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OPINION! Ulrich Heide, board member of the German AIDS Foundation: "Acquiring donations via digital media is sobering"

Ulrich Heide has been Managing Director of the German AIDS Foundation since 1996. In an interview, he explains why crowdfunding and internet campaigns have far less significance for the German AIDS Foundation than offline activities.

Ulrich Heide, born in Bad Pyrmont in 1953, had been managing director of the German AIDS Foundation “Positiv Leben” since August 1987 and later became the full-time chairman of this foundation. He studied education, history and evangelical religion in Bonn and Cologne. He completed his studies in 1979 with the state examination for teaching, and in 1983 he obtained his doctorate in educational sciences at the University of Bonn. After completing his studies, Ulrich Heide initially worked in the church sector and freelance as a media pedagogue. From 1982 to 1986 he was head of the audiovisual media division at the Federal Center for Health Education and was responsible, among other things, for the agency's film production. From May 1986 to August 1987 Ulrich Heide was managing director of the state association of the Greens in North Rhine-Westphalia.

How exactly does the activities of the German AIDS Foundation look like?

The German AIDS Foundation helps people with HIV and AIDS in emergency situations through financial aid, most of which relate to the maintenance and furnishing / furnishing of the apartment. Medical aids such as glasses, hearing aids and dentures represent the second most important area of ​​these aid services. In addition, the foundation supports projects by and for people with HIV and AIDS. The spectrum here ranges from funding to advice and Communication created meeting points (breakfast offers in AIDS support centers or health authorities) to housing projects for people who need more intensive support.

For about 15 years, the foundation has also been supporting selected aid projects in southern Africa, the regions in the world most severely affected by HIV and AIDS. One focus is the DREAM program in Mozambique, in which the health centers we support try to prevent the virus from being passed on from HIV-infected pregnant women to their babies. In addition, right from the start, the foundation tried at home and abroad through its public relations work to promote the acceptance and integration of people with HIV and AIDS and to prevent their exclusion and discrimination.

What are the sources of your donation income and how do you make a percentage contribution?

For foundations in Germany, the German AIDS Foundation finances itself in a comparatively untypical way. The proportion of income from the foundation capital, which on average for the foundation accounts for around 50% of total income, is only around 20% for us.

The public sector's share of our financing is also atypically low. It is only around 1%, the average for the German AIDS Foundation around 10%. In contrast, the income from donations and benefit projects is clearly disproportionate. They make up about two thirds of our total income and thus determine the performance of the foundation.

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How do you attract donors?

When evaluating our mailing results, we can conclude that many of our donors support the foundation work over a very long period of time. A few donors have been helping us since the first years after the foundation 1987 or since the early 90 years. These donors have evidently been very conscious of the help in favor of an organization on HIV and AIDS.

In addition to helping people in need, the socio-political aspect of HIV and AIDS may have played a decisive role. HIV and AIDS have always been about human rights. The majority of the donors we have been able to win over the past few years have been attracted to and able to attract the quality of our large fundraising projects, especially the Opera Galas and Art Auctions.

A charity event such as the annual gala organized by the German AIDS Foundation in the Düsseldorf Opera House recently achieved net proceeds of € 160.000. This is offset by an immense organizational effort. Is it worth the effort?

So far, the question can be answered in our view clearly yes. The German AIDS Foundation generates its free revenues to a much greater extent in connection with charity projects such as the galas than through mailings or donations Company and associations. In addition, events that are held in public, such as the opera galas or the art auctions, often offer the opportunity to bring the topic of HIV and AIDS to the media and thus to the public.

In the last two years, this is becoming more and more difficult, as HIV and AIDS are generally still one of the most important problems in this country, although the more treatable infections are causing an increasing number of people living with HIV in our country. Currently approx. 83.000.

In addition, the experience gained in the donation acquisition via digital media - not just at the German AIDS Foundation - has so far been rather sobering. The share of on-line donations to our total income amounts to about one thousand, even though the foundation invests regularly in relaunching its Internet presence and in social media.

Are more traditional methods, such as charity events, important, or the possibility of the Internet?

As we have already said in the previous question, traditional methods of fundraising - and I mean not only events, but also classic mailings - are far more important than income over the Internet. This is so far so far very clear for the donation quotes.

On the other hand, we see that the presence on the Internet and the social networks is necessary to reach younger people. These are, as is known, not the most important donor groups. However, we also see the need for messages to be mindful and to prevent HIV infections. Last autumn, in cooperation with the Cologne University of Media, Communication and Business, we were able to produce the only current prevention spot and spread it to the World AIDS Day very broadly through the support of various TV stations.

How strongly did you use the Internet to prepare such events and reach the participants by means of online ticket sales or social media tools, for example?

We currently use the internet and social media primarily to provide information about our work and to reach younger target groups with our topics and with prevention messages. Of course apply we also use these channels for our events, but we do not have the impression that we are reaching the target groups that are relevant to us.

In particular, the high-priced tickets for our events that are associated with dinner or reception have so far primarily been requested via traditional channels. Online ticket sales have increased significantly in recent years, but only for tickets in the lower and middle price segment. This corresponds to the purchasing behavior for normal concert and opera visits. The higher-priced cards that contain more exclusive offers are hardly in demand this way.

Crowdfunding is increasingly being discussed in recent years as a new form of financing for art and cultural projects as well as for social projects. Do you see opportunities for your foundation here?

In theory yes, in practice so far hardly. The lack of public awareness on the subject of HIV and AIDS makes it difficult to implement successful crowding-up initiatives on this issue. However, unjustified dramatizations or scandals that might create attention in the short term can not be considered a medium or long-term viable path.

How exactly is the donation money used?

Direct financial aid plays a key role for individuals affected by HIV and AIDS. Support for projects from and for this group is also important. The range of services provided here ranges from preventive services, such as information centers in inner cities, to communication services for people with HIV and AIDS, in particular for families and single-parenting women and their children, to residential projects for particularly vulnerable people with HIV and AIDS.

In addition, we have been supporting exemplary projects in southern Africa for over 15 years. For almost 10 years now, we have seen one focus in financing the DREAM program in Mozambique. In this program, around 40.000 people with HIV and AIDS are treated with antiretroviral drugs, giving them a new perspective in life. The German AIDS Foundation focuses on the promotion of 3 treatment centers in Maputo, Matola and Beira, which also see their focus on preventing the transmission of viruses from HIV-infected pregnant women to their children. This program is extremely successful. In the past few years less than 2% of the children born in the program were born with HIV infection, in the past year less than 1%.

To what extent can your foundation actually influence AIDS research?

As a rule, medical and scientific research requires financial resources that we can not provide at all. In addition, we see above all the pharmaceutical industry - which has made enormous progress in the past 25 years - as well as state-funded research institutions in the obligation.

We are currently trying to promote coordination between German scientists working on the development of HIV vaccines, for example with a very manageable financial grant. At the same time we believe that our public relations work and our contacts with the media and Politics can help to convey the need for more intensive support in this area.

OpenScience now offers the opportunity to document research results openly and transparently, to accelerate the dissemination of knowledge, and to develop new techniques and processes more quickly. Does your foundation take advantage of the possibilities offered by Open Science in the implementation of research projects?

The foundation itself does not research. The results of the research can not be disseminated through Open Science. This question will be addressed in the already mentioned support for the development of cooperation platforms.

Here, however, it is important to decide whether it is possible to convince researchers of the need for open and trusting cooperation. This would question many of the traditional ways of doing so at the chairs and, if you will, in the academic ivory tower. The foundation will be able to contribute to such a development at best.

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3 responses to “OPINION! Ulrich Heide, board member of the German AIDS Foundation: "Acquiring donations via digital media is sobering" "

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