Last January we launched the first Italian crowdfunding campaign to acquire a work of art, a 42-piece Meissen porcelain service dating from around 1730, which once belonged to the Taparelli d’Azeglio family of Turin.
The service was going to be sold at a Bonhams auction in London for the price of £66,000 (around €80,000). In two months, from 1 February to 31 March, the museum raised €96,203.90 from 1591 contributors. This success can be ascribed to three main factors.
1. Quality of the work (identity and aesthetic values)
The d’Azeglio service (about 1730) is a splendid example of early Meissen porcelain.
It bears the crest of Taparelli d’Azeglio, a family that played a leading role in modern Italian history and whose last descendant, Marquis Emanuele (1806-1890), was the director and patron of the Museo Civico di Torino. The service was donated to an ancestor of the d’Azeglio family, in Dresden, by Augustus II the Strong and kept in Turin until 1903, when it was sold after being inherited by a cousin.
The search started out from a cup for hot chocolate painted by Massimo d’Azeglio, Emanuele’s uncle, in 1843. The story of the dispersal and then of the rediscovery contained some exciting aspects, and this engaged and intrigued the public, who were called upon to play the part of real “actors” in ensuring a happy ending for both the museum and the city.
2. Quality in designing the process (human and relational values, reliability)
Teamwork and the collective commitment of all the museum staff was another important
element. In December 2012 the main stakeholders were contacted, in order to gather ideas and gain consensus and support. After the initiative was launched, all members of staff personally contacted their colleagues, friends, associations and local communities (schools, families, people taking part in the activities of the museum …) with e-mails, phone calls, meetings, lectures and interviews. Every Monday the state of progress was examined, in terms of the number of donations, the amounts raised, and the effects of the social media communication campaign.
Mondays were also the days when the list of donors was updated, donations from collection boxes in the museum were counted, bank payments effectively made by donors were checked, and the counter on the website was updated. Progress was monitored constantly so that further actions could be planned, staff motivated and, most importantly, so that the partial results could be communicated in a transparent and efficient manner, keeping the emotional temperature high.
3. Quality of the participatory approach adopted by the museum (community and social values)
We were aware that this project would be full of uncertainties and risks, but we also knew we could count on the considerable work of community building carried out since 2009: forms of communication, accessibility, and a focus on visitors’ real needs; the analysis and application of visitor studies; the “listening museum” experience of 2011, with the reconstruction of Italy’s first Senate chamber; the inclusion of the institution in a local and international network; the desire to create a strong brand identity and, lastly, the huge work carried out through the web community. All this paved the way for the success of the fundraising drive, generating a “warm fuzzy” feeling and the emotional connection that people sense when something touches their hearts and drives them to action.
* This is a summary of the paper that will be published in December 2013 in “Palazzo Madama. Studi e Notizie”, the museum annual journal.