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, 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. The Dallas Morning News provided an update at that time. 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.

Additional Discussion

  • 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.”
  • In Great Britain for instance, here is an impressive list of charities that are benefiting from the People’s Postcode Lottery.
  • Here is an inspiring article about how charity lotteries in Europe have came to the rescue of several nonprofit organizations facing public funding cuts, “Big Lottery Fund gives £29m to 788 organisations that face cuts” by Andy Ricketts for Third Sector.

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.

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