Charity Lotteries | A European Success Story

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, but also for education and veterans.

It is noteworthy that 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 that year, the decision was quickly reversed. Vox noted in 2016 that most lottery tickets are purchased in poor neighborhoods. “Nationwide, African Americans spend five times more on lottery tickets than white people. In Connecticut, places with high nonwhite populations tend to have far more lottery ticket sales than places with smaller nonwhite populations.” I have to agree Texas and the nation have a problem here.

But a 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 a few more years to consider this issue, and I have no doubt the Texas Lottery will again come under attack again.

My thought is, could healthier lotteries be expanded in Texas and other states to support other charitable causes?

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. Follow 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 now, 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 would receive funding. And a system already exists to make this happen.

Certainly, this is a project that would take time to develop, but I believe it is 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 about lotteries.

Additional Discussion

“Our players are raising amazing amounts of money for charity and so far, they’ve raised more than £750 Million for good causes.

People’s Postcode Lottery manages lotteries for 20 Postcode Trusts.”

This article was first published on the NTEN community blog pages in 2010 (no longer available online), and I expanded on and published it as one of the first articles on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog in 2011.

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