The voluntary sector in Finland fears that the impending shift to SEPA may reduce monthly giving.
The current national direct debiting system, which will draw to a close by 2014, is highly donor-friendly and widely used in Finland. Nonprofit organisations fear that a new SEPA-compliant system will require significant additional input from supporters, which may deter new supporters, particularly those that do not give online.
As it stands, when a donor chooses to give to a charity, the practicalities of making regular contributions are taken care of by the organisation, with little action required of the supporter. Within SEPA’s framework, the direct debiting services will change and the new system serviced by Finnish banks will demand more efforts and activities on the part of the donor.
Although the Finns are adept at online banking and e-invoicing is cost-effective, there is concern that nonprofits might not gain access to donor data. People that do not donate online will need to contact their bank in order to become a regular donor.
“At a time when banks are reducing the number of employees, it is another hurdle that may prevent some donors from donating”, says Pia Tornikoski, Secretary General of VaLa, the Finnish Fundraising Association.
Approximately 600,000 Finns are regular donors. According to VaLa's survey, 22% of charities indicate that regular donations are their largest source of income. With the advent of SEPA, the Finnish charity sector is not only concerned about how to recruit new donors, but also how to keep existing supporters. The activities will require significant investment and resources.
VaLa is working with the Federation of Finnish Financial Services to ensure that a new donor friendly payment service is available for the nonprofit sector.