Interview with the European Fundraising Association (EFA)

The European Fundraising Association (EFA) is a network of national fundraising associations all over Europe. The organization supports the not-for-profit sector and aims to improve the standard for the fundraising profession.

Eduard Marček, president of EFA and co-founder of the Slovak Fundraising Centre, was kind enough to answer some of my questions regarding EFA’s work, fundraising during the corona-crisis and future goals.


RsL: The European Fundraising Association was founded in 2002. What are some major lessons you have learned when it comes to European fundraising?

EFA: Fundraising has changed dramatically over the past 18 years since EFA was first founded. With rapid advances in technology, we’ve seen new platforms for fundraising emerge, charities embracing digital and social channels, as well as changes in the way that the public choose to give. While there are many differences in how fundraising has grown and developed over the years, across the board we’ve seen a shift to more open and transparent communication, with greater emphasis on donor care.

Demonstrating care for our supporters, beneficiaries and communities is critical and it’s been extremely positive to see charities work so hard to ensure that donors recognize how valued they are.

There has also been growth in the recognition of fundraising as a profession, and now 5,000 people across Europe have invested in an EFA certified fundraising qualification. This shift towards professionalizing the sector is something that EFA and all its members – national fundraising associations – are working hard to achieve, encouraging new talent into the profession and to develop future sector leaders.

RsL: What are some challenges European charity organizations are facing at the moment?

EFA: The pressure that the coronavirus has put on the charity sector is immense. Social distancing measures have heavily restricted the sector’s ability to deliver beneficiary services and, fundraising activities alike. Charities are facing worrying funding shortfalls and are having to seek emergency rescue packages from national governments across Europe. Ultimately, there is real concern as to whether many will be able to make it through this period, how they can afford to retain staff and continue their vital services.

However, in times of adversity we often see new strengths emerge. The coronavirus has certainly accelerated the shift to digital fundraising channels. What’s more, charities are uniting and supporting one another through the crisis. Through this dark time, we’re seeing charities coming together and doing what they do best; protecting the communities around them, whether that is their beneficiaries and supporters, their local community or their workforce and volunteers.

RsL: How would you compare European charity and fundraising with the likes of US or Asian fundraising activities?

EFA: Within Europe there is a myriad of cultures, regulations and tax incentives for charitable giving, so fundraising activities can vary widely from country to country, meaning that it’s difficult to make broad brush comparisons. The great thing about this sector is the willingness to work together to help accelerate social change irrespective of national boundaries. When a new fundraising channel yields results, the emphasis is on sharing what we’ve learnt and helping each other grow.

RsL: Digital streaming and social media have become popular tools to raise awareness about social issues. Has EFA any plans to expand its media presence in the near future, like creating your own TV channel or show?

EFA: As a small organization with limited resources, we find that digital channels and social media are an important way for us to communicate with our members and the wider European fundraising community. We publish regular news, serving as a hub of information for fundraisers, and we host occasional webinars, partnering in the recent Project Everyone conference.

RsL: What are EFA’s plans for 2020? What can we expect?

EFA: Working to support and develop European fundraising, our main focus for this year had been to update our EFA Certification scheme, which means reviewing the core competencies and skills required to be a professional fundraiser. This is progressing well, and we hope to launch the new scheme before the end of the year.

We also aim to open up our membership and welcome more actors in the fundraising industry among our members, not just national fundraising associations. This will help us grow our network and gain stronger voice on the international scene.

Currently, with the coronavirus heavily limiting what charities can do, we’re also exploring how we can increase our support for the sector. This has included developing a hub online to share resources that can help charities fundraise during current times, and participating in virtual events.

RsL: Where do you see EFA in the next 10 years? What are your hopes, wishes or fears?

EFA: I would love EFA to expand and strengthen its network of fundraising bodies, so that we can not only enrich each other with experience and identify common needs, but gain a stronger representative voice. We hope also to play a stronger role in helping the nonprofit sector and fundraising profession grow, partnering with other European and international actors.