Radiohjälpen, Sweden

Radiohjälpen, Sweden

  • Population: 9.5 million
  • Year of foundation: 1939
  • Staff size: 7 (8 as of August 2016)



Radiohjälpen of Sweden started in 1939 as a Christmas fundraiser for Swedish servicemen and their families. After great success it became a branch of Swedish public radio, and later, television. International fundraising began after 1945. In 1966 Radiohjälpen became a separate legal entity. The most important fundraising events and campaigns of Radiohjälpen are Children of the World (humanitarian and development work), the Crown Princess Victoria’s Fund (recreational activities and support for children with disabilities in Sweden) and Music Aid. Compared to other joint appeal organisations, Radiohjälpen is slightly different as it is not exclusively directed at humanitarian disasters. Importantly, Radiohjälpen’s mandate is not only to raise funds for these international and national causes, but also to inform the Swedish public of humanitarian issues. It is therefore deeply rooted in Swedish society.


The board has 13 members, 6 from the public service companies, 6 from Swedish NGOs and one advisor from the Swedish governmental aid agency, Sida. As of 2016, 14 Swedish NGOs are liaised by written agreement for collaboration on the Children of the World campaign but some 35 organisations are approved as international partner organisations whereas over 200 receive funds for work in Sweden.

The criteria for launching a humanitarian disaster appeal are: the visibility of the disaster, whether there are humanitarian partners in place and whether support from Radiohjälpen will contribute to increased overall fundraising. It is important is that no competition with the NGOs and their own campaigns should occur.

For the Children of the World campaign, the 14 licensed organisations (8 core organisaitons that are guaranteed funds annualy and 6 on a rotating basis – 4 per year) receive 70% of the collected funds based on proposals that are reviewed by a committee. Allocation of funds is based on relevant presence and capacity in the countries concerned.

Due to increased reporting and auditing demands, the staff of Radiohjälpen has grown to seven with an eighth person to join the team in 2016. Evaluations are submitted by NGOs, and projects are visited by Radiohjälpen, TV and radio reporters who make short project videos for the public. Due to its affiliation with Swedish public media there is significant airtime available.


Starting in 1997, the National Collection of Children of the World is Radiohjälpen’s largest humanitarian and development campaign. Once a year an estimated 45.000 volunteers raise money together through events, concerts, bazaars and collection boxes. Many municipalities, schools, businesses, churches and other groups strive to reach collection targets. During the campaign week in October, reports of projects funded by the campaign are broadcast.

The newest and fastest growing fundraiser event is Music Aid (adapted from the Dutch originated ‘Serious Request’) where DJs broadcast radio non-stop from a glass cage set up in a town square before Christmas. Music Aid has developed a strong social media community with over 200.000 followers.

Successes and highlights

The Children of the World campaign has been Radiohjälpen’s most important success in recent years. The projects it supports overlap the areas of development work and humanitarian aid and the board is discussing whether a clearer distinction should be made. The campaign is being revamped, aiming to attract younger audiences.

Music Aid which is the fastest growing fundraiser, collected €350,000 in 2008 and €3.5 million in 2015.

The recent (2015/16) fundraising campaign for refugees has raised almost €8 million and is the largest humanitarian fundraising campaign since the South East Asia tsunami 2004/5.

Although Radiohjälpen is seen as somewhat old fashioned, it maintains a very high score on credibility and trust.


Radiohjälpen does not have formal partnerships with businesses. Children of the World has a number of smaller partnerships, with one staff position dedicated to such partnerships. Music Aid has one temporary staff member working on partnerships during its campaign.

During the Philippines appeal 10% of donations came from corporations which wanted to contribute, even though there were little or no promotional benefits. This was unexpected and Radiohjälpen is now looking into corporate support strategies.

Challenges and innovations for the future

Radiohjälpen needs to professionalise for a number of reasons. Transparency and accountability are increasingly demanded by the public and the process of reporting, monitoring and auditing means the need for more staff. A new approach for interaction between television and social media to attract younger participants needs to be explored. New digital ways of fundraising are being developed through SMS text messaging and a digital collection bucket. A new challenge is the rise of international aid organisations setting up fundraising offices in Sweden and apply for funding. Although this is permitted, Radiohjälpen is intended to be rooted in Swedish society. To maintain public awareness there is an annual humanitarian conference with the Swedish government agency Sida.