Disasters Emergency Committee, UK

DEC Disaster Emergency Committee

  • Population: 62.8 million
  • Year of foundation: 1963
  • Staff size: 15
List of members:
  • ActionAid
  • Age International
  • British Red Cross
  • Care International UK
  • Christian Aid
  • Concern Worldwide UK
  • Islamic Relief
  • Oxfam
  • Plan UK
  • Save the Children
  • Tearfund
  • World Vision
Private & Public Sector Partners:
  • Barclays
  • BBC
  • The Big Give
  • British Bankers’ Association
  • BT
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • Channel 4
  • Community Channel
  • FIVE
  • HSBC
  • ITN
  • ITV
  • Just Giving
  • NewsNow
  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Post Office
  • PayPal
  • Radio Centre
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • S4C
  • Sky
  • Transport for London
  • World Pay



The DEC was formed in 1963 when several aid organisations began coordinating their activities. They launched their first appeal for the 1966 earthquake in Turkey. Since then the DEC has launched 67 appeals and has raised £1.4 billion. From the beginning the DEC has had strong relationships with the major broadcasters, a significant part of its success. The DEC has well established procedures and a strong brand in the UK and amongst humanitarian stakeholders worldwide.


The DEC currently has 13 member agencies and is governed by a board of trustees which includes the chief executives of all the member agencies and up to six independent trustees who are chosen for their capacities in finance, politics and media. Aspiring members are welcome to apply, provided they are able to meet the membership criteria, although the DEC will have a maximum membership of 15 so that it remains manageable and cost effective. The DEC secretariat consists of a staff team of 15, along with regular volunteers to carry out the day-to-day running of the organisation.

Allocation of funds is based on members’ ability to raise income from their donors and the capacity to spend it in vulnerable countries. This guarantees a fair and transparent allocation. Accountability and transparency are ensured through the DEC Accountability Framework that includes regular appeal reports, independent evaluations and annual assessments.

The DEC collaborated with the Humanitarian Coalition of Canada on evaluations, or ‘response reviews’, for the East Africa and Philippines disasters. This enabled a less disruptive experience for colleagues in the field and meant that costs could be shared and learning disseminated to a wider audience.


Members can opt in or out of responding to a crisis for which the DEC is appealing, but must promote and support the appeal. When the DEC trustees decide to launch an appeal the Rapid Response Network is alerted. This is a unique network of corporate and broadcasting sector partners who are essential in swiftly reaching out to the British public. The DEC works with five national broadcasters and the ‘white listed’ national newspapers. In addition DEC members organise their own activities towards their constituencies and local news outlets.

Digital media presents strong opportunities as now most people access news through a mobile or digital device. The DEC asks its supporters to reach out to their personal networks and uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter to inform and interact with supporters on the progress of the humanitarian relief effort. Approximately half of the DEC’s income is now raised through online avenues such as the DEC website and text giving. Importantly, the UK government has recently matched the funds received for the Nepal, Ebola, Gaza and Philippines appeals for £2-5 million. This is an incentive for the public as it demonstrates support from the government. It also gives a certain indication as to how a portion of tax money is being spent.

Successes and highlights

The DEC is very careful about launching an appeal. Over the years there have been on average 1.5 or 2 appeals per year at the most. The public values the coming together of aid agencies and remain generous and positive. The ‘one stop shop’ concept makes it quick and easy to give. The speed with which an appeal is launched is a good way of encouraging people and this is due to the DEC’s high level relationships with all of the five major broadcasting partners. The most important recent successes are the speed with which money is raised and the ever growing donation amounts; £13 million in 24 hours for the Philippines, mostly online. This makes aid more efficient: people in the field are able to quickly initiate programmes and members have more flexibility in spending the money effectively.


The DEC’s partnerships with the major broadcasters play a central role in reaching the public. Corporations approach DEC during appeals, offering financial, logistical or other support. The DEC employs a High Value Partnership Manager and is proactively pursuing corporate sector partnerships. There are two goals, firstly fundraising, including support from employees, and secondly finding partners for the Rapid Response Network to enable the DEC to better reach the British public. A good example is BT, with their call centre support and their ‘my donate’ platform.

Challenges and innovations for the future

The biggest challenge for the DEC is how to respond to slow onset crises, which are often related to drought and food security. The level of need is huge, but there is little coverage in the news. Conflicts are another challenge as they risk splitting public opinion. It is necessary to find ways to raise awareness for slow burn disasters. The DEC is exploring with creative media partners how documentaries or other programming might contribute to this. The DEC also reaches out to corporate partners that can help raise funds more quickly, especially in the digital field. Online presence and activity is a major strategy. This includes adapting the DEC website in order to better engage and share with the public, reaching out on Facebook and Twitter in order to report progress and be accountable to the public, as well as paid advertising such as pay per click.