In celebration of EFA's 10 Year Anniversary, Fundraising Europe looks back on an extraordinary decade of change and ahead to what the future might bring. Overcoming a global economic crisis, innovating new ways of asking and engaging a mass of voluntary champions for their cause, fundraising continues to evolve rapidly.


Fundraising has undoubtedly seen more growth and change over the past decade than ever before. New techniques have quickly taken hold, with social media and mobile technology engaging many new and younger supporters with the work of nonprofits. The expansion of the Euro and Eurozone means that national borders are diminishing and cross-border giving is growing fast. Charities compete not only with others in their own market for funds, but with organisations based in other nations, in other sectors, with social enterprises and, sometimes even businesses as the role of corporate social responsibility expands.


“But it is this competition,” EFA Founding President John Gray says, “that brings out the very best of fundraisers. Out of adversity comes hope and determination and that is when fundraising gets really exciting.”


The public now has infinite routes to information online about charities internationally from a variety of sources. The growth of blogs and social media mean that charities do not remain fully in control of public information about the organisation. Donors now have a louder voice and multiple platforms to make that voice heard. Equally, charities have numerous donation platforms at their finger tips and - leaders in innovation - the sector has been quick to identify, test and roll out a number of new fundraising concepts to great success; from digital campaigns to crowd funding and more.


In a recent survey1 of EFA members across 17 EU member states, 64.7% of national fundraising associations report that – even during the height of the global economic crisis – nonprofits have succeeded in either maintaining or increasing income levels from year to year. European nonprofits are bucking the trend of the global downturn in charitable giving, reported by Charities Aid Foundation.


And yet, it remains a challenging fundraising climate, with Germany recently announcing a loss of 400,000 donors in 2012 and reports of a shortfall in UK giving. Despite the growth of new forms of fundraising, the most significant sources of voluntary income in Europe remain many of the more traditional routes to market; direct mail (for over a third of members) , public collections and trust / statutory funding.


Across the EU, poverty, healthcare / medical research and international causes are most popular with supporters. Online access to information about overseas charities and mass media emergency appeals co-ordinated by international relief agencies, have both contributed to the increase of giving to international causes.


Few could forget the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 280,000 people. Striking on 26th December 2004, the world awoke with a start from Christmas indulgences to see reports of the event aired across all media channels. The prompt launch of emergency appeals enabled the public to react immediately with a charitable donation.


Fundraising records were smashed as more than £10 million was donated online within a 24-hour period to the UK’s DEC Tsunami Appeal, which went on to generate more than £300 million. This campaign was the first time many people in the UK had ever donated online and it enabled supporters to take that first step.


Over the past decade, use of the web has become commonplace for fundraising. Almost two thirds (65%) of EFA’s member states say that most charities in their nation are making some use of online and social media for fundraising, with 12% making good use of this technology. Nations typically report that most charities are doing some fundraising online, but to varying degrees of success.


For some, it is simply a case of embedding online payment functionality within their website. For others, online fundraising is at the heart of complex and integrated marketing campaigns. In Finland – where donors are widely dispersed across a large geographical area and accustomed to paying online for goods – charities have invested heavily in web-based fundraising to great success, enabling them to effectively engage large numbers of supporters of all ages. Online giving has now become one of the most popular ways for the Finns to support good causes, (see the Member Spotlight: Finnish Fundraising Association).


Mobile technology is used by many nonprofits to great success, but more than half of all member nations (54%), say that few charities are fundraising in this way. Charities in Sweden seem to be bucking the trend, with widespread usage of the technology. A recent WWF mobile fundraising campaign in the country urged people to sponsor an animal and donate regularly, achieving a 25% increase in mobile conversion compared with WWF’s total conversions across all platforms. The focus of the campaign was to recruit monthly donors at the lowest cost per donor. It was not about building brand awareness, but about achieving a direct response. It was so successful that the charity increased its mobile investment by 400%.


Technology has enabled fundraisers to generate huge sums in a relatively short space of time, but the industry recognises that there is much more to be achieved. Making better use of social media not only to engage the public in a charity’s work, but to get them to donate and to inspire others to give is crucial.


Looking back, associations report three factors that have most positively impacted charitable giving in Europe over the past 10 years: increasing professionalism of fundraising; technological developments (social media, online, SMS and mobile giving channels) and; corporate engagement in charitable causes. A number of factors contributed to increasing professionalism during this time including the development of new fundraising associations and their sharing of knowledge and expertise, the International Statement of Ethical Principles, co-ordinated by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in the US and the development of fundraising qualifications across Europe.


EFA’s Certification programme was first launched in 2007, facilitating the development of fundraising qualifications across Europe. Now, 11 EU nations offer national qualifications for fundraising. EFA is also supporting AFP and the Institute of Fundraising in their development of an advanced qualification for fundraising. Qualifications breed professionalism, giving practitioners the guidance they need to fundraise successfully.


Associations report that a shortage in fundraising skills is the most common restriction to have impacted fundraising, followed closely by the economic crisis and public collections restrictions.


Although the legal and fiscal framework for fundraising has become more structured in recent years, with tax benefits available for donors in 83% of member states, there remains some uncertainty about how to regulate public collections effectively. A balance must be struck in finding a robust enough scheme that will protect and build public trust without imposing unnecessary restrictions on nonprofits that will limit their fundraising and, ultimately, the services they can deliver.


In Denmark and Finland, tight regulation prevents many nonprofits, particularly new organisations, from entering the market and fundraising in this way. In many other nations, current regulation needs revising. The good news is that regulatory review is in progress across many member states, but any such review can be a long, slow process. (For a more detailed review of regulation across Europe, read September’s Special Focus: Fundraising Regulation.)


And looking to the future, the fundraising community is concerned about continued economic instability, donor demands for greater transparency and accountability and public trust and confidence. Nonprofits are less confident about the economic outlook with 44% of members saying that voluntary income will be maintained through 2013, with one quarter predicting a rise over the year.


Although trust and confidence in charities and charitable giving is high, the sector reports a hardening of attitudes from the public. Donors’ expectations are higher with greater demand for transparency and accountability, clear reporting and for it all to come without a price tag on administration and fundraising costs. Meanwhile, nonprofits explore the best way to meet this demand, while consistently and effectively communicating their impact.


Nonprofits look to Government to provide a more favourable fundraising environment at both a national and EU level. Half of all European states are seeking a more beneficial national tax relief system for charity supporters and concerns are raised about the EU's proposals for data protection and VAT legislation that fails to recognise the unique role that charities play in society.


With dissipating country borders and unified legislation across member states, charities across Europe are dealing with many of the same challenges and reaching out to many of the same donors across national boundaries. It has never been more important that charities come together to share information and learn from one another, raising the bar in fundraising practice internationally.


1EFA Membership Survey was completed by 17 national fundraising associations (November – December 2012), reporting on the state of fundraising in their nation.


Click here to see a detailed summary of survey findings.



EFA Highlights from the Past 10 Years
  • EFA was first set up by John Gray in 2002 in Brussels, Belgium, and formally registered in 2004 in the Netherlands. 
  • In 2007, EFA Certification was launched, a qualification framework that was to form the backbone of 11 qualification programmes over the next five years 
  • EFA held its first Skillshare in 2008; encouraging delegates to share and discuss best practice and common challenges, learning from one another and hearing from international experts on topical issues
  • In 2011, EFA held its first Capacity Building Workshop for leaders of charities in Central and Eastern European countries where no fundraising association currently exists. Now an annual event, the workshop provides advice and guidance for groups of fundraisers looking to share and exchange good practice and for setting up associations.
  • In 2013, EFA launched a webinar programme to share knowledge and expertise across a number of key fundraising developments
  • Now, little over 10 years on from the launch of EFA, we represent 26 nations with 27 members and observers, and work closely with many international partners.