Agire, Italy

AGIRE

  • Population: 61 million
  • Year of foundation: 2007
  • Staff size: 5
List of members:
  • Actionaid
  • Amref
  • Cesvi
  • Coopi
  • GVC
  • Intersos
  • Oxfam
  • SOS Vilaggi dei Bambini
  • Terre des Hommes
  • Vis
Private & Public Sector Partners:
  • Banca Prossima

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History

Agire began in 2007 as an initiative of several NGOs including Action Aid and Terres des Hommes. The experience of joint appeals in other countries inspired this group of agencies to make the effort to create a similar organisation in Italy. The group was subsequently able to merge with an alliance of smaller Italian NGOs already collaborating in the area of international cooperation and development, to create a highly representative network of Italian agencies working in international humanitarian and emergency response.

During the 2013 Philippines disaster, Agire was further able to expand joint action among Italian agencies by successfully cooperating with the Italian Red Cross for the first time in a national appeal. Cooperation between Agire and the Italian Red Cross is ongoing and talks are underway on how to effectively consolidate a long term partnership between the two organisations.

Organisation

Agire today has ten member agencies and is governed by a board of directors consisting of three representatives from member agencies and four independent trustees. Independent trustees are elected by the assembly of member agencies based on their ability to bring specific competencies needed to strengthen the critical activities of the secretariat.

The secretariat, responsible for operational management, consists of three full-time and two part-time staff members. Administrative costs associated with the secretariat are covered by the member agencies’ annual contributions, while all trustee support to operations is strictly pro bono.

The Board of Directors is responsible for the decision to launch an appeal and will do so only if member agencies have a relevant presence and capacity in the area struck by a humanitarian emergency.

Allocation of funds to the individual member agencies is based on a capacity matrix which assesses each organisation’s proposed projects and impact, together with its effective capacity on the ground for each individual crisis. Of funds raised, 91% is allocated to members’ programs, while 8% goes to appeal management expenses. Transparency and accountability are an important element for Agire and so the remaining 1% of fundraising is directed to the independent monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Fundraising

In Italy, non profit fundraising is primarily driven by SMS text messages and television campaigns. This particular characteristic of the Italian fundraising approach poses several challenges for Agire, both in terms of its ability to launch an appeal as well as the amount of funds it is capable of raising. Regarding the latter, average donations from SMS text messages are around 2 – 4 euros. This significantly reduces overall appeal results as SMS donations typically represent over 50% of the total. Furthermore, access to SMS and television campaigning for an emergency appeal is granted by the telecommunications providers and television networks for each individual crisis and exclusively to only one organisation. This results in a decision process which often delays the launch of an appeal (sometimes up to two days following the onset of a crisis) and competition with the Agire network of agencies from both non-emergency NGOs as well as the United Nations governmental agencies.

As access to SMS and television is critical to the success of national appeals, Agire has put much effort into creating awareness among the telecommunications providers and broadcasters of the value and representativeness provided by the Agire network, as well as the need for partnerships and protocols in order to improve launch times and fundraising results.

In parallel Agire has begun to invest in its capacity and approach to online fundraising, bringing on a dedicated staff member and setting up a pilot blogger community in 2011.

Successes and highlights

The most important success so far for Agire is the introduction of a working collaboration mechanism in the highly fragmented and individualistic Italian nonprofit sector. The fact that the network brings together both large international NGOs and smaller Italian organisations is also considered to be a major achievement. The appeal for Haiti was by far Agire’s most important and successful campaign, raising over €15 million.

Outside of appeals Agire publishes an annual research report The Value of Aid which tracks trends in the destination and sources of global humanitarian aid and is used for advocacy and awareness raising for humanitarian issues and work.

Partnerships

As previously noted, partnerships with broadcasters and telecommunications companies are a critical element for successful appeals in Italy, and therefore Agire continues to make the development of these partnerships a strategic priority.

Agire has a program entitled Active Companies which seeks to involve corporate partners during appeals in promotional activities, employee engagement and goods donations where possible. Overall this type of corporate support is still quite underdeveloped and Agire is currently reviewing how to more effectively reach out to the business community and actively engage corporate partners in both fundraising appeals and emergency prevention campaigns.

Challenges and innovations for the future

Agire is in an important period of transition. While the past years have been necessarily dedicated to building the network, managing relations with public institutions and constructing operational processes in order to introduce a joint appeal model in Italy, the current competitive conditions – in particular the aggressive expansion of United Nations agencies’ emergency fundraising efforts aimed at the private sector – and the dependence on the SMS in national fundraising, necessitate a new strategic focus for Agire in the future. To that end Agire will be focusing on strengthening its competitive positioning and innovating its fundraising approach through the construction of multi-stakeholder partnerships with broadcasters and telecommunications providers, as well as the development of new fundraising channels like digital and social media.