Christmas charity campaign shows radio’s power for good


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Background – evolution of the charity project

In the first radio egtabite of 2022, we take a closer look at an annual charity event that evolved over the years into an all-encompassing fund-raising initiative for non-profit organisations that engages listeners of all ages.

De Warmste Week (DWW) is one of the most famous and popular charity projects organised by VRT (Flemish public broadcaster and its sales house Var). Over the years, the concept has changed and evolved – in 2006, it all started with Music For Life, when three DJs from Studio Brussel locked themselves in a glass studio in the middle of a square in Leuven. They played requested songs on the radio in return for money, which was at that time given to a specific project selected by the Red Cross. This became a tradition, taking place between 18th and 24th December and switching up the venues each year. The project became bigger and better, and grew in both popularity and earnings for the Red Cross. The only critique, however, was that it was always the organisers and the Red Cross who decided where the funding would go to – a critique that VRT took on board given that fundraising depends so much on the willingness and participation of their audience.

In 2012, the organisers changed the setup. Instead of a week of music requests and live performances by national and international artists, they shifted towards a week of awareness raising. That year, Muse played for 12,000 people at Sportpaleis Antwerp with a choir made up of people who suffer from dementia in order to raise awareness for the disease. To take things one step further, as of 2013, NGOs could apply to receive funding from the DWW initiative. It was not just Var, but also the audience, who organised small-, medium- and large-scale initiatives to raise money for specific NGOs. There were not only requests on the radio, but national and international artists came to perform live for their chosen NGO to raise money and awareness. Between 2013 and 2020, thanks to the support from the Flemish public, more than 100,000 initiatives were organised to help over 10,000 organisations, raising more than 63 million €. This project also inspired a similar initative in the south of Belgium called Viva for life.

Campaign video

2021 edition – new approach with a focus on youth

In 2020, faced with mounting Covid restrictions, VRT came up with a new concept: not to raise money for a good cause but to encourage listeners to help those in need. People could go grocery shopping for a neighbour or children could do a nice drawing for the elderly. This inspired a whole new approach for the 2021 edition in line with Var’s mission as a public broadcaster – to inform, unite and inspire the whole Flemish population and strengthen Flemish society.

The main lesson learned from Covid is that the young target group (between 16 and 24) suffered severely. They were deprived of social interactions with their peers in school, at festivals, concerts etc. VRT decided to put young people at the heart of DWW. They launched a survey among young people asking about their biggest fears and concerns. The main answer was: “not being able to be who you want to be.” As a result, the main theme of the next DWW became “being who you are” in the widest possible sense – in terms of sexuality, race, religion, disability, mental health etc. To engage young people, 21 youth ambassadors were brought on board to promote the initiative and mobilise young people.

Being who you are

VRT worked across all their radio brands for the first time – two stations, MNM and Studio Brussel, shared their frequency for a week, broadcasting a pop-up DWW Radio. ‘The Greatest Request Week Ever’ allowed listeners to request songs that make them feel themselves. The radio programme was presented by DJ duos from each station, broadcasting from a floating studio in the host city of Mechelen.

There was unfortunately no big concert due to Covid in 2021, however, VRT did put together a special showcase and Q&A session with Ed Sheeran. Listeners could enter a competition to win a place at his showcase, which raised 108,429 € for the DWW Fund. Belgian singer Angèle also gave a special performance raising 31,265 €. What is more is that dedicated content was created for TV and AVOD platforms to compliment the initiative in the form of special editions and spin-offs of regular programmes.

VRT launched a special fund with the King Badouin Foundation to concentrate fund raising. NGOs with concrete projects around the “being who you are” theme could submit their case to the DWW Fund. An independent jury then decided which project would receive the allocated funding. A total of 3,203,455 € was collected for 200 projects. These projects included a buddy project for people suffering from dementia, an inclusive playground for children with disabilities, cultural activities for lonely seniors and more.

DWW was made a reality with the support of the main partner – KBC bank.