Netherlands Red Cross and 3FM: Serious Request (2024)

SOFII’s view

The Serious Request event was seriously epic in scale. This is an excellent example of a charity working brilliantly with a popular media platform to reach as many people as possible. The Netherlands Red Cross partnered with 3FM radio and cleverly identified where they could expand their ask and make use of a variety of platforms. Crucially, the charity helped 3FM focus on causes that weren’t getting the coverage and support they needed, showing they never lost sight of their mission.

Summary / objectives

To partner a radio station with the Netherlands Red Cross atChristmas and raise money for causes that weren’t getting the coverage they deserved.


In 2004, some people at 3FM, a public radio broadcasting station, wanted to do something other than the usual Christmas carols in December. As a radio station known for their ‘engagement’ they wanted to pay attention to ‘the outside world’ and go against the trend of spending money, eating and drinking and thinking of oneself at the end of the year.

At that time (September/October 2004) the hostage situation in Beslan (Russia) had happened, so they came up with the idea to raise money for the children of that school. Reaching out to the Netherlands Red Cross for information and help, they got this answer:

‘Great idea, but actually we do not need money for Beslan (the appeal was already over-funded) and it has already been all over the news. Why don’t we do something for a true silent disaster, where we could really use a lot of money to organise help: the crisis in Darfur/Sudan.’

That was the start of The Serious Requests and they have been going ever since - benefiting a different cause each year.Initially it was five days, starting on the 20th of December.Soon it became almost seven days, starting on the 18th.

Special characteristics

  • ‘Silent disaster vs Christmas carols’
  • Your favourite song played on the radio in return for donations.
  • Glass studio in a public square in a city or town in the Netherlands.
  • A 24/7 live radio broadcast over several days leading up to Christmas Eve
  • Symbolic fasting of DJs (they do get a few fruit/veggie juices per day but no proper food is allowed.)

The song requests are still the symbolic heart of the action though over the years it became clear that it impossible to play all the requested songs during those six or seven days. You can request a song by calling a special phone number, or do it via your smartphone or online.

Private fundraising initiatives (people baking cookies and selling them, running a marathon for money, etc.) are a trend that has grown immensely over the years and contributes about €1.5 to 2 million. It’s a very powerful mechanism that unites friends, family, colleagues, people in sports clubs and so on. You might argue that for a lot of people doing this (in the last few months of the year), as a tradition, combined with the good feeling of ‘doing good’ is much more important than the specific topic/theme/silent disaster that is being addressed that year.

The organisers also run sub-events: for example in 2018 they invited a very big Dutch YouTube star with nine million followers and had people pay to meet her. An incredible2500 tickets were sold out within three hours at ten Euros per ticket.

Each year a popular band, rap group or singer is asked to make a special theme song and donate the specific revenue for that song to the Red Cross.

Merchandise such as T-shirts, sweaters, etc. with special designs related to the central theme/silent disaster are produced each year.

An auction is organised online, consisting of items contributed by famous people (signed sports shirts, guitars, a tour through the royal gardens, etc). To push this ‘auction tv’ was set up a couple of years ago on which the DJs in the Glass House make a crazy item for online television, as a parody of tell sell television late at night. Furthermore, a few years ago they decided to launch a pop up shop close to the Glass House where all the auction items could be shown like in an exhibition.

Texting does generate income, though not that much (about 40,000/50,000) but is very popular because the texts are shown on ticker-tape on online television (24/7 broadcast) are are read and discussed by the DJs.

*Up until 2012 the Netherlands Red Cross worked with big brands such as Philips, Coca Cola and so on. Then, the radio station got a big warning from a governmental watchdog that monitors public stations. The issue was that the event has grown so big that those brands were profiting, which is not allowed via events that are (partially) paid for with public money.


The first year they didn’t know what hit them. The event was so popular and raised so much money, without arrangements to take care of all the cash. There are stories of crew having to ride home on bikes with backpacks containing kilos of euros because the banks were already closed.

It’s interesting to note that the Dutch government also contributed to the campaigns for the first couple of years up until 2009. So the amount of money that was raised in 2010 was even more special as it was without the government doubling it as they had done in the years before.The government stopped because there was a growing debate about it (and the event was growing obviously, so the contribution was too) and they felt it had to become a pure people’s fundraiser (people for people).

Over the years recently the revenues have been going down – there is a growing concern and debate in Holland that the event should focus on national issues and not international ones so far away. Simultaneously the radio station is not doing well and their market share has gone down between 2014 and now from about 12 per cent to nearly four per cent.

In total €101,287,241 was raised during 14 editions of 3FM Serious Request.

This case study was first presented at SOFII’s flagship event I WishI’d Thought Of That (IWITOT) in London inFebruary 2018.

Netherlands Red Cross and 3FM: Serious Request (2024)
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