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With 2022 marking EFA’s 20th year, we take a look at our achievements and growth over the past two decades, hearing from co-founders, presidents and board members past and present.
Two decades ago, a group of fundraisers from across Europe came together to turn an idea into reality. The fundraising profession has always been collaborative, keen to share knowledge, ideas and experience for the greater good. What was missing then was an organisation that united fundraising associations and fundraisers across Europe’s national borders, providing the sector with a voice and representation at a European level.
To bridge that gap, in 2002 eleven people – from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UK – came together and formed the European Fundraising Association.
Gosse Bosma, EFA co-founder and former president (2016-19) reflects:
“In a way, forming EFA and watching it grow has been like raising a child and supporting it to flourish. Together in 2002 we co-founders set the wheels in motion for what we hoped and wished would become an organisation of use, of influence, and inspiration. I think we’ve achieved that.
“To be effective nationally, you need perspective; to reflect on your job, you need peers; while to understand the wider fundraising environment, you need international sources of information. To stimulate an enabling environment, you need cooperation; and to have political influence in Europe, you need power. For all this, EFA is important.”
As well as facilitating the sharing of learning and expertise, EFA’s primary aims – then, as now – were to help fundraising associations across Europe improve fundraising standards in their nations, and to give the profession greater voice.
Dr. Marita Haibach, one of EFA co-founders and a former president (2004-08) comments:
“For me, EFA is the embodiment of an extraordinary success story. When we, the EFA pioneer generation, came together to invent EFA, we had to do a lot of convincing in our respective countries why Europe-wide, cross-national networking of fundraisers was necessary at all. Many of our colleagues at home did not see the need to think beyond borders. Today, international cooperation has become a matter of course. And that is a great thing.”
20 years of action
Over the last two decades we’ve launched and developed our Certification Framework, providing fundraising associations with a set of standards for developing their own fundraising qualifications; run annual Skillshare meetings, providing a platform for fundraisers to meet, explore best practice and learn from each other; and offered our monthly Fundraising Europe newsletter sharing relevant news, legal updates, and current thinking with an ever-growing base of subscribers. We’ve also launched a programme of regular survey reports on fundraising trends; made our members’ views heard on legal and policy matters; collaborated with other sector organisations on numerous initiatives and events; and more.
Günther Lutschinger, former board member, treasurer and president (2010-2016) says:
“If we didn’t already have EFA, we would have to found it as a matter of priority because there’s such a great need for cooperation between countries and national fundraising associations. And with EFA, this is what we’ve achieved – not only have we brought together European associations but we’ve strengthened bilateral and multilateral cooperation between countries.”
“Thanks to EFA we also have Europe-wide ethical standards of fundraising, and this is important because it’s where every fundraising organisation starts – with discussions on how to be ethical in how we talk to people, share our messages and ask for support. If a national association wants to develop its own training materials, EFA’s Certification Framework provides the baseline, and through its other activities – which are just as critical – its events, newsletter and website, it shares valuable knowledge, skills and expertise. Over the past two decades, EFA has shown that it can really make a difference.”
Raising fundraising standards
Launched in 2007, the EFA Certification Standard Competence Framework is now recognised not only across Europe but internationally, with over 6,250 fundraisers having completed EFA Certified qualifications to date in 14 countries, and courses currently on offer in nine.
In 2018 we launched the EFA Certification Symposium, four of which have taken place so far, to share not only our news but best practice and insights from fundraising education providers across Europe. This year, we went further, fulfilling our aim of developing our Certification Framework with the launch of our Advanced Competence Framework. With a focus on leadership, it will support fundraising associations around Europe in helping their members continue their professional development.
Commenting, board member and Certification Committee chair Siri Nodland says:
“Every nation across Europe has its differences where fundraising is concerned. In some it is well established, while in others it is still in its infancy. Yet there are also many similarities and shared aims. In every nation, fundraisers want to do the very best they can for their cause, and their supporters. Crucially, what EFA provides through its Certification is a clear pathway for the development of professional qualifications anywhere in Europe that take these differences and similarities into account whilst upholding the highest standards.
“By sharing techniques, innovations, and best practice through the Standard Certification Framework, EFA has successfully accelerated the development of the sector, helping nonprofits across Europe reach and maintain these standards and raise more funds as a result. And now, in EFA’s 20th anniversary year, we’re proud to launch our Advanced Certification Framework to support fundraisers who want to go further in their careers by developing their leadership skills.”
Our first Skillshare came in 2008, taking place in Berlin. Since this inaugural outing, the annual event has travelled to Barcelona, Krakow, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Oslo and Paris among others, welcoming member fundraisers, observers and associates from across Europe. This year it takes place alongside EFA’s AGA and 20th anniversary celebrations in Dublin.
With fundraising changing fast during the pandemic, in 2020 we opened the event up beyond our membership with the introduction of our virtual European Fundraising Tour. This saw us invite speakers from across the continent to showcase best practice and inspire their peers with short and insightful presentations. We ran this again last year, with fundraisers and sector experts from 16 countries taking part and we’re hoping to run more of these in the future.
Inspiring and informing
We launched our popular newsletter Fundraising Europe in 2012 – our 10th anniversary year. Starting as a resource for member associations and their own membership, the following year saw us offer it more widely, to anyone with an interest in fundraising. A platform for building awareness of EFA’s valuable work, this free online resource is open to fundraisers across Europe and the world. Through distribution by our membership, every edition reaches some 10,000 fundraisers Europe-wide, and in addition we have over 2,200 individual subscribers – a figure that continues to grow each month.
Ricard Valls, former EFA treasurer (2006-09) notes:
“Europe has its own model of society and philanthropy, so having EFA as a tool to build our own model of fundraising is of immense value to the sector. Over the years it has united and inspired us, offered valuable opportunities to meet with other European fundraisers and to learn from their experiences, driven up standards, and provided us with an essential voice.
“When many countries do not have a formal training scheme for fundraisers, EFA has provided invaluable support through its Certification framework, while its newsletters and events provide information and advice that inspires and educates.”
Representing & advising
As the main representative of fundraising associations throughout Europe, public affairs is another important aspect of our work. Through the regular updates of our Brussels correspondent Patrick Gibbels and our occasional What’s going on in Brussels webinar series, we have kept our members and readers informed and up to date with relevant legal developments. We also respond regularly to consultations on our members’ behalf and collaborate with other Europe-wide sector bodies and organisations to ensure the sector’s position is known when changes are on the table.
Most recently we responded to a proposed statute for European cross-border associations and nonprofits, something we also held a webinar on, attended by MEP Dr. Sergey Lagodinsky. And to help us take this work further, this year we’ve launched our public affairs working group.
Simona Biancu, current board member & public affairs working group chair comments:
“Connecting the different actors at the European level, and interacting with the institutions that govern processes and policies, means taking an active part in building a system. From the point of view of public affairs, this is the role that EFA must carry out: representing the needs of civil society, being the ‘spokesperson’ for crucial issues and themes, contributing to raising awareness on the importance of nonprofits as one of the pillars of our societies, disseminating philanthropic culture as a model of living, and shaping a different, better world.”
From its humble beginnings, EFA now has 21 members representing the third sector in 18 countries, and since 2020 membership has been open to organisations beyond national fundraising associations. All this, managed by a board of 7 dedicated volunteers, and supported by executive officer Denise Dawes who has performed her invaluable role in keeping EFA running smoothly since 2006.
“Denise has played a major role in EFA’s continuity and professionalism. Without her, EFA would not be where it is today.”
The changing fundraising landscape
Fundraising has changed a lot in 20 years and in such a fast-moving sector EFA plays a valuable role in helping the sector as a whole grasp the latest developments and maximise their fundraising through the latest technologies and innovations.
In just the last few years we’ve seen digital grow from occasional usage to every day. Led by consumer trends, nonprofits have adopted QR codes, smartphone technology, digital wallets and even cryptocurrencies and NFTs. In many countries we’re also seeing a move away from cash to contactless. Better understanding and use of data and technology means communications are now targeted and personalised as a matter of course, with an emphasis, quite rightly, on the supporter journey. Legal changes including GDPR have also led to a greater focus on data protection and privacy.
We’ve also seen great challenges – most recently the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate and cost of living crises, as well as attacks on democracy and a shrinking civic space. And no doubt there is more to come.
To the future
EFA’s role then remains extremely relevant, and we are working now on our strategy for the coming years.
EFA president Charlotte Rydh says:
“Over the past 10 months, much of our focus has been on EU public affairs, extending the EFA network, finalising the Certification Advanced Competence Framework and improving all Certification processes. Now the Board is reviewing EFA’s work, examining our vision and strategic priorities with the aim of preparing us for the next 20 years. We know that these are challenging times for nonprofits right across Europe and our focus as always will be on how we can best support and serve our members and the wider European fundraising community, both now and in the future.
“The last two decades have given us a great foundation to work from, and a strong perception of representing the wider fundraising community in Europe, which is a huge honour and a responsibility we take very seriously. With more members joining, we know that EFA has great potential to create more impact and reach broader audiences. Our challenge is to match the opportunities and expectations with the limited resources we currently have, and we look forward to discussing our ambitions for the coming years with our members at the AGA.”
None of what we’ve achieved would of course have been possible without the commitment of our co-founders and board members, or the support of our members. Above all then, we’d like to express our thanks and gratitude to everyone who has contributed to and supported EFA over our 20 years. Here’s to the next 20!
Join us at our Skillshare and 20th anniversary celebrations in Dublin on 24 and 25 November!