smaller-size congresses or start-up events as those do not have so much financial room for maneuver. 

Paul Gruijthuijsen: Often I get asked why the Netherlands offers such a thing, and what is the catch? Sometimes people have a hard time believing me, when I say our services are free of charge. They feel that there must be a hidden agenda. But there is none. And the reason why we offer these schemes for free is very logical. We know that the more international business visitors come to the Netherlands the better it is for our economy. Hosting international conferences in the Netherlands, creates jobs in the Netherlands and generate a great economic impact.

We assume you received great feedback so far…

Paul Gruijthuijsen: We often ask our clients for feedback. We believe it’s more credible to share their experiences then for us to claim how “good” we are. Clients vary from PCOs to scientists and academics working at the various universities and academic knowledge institutions in our country.

Professor N.M. Nico van Straalen, member of the Local Organizing Committee of the XVIth International Congress of Toxicology hosted in Maastricht last September said that “A loan from the VGF was an indispensable factor for starting up the organization of our congress and turn it into a success.”

Do you focus on any specific sector when you bid for conferences? 

Eric Bakermans: The Netherlands strives to create integrated joint solutions across sectors through partnership between government, companies and research and knowledge institutions. This approach, known as ‘Triple Helix’ has proven to be quite successful. To maintain top-level engagement in helping the world to solve global challenges, all businesses in the Netherlands are engaged in nine key sectors nominated by the Dutch government. These include agriculture & food, horticulture, water & maritime, energy, high-tech systems & materials, creative industries, chemistry, life sciences & health, and logistics.

Paul Gruijthuijsen: The VGF is there to support any international conference, regardless the subject.  Whether it is a large scientific meeting of over 1,000 delegates on for instance “Obesity” or a smaller academic conference on “Fungi”, everybody can submit an application to benefit from it.

In general, what would you say to associations who don’t know what The Netherlands can do for them?

Eric Bakermans: The Netherlands aims to maintain and grow its status as an innovative knowledge economy. To achieve this, carrying out research and stimulating innovation is vital. The Dutch government spends more than €4.5 billion on science every year. Dutch scientific research ranks among the best in the world and the government is taking measures to maintain this status. The government also aims at encouraging scientific research to address the challenges society and industry face. About 25% of research takes place at universities, about 15% at research institutes and most – about 60% – within commercial enterprises. If you are aiming for a conference on research, technology & science, the Netherlands can offer a wide array of opportunities. 

In other words, our offers a perfect breeding ground for associations to grow – not only through their congresses alone but as entities operating in a rich ecosystem.

To know more about the Pre-financing & Guarantee Fund (VGF) get in touch with or visit them at Booth F30 during IBTM Barcelona.

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