Near-infrared emissive lanthanide complexes were synthesized with covalently attached sensitizers that absorb in the visible. This functionalization was designed such that the sensitizer is in close proximity to the lanthanide ion, which is a prerequisite for efficient energy transfer from the excited sensitizer to the lanthanide ion. The sensitizers used were fluorescein, eosin, and erythrosin, which were linked via a -alanine spacer to the polydentate chelate. The sensitizers were chosen because they absorb visible light and are structurally very similar, but the intrinsic intersystem crossing quantum yields of the sensitizers vary significantly, because of the presence of the heavy atoms (bromine in eosin and iodine in erythrosin). It was expected that an intrinsic high intersystem crossing would be beneficial in the sensitization process, because energy transfer occurs through the triplet state of sensitizers. However, because of the enhanced intersystem crossing of the sensitizers by the nearby heavy and paramagnetic lanthanide ions, these intrinsic differences were largely diminished. It was even found that fluorescein acts as a more efficient sensitizer for the NIR emission than eosin and erythrosin. The donating triplet state of fluorescein is higher in energy than that of eosin and erythrosin, resulting in less energy back transfer and therefore in a higher efficiency of sensitized emission. This and considerations of selection rules for energy transfer to the lanthanide ions made it possible to distinguish the 4F9/2 level of Nd3+ as the main acceptor channel for energy transfer. In the Er3+ complexes, the enhancement in intersystem crossing was lower in the eosin and erythrosin complexes than in the fluorescein complex, which was concluded from the remaining complex fluorescence. Furthermore, it is tentatively concluded that additional pathways other than those allowed in Dexter energy transfer play a role in the sensitization of Er3+. In the Yb3+ complexes, the higher efficiency of sensitization by fluorescein is due to the enhanced intersystem crossing that is larger in the fluorescein complex than in the eosin or erythrosin complex.