The Swedish Way of Fundraising

Having spent a couple of days in Stockholm, a beautiful city which really needs not to be visited in the middle of February, I’ve come away with some interesting insights into fundraising practices here.

Well I think they’re interesting anyway. But I’ve been known to find charity VAT regulations fascinating…

But back to Sweden. What struck me about fundraising here?

I love Swedish donors. (I mean this platonically I hasten to say*), Swedes give a lot of money to charity, they give large amounts on average and they are pretty loyal. These are donors we’d all love to have more of.

Swedish fundraisers are tough. I saw a UNHCR street team out in the driving rain in central Stockholm. Street fundraising isn’t a cakewalk anywhere but in a Swedish winter? You’ve got to respect that.

Mobile fundraising is here big time. Swedes love their phones and shop with them regularly. If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you’ve got a problem.

Regular giving by SMS is the norm. It’s been going for several years here and works very well. You can give sizable amounts (up to SEK100, about a tenner, a month) and compliance isn’t burdensome. Many charities use it and donors understand it perfectly well.

Other mobile payment systems are pretty advanced. WyWallet, a payment system that unifies SMS giving, mobile payments and e-commerce on the same platform has a million users in a population of 9 million. Having downloaded the app you can make single or regular payments simply by entering a pin code. That’s neat.

Self regulation works here. There isn’t a statutory body overseeing charities but a self regulatory organisation. It is small but extremely influential. Just about everybody is a member and people seem to stick to the codes of conduct that they operate. The special charity accounts that the body regulates are seen by donors as a kite mark of quality.

So Sweden’s got a lot going for it. It’s not the fundraising promised land. There’s plenty of competition between charities and recruiting donors isn’t easy. The Government doesn’t help particularly, there are few tax reliefs and the ones that exist are very limited. VAT (see how obsessed I am?) is really high and charities don’t get any of it back. And the market is small, relatively. But, overall, this is good country for fundraising.

Now if only you could get a beer without needing a second mortgage, I might be back…

We M* A

*Anyway, they are way too tall for me..

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