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A More Charitable World: Dutch Postcode Lottery Funds Diverse Groups

By Molly Miller

Iberian lynx in Portugal, at-risk children in Ghana, refugees in Darfur and South Sudan, an American entrepreneur who makes insulation from mushrooms, the Clinton Global Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute.

These are just a few of the beneficiaries around the world that have received substantial support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery—support that often makes the difference for organizations and individuals working on the edge of innovation. This year, the Dutch Postcode Lottery awarded RMI approximately 900,000 euros, or $1.2 million. Since 2009, RMI has received more than $4 million in unrestricted revenue from the Postcode Lottery.

“This funding has significantly increased RMI’s ability to expand our work and reach,” says RMI Executive Director Marty Pickett. And the lottery’s approach, partnering with beneficiaries for significant multi-year contributions, “allows organizations to leverage their funding for increased impact,” she says.

About 40 percent of the Postcode Lottery’s disbursements go to organizations that work on environmental protection, nature conservation, sustainable energy or climate change, explains Managing Director Marieke van Schaik. (She says it’s difficult to determine the exact percentage, since many development or human rights organizations now focus on green issues as well.)

This year the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Netherlands’ largest charity lottery, will distribute a record 284 million euros ($376 million) to 85 organizations, including such annual recipients as UNICEF, Amnesty International, and Médecins sans Frontières. Together with the Postcode Lotteries in Sweden and the UK, this Dutch fundraising machine is the third-largest private charitable donor in the world. In addition to annual gifts, the lottery awards special projects to existing beneficiaries, and one or two major “dream projects” are selected each year.

“I think we’ve made a significant contribution to climate change awareness in the Netherlands and promoted the widespread use of energy-efficient lighting and other green practices,” says van Schaik. “We have also had a large positive impact on the amount of land used for nature conservation in our country and internationally.”

Last year two beneficiaries—ARK, a nature conservation organization based in the Netherlands, and the Worldwide Fund for Nature—received 3.5 million euros from the lottery to create extensive nature reserves in Europe. With the lottery’s support, this Rewilding Europe Initiative has been able to expand its field conservation projects, for example in Spain and Portugal, where the return of the globally endangered Iberian lynx is expected.


The lottery is also focused on oceans and marine life, contributing 10 million euros to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and the Marine Stewardship Council. A particular focus is protecting the leatherback turtle and the tuna from increasing threats from climate change, pollution, oil and gas exploration, deep-sea mining and overfishing. The lottery’s mission to promote sustainable fishing methods, increase awareness, and change consumer behavior stems from work with the Clinton Global Initiative. And it was President Bill Clinton who introduced RMI’s work to the Dutch Postcode Lottery.

Through its Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, the lottery also supports innovative individuals with ideas that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases. In its sixth year, the challenge grants winners 500,000 euros to develop their green projects and bring them to market. Beneficiaries include Igor Kluin, who won in 2007 with an idea for creating a network to develop alternative energy sources in the Netherlands. Eben Bayer of the U.S. won in 2008 for Greensulate, insulation made from filamentous fungi. An Englishman, Dean Gregory, won in 2009 for the Ridgeblade wind generator, designed for micro energy production.

This year, RMI’s Pickett is serving her third term as a juror on the international panel that selects the winners. Last year, 700-plus entries came in from around the world, and more are expected in 2012.


Fittingly, the Postcode Lottery adheres to sustainability practices in its own operations. The charity uses forest-certified wood and paper products, serves certified organic and fair-trade foods in its employee restaurant, purchases 100 percent renewable energy and last year offset 1.6 tons per full-time employee of carbon through the purchase of carbon offsets.

Sustainability is not the sole important focus for the lottery, which also funds global humanitarian organizations. “Our money is often used as leverage or for projects that are harder to raise funds for, like disasters that do not get a lot of media attention,” says van Schaik. For example, the lottery supports Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in more than 70 countries. The lottery’s contribution is used for as projects as HIV/AIDS treatment in Burma, Congo-Kinshasa and Ethiopia, and support for refugees in Darfur and South Sudan.

In its 23 years, the Dutch Postcode Lottery has given away more than 3.5 billion euros. “And we have traveled and met with all kinds of inspiring people and organizations in the Netherlands and around the globe that are working for a better and more sustainable world,” says van Schaik.

“We are very proud to support Rocky Mountain Institute,” she adds. “The world needs organizations working for a better and more efficient use of our natural resources. RMI is able to combine this objective with market-oriented solutions, which creates much needed transformation in both the corporate and the private sphere.”

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