Image rights: © Ludwig Schedl
Original language of the article: German

Mr. Lutschinger, tell us briefly about yourself and how it came about that you have been the managing director of Fundraising Verband Austria since 2007.

In my professional career, I became convinced relatively early on that it is highly sensible and necessary to enter into cooperations. Every organization - with its staff and volunteers - can benefit from regular exchange with others in terms of structures, competence building and professionalization. This was also the background when, during my time as WWF project manager for Eastern Europe, the first umbrella organizations, such as ÖKOBÜRO, were initiated. Also during my time as Managing Director of WWF Austria, it was an important concern for me to promote synergies and joint working platforms in the third sector. Through strong platforms, networks and joint projects, civil society developments can simply be driven forward better - that was my fundamental approach when I took over the management of Fundraising Verband Austria in 2007. As an individual NPO, you don't have to do everything yourself, fight the battle for your mission alone. In many cases, resources can be used better and more efficiently together. This approach has become the FVA's recipe for success to this day.

Can the Fundraising Verband Austria be compared to Swissfundraising - what is the role/mission of the association?

The primary mission of Fundraising Verband Austria is to strengthen and professionalize the fundraising sector in Austria. To this end, we focus on training and continuing education programs with a finger on the pulse of the times and networking platforms for all relevant fundraising disciplines. In this respect, Swissfundraising is very similar to us. What makes us different, however, is that Fundraising Verband Austria is not an association of individuals, but an umbrella organization of fundraising organizations. This, of course, makes a considerable difference in terms of "clout", not least for our political representation work. A large number of NPO community initiatives involving companies, foundations and, above all, civil society round off the overall picture of the FVA and make a significant contribution to establishing a culture of giving in Austria.

For fundraising colleagues in Switzerland, it would be interesting to know how institutional fundraising is done in Austria. After all, the number of charitable giving foundations is significantly smaller compared to Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Germany. Do companies or churches play a bigger role in the fundraising landscape? Can you give us an overview?

Austria is traditionally a country of small donors - we see this not least in our analyses for the annual donations report. Among other things, this is due to the fact that the foundation sector developed differently after the Second World War than in Germany or Switzerland. Private foundations were established primarily for self-interested rather than charitable reasons, which meant that a lot of capital remained in the private sector compared with the two neighboring countries. In addition, there have been no tax or legal incentives for donors from the political side for a long time. The Association for Charitable Found ations is one of the youngest associations in Austria, which speaks volumes about the state of development. In total, the foundation sector currently contributes about 10% to the total donation income of 900 million euros. For the most part, the existing foundations are operational, rather than grant-making foundations. The situation is similar in the business sector - there are relatively few corporate foundations and correspondingly few grantmaking activities.

To what extent does Austria's fundraising look to neighboring countries? Are foundations in neighboring countries also approached for donations?

Austria's fundraisers naturally look with great interest at the successes in Switzerland and Germany, especially when it comes to large donations and foundation grants. However, we also look with great interest at the flourishing foundation landscape in Liechtenstein, where numerous foundations can be found that are primarily active abroad. The involvement of international foundations is also becoming increasingly important for Austria and has already accounted for a growing share of donations for years.

According to the Donations Report 2022 by the Zewo Foundation and Swissfundraising, only just 3.4% of donations are made using digital payment methods. What is the development of digitization in Austria - are digital means of payment for donations already more established than in Switzerland?

The picture is similar in Austria when it comes to online donations. Digital payment processes are widespread, but less so in the main group of donors than in society as a whole. However, since this is primarily a generational issue, we expect a further continuous increase. There was a real boom in online donations, particularly at the start of the pandemic, but also in the face of other acute crises, such as the outbreak of the Ukraine war and, most recently, the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Obviously, disaster cases act as a strong driver for donations through digital channels. The Austrian Red Cross' Instagram appeal for donations for earthquake victims recently raised over 6 million euros in donations within a few days. This showed that the donations came not only from Austria, but from the entire German-speaking world. In my view, this borderless character is a hallmark of digital giving and will therefore be given even more weight in Austrian fundraising in the future.

According to the donation report mentioned above, every 5th person in Switzerland makes a will. Every 14th will takes a charitable organization into account. How significant is the share of estate donations in Austria?

According to a survey conducted by the Market Institute on behalf of "Vergissmeinnicht" - the FVA's largest initiative with over 100 member organizations - around 30% of Austrians over 40 have already made a will. One in six of them can now imagine dedicating part of their estate to charitable causes. Knowledge about the possibility of making a testamentary donation is also at a record level thanks to the comprehensive information offered by Vergissmeinnicht: 90% of the population knows that it is also possible to make a testamentary donation to a charitable organization. In 2022, domestic NPOs received over 100 million euros in such donations for the first time. This means that every ninth euro donated came from a will. In contrast to concrete causes such as emergency aid, however, donations in wills cannot, of course, be planned or calculated for the individual organizations, which means that they have less of an effect on operational work and primarily form the seeds for new projects.

What are the next upcoming initiatives of Fundraising Verband Austria?

"Vergissmeinnicht" is one of our longest-running joint projects, along with the "Qualitätsinitiative Fördererwerbung," which advocates uniformly high standards in face-to-face fundraising, or the "Wirtschaft hilft" initiative, which encourages more corporate involvement in nonprofit projects. A new initiative was launched last year together with several of the country's leading NPOs, the "Initiative Philanthropy," which aims to boost major donations. The background to this is that donations from high-net-worth individuals in particular are lagging well behind their potential. With 46 billionaires and 160,000 euro millionaires, Austria has a higher density of wealthy people than Germany, for example, but while almost 50% of total donations there come from the highest-income group, the comparable figure in Austria is less than 10%.
As part of the initiative, an IHS study is currently underway with interviews among wealthy individuals. The results will be presented in the summer, accompanied by appropriate public relations work, in order to show greater social appreciation for the charitable commitment of wealthy individuals.

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