Sigrid van Aken will be the new CEO of the social enterprise Novamedia from March. And in that capacity, she will be chair of the Board of the Dutch Holding National Charity Lotteries, to which the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the BankGiro Lottery and the FriendsLottery belong.
Started as the head of the Charities Department, she has operated in various positions in the Lottery for almost twenty years. For the last seven years, she has been a member of the Executive Board, of which she now holds the gavel.
You are taking over from one of the founders, Boudewijn Poelmann. What do you think of that?
I am grateful to Boudewijn for the many opportunities I have received at the Charity Lotteries and Novamedia. In all the years I’ve worked here we’ve grown incredibly with an impact that extends far beyond the Netherlands. The fact that we have been able to sell so many lottery subscriptions with creative marketing campaigns for 30 years now is an enormous achievement that is partly due to courage and perseverance, and that started with the founders. More than 10 billion euros have been raised for so many charities, and it has made the world a more beautiful place. Not to mention all those millions of players that we’ve made happy with great prizes. I see it as an inspiration and a challenge to keep that entrepreneurship alive and to continue the success of the organisation.
What is important in this?
As the owner of the Lottery formats and brands, Novamedia is a social enterprise. The Novamedia Foundation owns the shares and they are not for sale or trade. Novamedia can only spend its money on initiatives that make the world a better place, such as setting up a Postcode Lottery abroad. The Lotteries are not for profit; everything is aimed at raising as many funds and awarding as many prizes as possible each year.
And what makes us special is that for 30 years we have been structurally supporting charities on the basis of trust with large donations that they can spend as they see fit. This ensures maximum impact. I hope other funders will dare to follow our example.
We must also ensure that we continue to make courageous and challenging choices. And so it’s important that we stay in good contact with our players, the charities and the rest of society, so that we can learn from it and get new ideas. We often have contact with the players, for example on the phone, during special receptions at concerts and musicals, and at other winners’ events and ‘Millions’ parties. We already hear a lot in all of these conversations, and we can only become wiser.
The gambling market is changing rapidly, with the advent of online casinos and gaming in the Netherlands. Is the organisation ready for that?
For decades, our Postcode Lotteries have had to compete against state lotteries that are granted privileges by the government. They get a more favourable permit, which gives them more prize money. That’s why we advocate a gambling policy that ensures sustainable fundraising by lotteries. Unfortunately, the legalisation of online casinos in the Netherlands will soon result in an overcrowded gaming market. The Swedish Postcode Lottery has already experienced how difficult that is. And the biggest danger is that we — who have now donated 10 billion to society — will soon be treated as if we were an online casino. While casinos are addictive and are in it for their own profit and not for a better world. Together with the charities, we are fighting for a separate position for our safe, fundraising lotteries!
“Today’s world needs a lot of brave people”
Who or what is your source of inspiration?
Without a doubt, the work of our charities. I am touched by all those brave people, near and far, who are committed to something great like the protection of human rights, the protection of nature, or simply to other people living in their street who are less affected. I am thinking, for example, of the stories of resistance fighters in times of war, of people who offer vulnerable children a safe home, who fight diseases, or who visit their own neighbours or club members just to have fun together. People with a mission they dedicate their lives to. The late Hans Rosling had a positive message. He showed us that things have never gone so well for mankind, considering among other things the number of girls going to school worldwide, and the growing number of children who are vaccinated. It shows us that we must continue to work positively and believe in change. Today’s world needs many courageous people to achieve that sustainable and just society. A planet that remains habitable for people and animals...
What do you think is important in your work?
In the various teams in which I have worked, and now in the board with Boudewijn Poelmann and Imme Rog, we have an informal partnership based on trust. If colleagues take responsibility together, are curious and listen to each other, and dare to doubt their own opinions, this contributes to the best result. I have felt at home at the Lotteries for years. We show interest in each other’s ups and downs, in what the other person needs and what excites them. That provides a good basis for working together. I feel connected with our four core values of courage, sustainability, sharing and fun. The last one, in particular, is a precondition for success.
How is the organisation doing after 30 years?
We have a strong team of engaged colleagues who have a strong focus on the Lotteries and our issues. And we know that as an organisation we must keep moving as we have always done. Constantly looking for new opportunities, creative marketing campaigns, partners, and courageous people that we can help with their important work. And I have experienced how important our culture is in this respect: we love ambition, set the bar high, dare to think big and, above all, we act. As long as we are able to hold on to that, are strong enough, and players still want to continue playing with us, we can cope with the new competition and achieve the second 10 billion for charities that will help us bring all those ideals for a better world closer.