Novamedia’s funding philosophy: a firm dose of courage and trust
The Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege has been an international ambassador of the Postcode Lotteries since 2019. For twenty years, at the risk of his own life, the gynaecologist has been working for victims of wartime rape. Often these women were horrifically mutilated. In 2018, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his good work.
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What’s the philosophy behind Novamedia’s Postcode Lotteries’ way of funding charities? This is now conveniently summarised. “We are also open to plans that have not yet proven themselves.”
Thanks to millions of players, Novamedia’s charity lotteries in five countries support hundreds of charities and thousands of social initiatives every year. Most of the charities can count on long-term support. In 2020, all beneficiaries together received a total of €800 million, a sum of no less than €2.2 million per day; every day of the year.
The starting point of the funding philosophy is that the charities can use the unrestricted lottery contribution where they consider it the most effective and impactful. The goal is a fairer, greener world in which everyone can participate.
Playing for a better world
Judith Lingeman, director of International Affairs at Novamedia, co-wrote the vision paper ‘Our funding philosophy, Playing for a better world’. “Now that Novamedia is setting up more and more Postcode Lotteries outside the Netherlands, we wanted to define our funding philosophy more clearly. '
It has two reasons: "On the one hand, for the internal organisation, we would like our own colleagues to have a clear understanding of our unique way of funding. On the other hand, for the outside world, it is also good for people to realise that we are a unique donor, because we enter into long-term partnerships based on trust.”
The funding philosophy, which Novamedia has in fact been applying for more than thirty years and which it recently refreshed, is based on a positive approach. Judith: “We fund organisations that meet our criteria on the basis of trust, for the long term and without restrictions. Of course, we do assess them carefully once in a while and maintain close contact throughout the year, but we don’t want too much red tape.”
Novamedia CEO Sigrid van Aken attaches great importance to ‘courageous funding’. “We fund with a firm dose of courage, because risks are part and parcel of serious ambitions,” she said recently, in a video about the importance of unrestricted, long-term financing. Judith: “We are also open to plans that have not yet proven themselves, or been fully worked out. We dare to stick our necks out, and making mistakes is allowed. That’s also instructive and brings progress.”
Research has shown that charities benefit more from unrestricted and long-term funding. It increases their independency, which can be of great significance when being a counterforce in society. It can also have a flywheel effect, attracting other donors when there is already money available to ignite change. It enables organisations to make far-reaching plans and provides flexibility. “Especially in times of crisis, such as now with covid-19, the importance of our freely disposable resources becomes even more apparent. In addition, we were able to help some organisations with incidental support.” Last year, for example, the Food Banks in the Netherlands and Germany received additional contributions from the Postcode Lottery.
Recently, Nobel Prize winner and Postcode Lottery ambassador Nadia Murad, whose organisation Nadia’s Initiative we support, asked if she could use the lottery donation differently than applied for. Nadia, a Yazidi woman from the destroyed Sinjar region in Iraq, is a survivor of sexual violence and managed to escape from the hands of IS in 2014. Since then, she has been working for survivors of genocide and sexual violence, involving them in restoring their community and ensuring a better future.
Initially, Nadia Murad wanted to set up a women’s centre with the lottery contribution. “She told us that Iraq wants to close all the refugee camps, so that 300,000 displaced Yazidis will soon return en masse to their original homeland. Only this is still full of mines, and there are no schools and not enough hospitals.”
“When she explained to us that the priorities now are actually elsewhere than with that women’s centre, we immediately said, ‘Of course, use it where it is needed most right now’. She could hardly believe it. Her reaction showed that our flexibility makes us truly an exception. Often funds from donors and governments are earmarked in such a way that it is difficult to use it otherwise.”
'Sometimes things don't go as planned'
Charities often meet a lot of bureaucracy, Judith says. “To get funds, they often have to describe everything in detail beforehand, report in the interim, and justify every step afterwards. We have never been like that; it’s a waste of time and effort. We understand that sometimes things don’t go as planned.”
With courageous funding, the lotteries want to make a statement and inspire other funders. “We are not saying that flexibility is equally easy for every donor, but we do want to encourage other private funds to show more courage. We are convinced that changes will come about more quickly as a result.”
Back to the start of the lotteries
Where Novamedia’s previous vision document, ‘People & Planet’ (2017), identified specific priorities and underlying themes for funding, the funding philosophy is less constricting. It does identify four focus areas though: climate innovation and action, biodiversity and nature protection, equality & justice and women’s rights & girls’ education.
Judith: “These focus areas can be traced back to the start of our lotteries. In the Netherlands, we started 32 years ago with Novib, Natuurmonumenten and Vluchtelingenwerk. They represented protection of nature and the environment, human rights and the fight against poverty. Our founders knew what was important then, and these global challenges are still relevant today.”
We are seeing increasing interest in our funding philosophy from abroad, Judith says. “We want to promote this even more. The story of the special origin of the funds, the long-term relationships with the charities and our impact should be told. After all, what we are achieving is unprecedented, and it is all thanks to the millions of players, who simply hope to win money for a dream holiday, for example.”
The funding philosophy identifies four types of lotteries’ support:
1) Change: flexible, long-term funding for regular beneficiaries.
2) Creativity: more risky investments in new, innovative projects.
3) Collaboration: new opportunities through strategic partnerships between charities or our own lotteries.
4) Community: small initiatives that have a significant impact in local communities.
Judith Lingeman: “The Postcode Lotteries support all kinds of causes under the broad heading of ‘Planet & People’, from small to large, both at home and abroad. In the Netherlands and Sweden, the emphasis has traditionally been on larger beneficiaries. In Great Britain and Germany, we initially started by supporting small, local projects. Their growth has meant that we now have more and more money available for substantial, multi-year support for bigger organisations with a high level of support in society. The nice thing is that the Netherlands, in turn, started the Buurtfonds last year to support smaller, local private initiatives. For the players, it is also valuable to experience how they contribute directly to issues that are important locally. That’s how we learn from each other.”
About Judith Lingeman
Judith Lingeman (1975) joined Novamedia’s Charity Lotteries in the Netherlands in 2002 as an Account Manager in the Charities Department. She held various positions until she was appointed Head of Charities in 2013. In 2016, Judith transferred to Novamedia, the creator and owner of various brands and lottery formats, including the Postcode Lottery. She is currently Director of International Affairs. Besides her liaising role between the Postcode Lotteries in the Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Germany and Norway, she mainly focuses on trying to obtain charity lottery licences in other countries in order to set up new Postcode Lotteries to raise money for charities and good causes.