Charity Lotteries | A European Success Story

Click to read the article, “Two Rainhill neighbours win a shared £1m after landing top prize in the People’s Postcode Lottery” from the Liverpool Echo (2015).

In 2008, I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference in San Diego, California. Some 3,000 fundraising professionals attended this educational and networking event from countries across the world.

During a morning seminar, I met a gentleman from The Netherlands, Jan Wezendonk. Jan is Chairman of the Board of Nationaal Fonds Kinderhulp, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to needy children.

Jan and I struck up a conversation, and we have remained in touch on LinkedIn. Jan told me one of the most successful ways in which his organization has been funded is via the EU Charity Lottery. You can read an overview about how privately-funded lotteries work via the Association of Charity Lotteries in the European Union.

“The primary aim of a charity lottery is to raise funds for charitable organisations (the lottery is just a tool). The fundraising efforts are not used as a mere excuse for organising the lottery, but are indeed the main reason. Therefore, no private profits should be made.”

Charity lotteries raise millions of euros each year for hundreds of NGOs and charitable organizations. Well-known organizations as well as local, grassroots organizations have received funding.


The Texas Lottery provides funding for lottery winners, of course, with a portion going to the Foundation School Fund. The pie chart shown provides a concise overview of where Texas stands today in terms of allocating lottery proceeds.

Noteworthy: In 2013, the Texas Lottery came under attack by opponents who felt, among other things, that lotteries are a burden upon the poor. After the Texas House of Representatives voted to abolish the Texas Lottery Commission in April, the decision was quickly reversed. See The Dallas Morning News for an update (April 24, 2013). One question to my mind is, given the substantial funding for Texas schools provided by the current lottery, how would those essential funds be replaced?  We have twelve more years to consider this issue, and I have no doubt, the Texas Lottery will again come under attack again.

My thought is, could lotteries be expanded in Texas and other states to support other charitable causes? I believe there is room for this concept, especially given today’s economic challenges, the continuous increase in the number of nonprofits being formed, and the ever-growing popularity of lotteries. Certainly, a successful lottery requires sophisticated, trustworthy management and a solid promotional plan.

I personally have never purchased a lottery ticket. In my opinion, U.S. lotteries such as we have in operation today have a negative connotation, bolstered by the occasional media exposes regarding lottery winners whose lives have been destroyed because they are unable to handle the large infusions of cash. Click on the link for an article in The Christian Science Monitor about a lottery winner who was supposedly poisoned. Another story in USA Today discusses why, “You Won’t Want to Win the $700 Million Powerball Jackpot After Reading These Horror Stories” (August 23, 2017). Caution advised!

Having said that, should states like Texas develop new, “classier” lotteries in addition to those that exist today, ones that would be attractive to those among us who shun the lotteries currently in existence. Could one purchase lottery tickets at your charity of choice, in department stores (not just in convenience marts), at high-end restaurants, and online? Wouldn’t it be great if an entire neighborhood could win rather than just one person, and simultaneously, several carefully-vetted charitable projects.

Certainly, this is a project that would take time to develop and implement, but I believe it is definitely worth consideration. Want to be inspired? View this wonderful YouTube video.

“Food for thought,” as they say. My thanks go to Jan Wezendonk for helping me think in new ways.


  • Here is a description of the Dutch Postcode Lottery“Fifty percent of the Dutch Postcode Lottery’s gross proceeds goes directly to various charities. With 2.5 million participants and a total of 4.5 million tickets in 2011, the Postcode Lottery gave 284 million euros to more than 85 charities working in the fields of conservation, environmental protection, developmental aid and human rights.”

This article was first published on the NTEN community blog pages in 2010, and I expanded on and published it as one of the first articles on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog in June, 2011. I continue to update it as new information becomes available.

3 thoughts on “Charity Lotteries | A European Success Story

  1. Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE October 25, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    I received this email on October 25, 2015 and wanted to share it (this is an excerpt):

    “My name is Ray and I am a U.S. Army Civilian. I have lived in Germany for 24 years. I’m married to my German wife and have three teenage children.

    About charity lotteries … God knows how many times I’ve tried to convince banks, organizations and profitable lotteries about an idea that I received a patent in Germany years ago. It was a charity oriented lottery and there were a few open doors … they were willing to listen. However, after the presentation pitch, somehow the banks and organizations that I presented the concept to found excuses not to do it. My last try was with USAA. When I spoke to one of USAA marketing executives they expressed great interest, unfortunately, during our telephone conference (presentation) they found … laws that would prevent engaging in such an enterprise. Today, I’m still convinced that it can be done, but it is hard for a one private individual to push such concept forward. I have an autistic son and he was my inspiration to create an online charity lottery. In fact the distribution pie graph that you have posted in the European Charity Lottery is a mirror to the one I developed for my presentations.

    … I have 30 years of service including additional 7 years with the U.S. Army Reserve. I would love to retire and dedicate the rest of my life to such enterprise … a charity lottery to help others. I have plenty of ideas as to who should benefit, including paying for out-of-pocket expenses for cancer patients, and many more … unfortunately, with three teenagers it is hard to retire. 🙂 If the Europeans found the way to be successful with charity lotteries … I’m sure we can do it here in America too.

    God Bless!”

  2. Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE November 8, 2014 / 11:57 am

    I received this e-mail on November 8, 2014, and wanted to share it with my readers.

    “I surfed onto your website tonight …and thank you! The information you have shared about ‘lotteries’ was just what I needed to find, a voice that believes lotteries are OK in the nonprofit sector.

    I am Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters / Boys & Girls Club in Miramiich, NB, Canada.

    For over twenty five years, I’ve lead fundraising and have had a mix of strategies, but like too many organizations…always chasing the money and underfunded.

    We introduced a lottery in May, 2012 and our budget went from $400,000 annually to $1.2 million annually and growing strong.

    It’s a nominal entry point, $2. and the community had really bought into this fundraiser; and it has exploded what we can do with kids in our programs.

    Thank you for highlighting lotteries…in my experience, it is a very effective tool.

    ~Sheree A Allison,CFRE”

  3. Carolyn M. Appleton, CFRE August 9, 2014 / 10:11 am

    I received an e-mail about this post, and wanted to share my response.

    “I’m not sure why charity lotteries haven’t gained more interest, but generally speaking, I suspect people just aren’t aware of how successful they are in Europe.

    Certainly, gaining the attention of governors and state lottery commissions makes sense. It might be that affluent constituents already connected to traditional U.S. lotteries in some fashion could be helpful if convinced the idea is worth trying (i.e., convenience store corporations and grocery store owners that already sell lottery tickets).

    Perhaps a test case or two in U.S. cities might be an idea, especially more progressive cities like New York and Chicago that are more accepting of new concepts. I think there would be several U.S. cities that would like to give it a try today, given the economic challenges. We need a success story or two. Maybe Detroit and San Bernardino – cities that have been particularly stressed the past few years – would be good test cases.

    Former President Bill Clinton would be a helpful ally, as he already knows and approves of the idea. The Postcode Lottery company in Europe would be a good place to seek advice and assistance, as they have an excellent system in place for running this kind of program on an ongoing basis.

    Those are my thoughts – keep at it and if you come up with any other good ideas – let me know! Have a good weekend.”

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