The Städel Museum, Frankfurt: inspiring a city to fundraise

Exhibited by
October 17, 2013
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Individuals, major gift
Type of Charity
Culture and heritage
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
June, 2012

SOFII’s view

A fantastic campaign that captured the hearts of an entire community. Not only did the Städel Museum raise the millions it needed for a new building, they gained the support of their donors that will last a lifetime.

Creator / originator

The Städel Museum / Ogilvy & Mather, Frankfurt.

Summary / objectives

To raise €34 million for a new wing and €18 million to renovate and connect the existing buildings from municipal sources, corporations, foundations and individuals.

In the spirit of civil patronage and to gain support from the wider community, the museum also launched a public campaign to ask Frankfurt’s citizens to support the project with smaller gifts. This approach was based on the founder’s noble idea that everyone should contribute to the well-being of a larger public. The target was to raise €5 million. Apart from the financial aspect, all activities were geared to raise awareness and enthusiasm for the project, generate new friends and visitors to the museum while also creating a sense of community amongst supporters. 


The Städel Museum is one of the most famous art institutions in Germany, with its venerable collection of old masters, modern and contemporary art. Established in 1815 as a civic foundation, the museum was named after the Frankfurt banker Johann Friedrich Städel. This art institute was to encompass not only a collection to which the public would have access, but also a facility for the education of each new generation of artists – the present-day Städelschule.

Since its formation, the Städel has expanded its collection continually by pursuing an active acquisition policy and presents an overview of 700 years of European art. To do justice to the collection and its new acquisitions, increasing visitor numbers and the additional functions of a modern museum, the Städel set out to build a new 3,000 square metre wing (from 2009-2012) dedicated solely to the presentation of contemporary art. 

Special characteristics

In collaboration with the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, Frankfurt (who worked pro bono), we developed and launched the campaign ‘Frankfurt is building the new Städel. Help build it.’The campaign enabled numerous partners from different fields to adapt the claim to themselves: the (first league) football club Eintracht Frankfurt kicked; the neighborhood school painted; the golf club golfed; the gourmet academy cooked; the taxi association drove. The night club danced the new Städel; bakeries sold the Städel bread; bars mixed the Städel drink, a local fashion label created the Städel bag. Through these products and collaborations the memorable campaign slogan and eye-catching look was soon present throughout the entire region.

A yellow builder’s boot became the visual icon and people’s favourite: it stood symbolically for lending a hand and (almost physically) building the museum. Celebrities, donors, politicians, everyone wore the boots in order to show their support and help spread the word further.

Some of the most popular and successful projects were in collaboration with a school. A thousand students painted and then sold 1,000 artworks, hence becoming benefactors themselves. A benefit concert with opera star Diana Damrau, a fundraising dinner with the MoMA New York director that raised over €800,000 and a photograph of Frankfurt’s first league soccer team all wearing the yellow builder boots.

The campaign was designed in a way that everybody could be part of ‘the big effort’ and ended up exceeding all expectations. The donation target was surpassed and the museum gained numerous new friends and supporters.

Influence / impact

All these donors, partners, media and products helped spread the word that Frankfurt was building the new Städel and everybody was asked to join the effort. And had fun while doing it. The campaign developed its own spirit and had wonderful support from so many of Frankfurt’s citizens. Donors told us that the Städel was not ‘just a museum’ to them, but rather that they felt like part of a big family.


Three months before the building opened, the public campaign exceeded its target of €5 million by eight per cent.

  • 30,000 people supported the expansion in one way or another, among them 4,000 donors, 7,600 buyers of charity products, 6,500 members of the Städel Circle (the membership organisation) and about 10,000 attendess at events.
  • 53 partners cooperated with us and showed their commitment
  • The project was featured in 5,000 articles in national and international newspapers, 1,500 online publications and 100 television or radio reports.
  • A media value of approximately €2 million was generated.
  • The blog – launched specifically for the project – had 300,000 unique visitors and the YouTube channel was clicked 15,000 times.
  • The opening weekend alone drew in 18,000 visitors to the museum and, by the end of 2012, a new historic record was set: 447,395 visitors.


Raising €52 million to build a new museum wing is not an easy task, but the Städel Museum in Germany delivered an award-winning major giving campaign that went on to exceed targets and engaged the whole city to lend a hand.

Other relevant information

This first appeared in the European Fundraising Association’s newsletter, Fundraising Europe.

View original image
The Städel Boot, sponsored by the shoe store chain Deichmann. Städel Museum.
View original image
The German Bundes League Club Eintracht Frankfurt in yellow boots. Christian Sauter.
View original image
Star soprano Diana Damrau at the charity concert on 9 January 2011) Martin Joppen.
View original image
Collaboration with 1,000 pupils of the neighbouring school which painted and auctioned 1,000 pictures for the museum. Norbert Miguletz.
View original image
Groundbreaking ceremony on 6 September 2009). Gaby Gerster.