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After three years of unprecedented global crises, what scares us the most? The response from Italians and non-profit operators is unequivocal: poverty this is the urgency most felt by both public opinion (almost 3 out of 10 people)[1] than by those who work in the Third Sector (6 out of 10)1. In addition to poverty, other four great fears then appear clearly: food insecuritythe risk of collapse of the Italian health systemsetbacks in the fight against climate change and the spread of psychological distress following the pandemic and its consequences on the economic and social fabric.

This is the photo taken by INC Nonprofit Lab – the laboratory dedicated to the Third Sector of the INC National Institute of Communication – through research”Poor us. The third sector and the challenge of new needs, after three years that have turned the world upside down“, Created with the patronage of RAI for Sustainability-ESGamong Italians and on a sample of professionals working in 70 non-profit organizations (ONP).

The research was presented this morning at the headquarters of RAI in Viale Mazzini, in the presence of the President of the INC, Pascal of Palmaof the vice-president Paolo Matteithe Director of RAI for Sustainability – ESG, Roberto Natale. During the meeting, the voice of the third sector was entrusted to Rossano BartoliPresident of the Lega del Filo d’Oro; Ileana Bellodirector of Amnesty International Italy; Alessandro BettiDirector of Fundraising for the Telethon Foundation; Chiara CardolettiUNHCR Representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino; Paolo FerraraManaging Director Terre des Hommes Italy; Giuseppe Onufrio, Executive Director of Greenpeace Italy.

“There is a very clear theme in front of us: the inequalities that increasingly mark Italian society. 2020 was the year in which the call for Civil Protection donations, relaunched by the public service networks, made it possible to raise the record figure of 169 million euros; even the “lightest” broadcasts have chosen to put themselves concretely alongside those who are working to heal social wounds, by donating to Third Sector Organizations the earnings usually intended for common competitors. – he reminded Roberto NataleRai Director for Sustainable Development-ESG – The public service decides on its subsequent legitimacy in this field, the very field which is the subject of the daily work of the Third Sector. It is therefore important that our collaborative relationship becomes ever closer. Beyond the attention paid to informing individual initiatives, beyond fundraising or awareness-raising spaces granted to one or the other acronym, it is essential that a permanent consultation table be set up with all the associations“.

Eurostat data had already indicated that in August this year there were around 12 million people at risk of poverty, with 1 in 4 minors living in families where poverty is a daily reality. The 2022 Coop report[2] rather, he speaks of 18 million people struggling to access essential goods and services: 6 million more than a year ago. 1 in 3 Italians (32%) by the end of the year will no longer be able to pay for gas and electricity.

Through its work of observation, research and analysis, the Non Profit Lab of the INC aims to help the associative world to understand the changes of our time, perhaps to anticipate them, above all to accompany them with analyzes and solutions. – explains the president of the INC, Pascal of Palma – We have worked alongside non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations and foundations for over 25 years to tell their stories, raise awareness and build their reputations. With the Non Profit Lab, we will be able to restore knowledge to a world that has given us so much, with an approach that is in the DNA of our agency: content above all“.


After photographing perceptions related to this scenariobetween old and new needs, research from INC’s Non-profit Lab shows, specularly, the reactions of the Third Sectorone of the main actors called to find adequate answers, in order to leave no one behind, to ensure the cohesion of society.

Thus it emerges that the third sector responded proactively and quickly, organizing new communication and fundraising campaigns (55%) and new projects (45%) in response to the needs born or aggravated by the continuous emergency of the last 3 years . A significant ability to listen and respond on the part of non-profit organizations, which has also resulted, for those who are already working on the issues brought to light by emergencies, by strengthening the projects already in place in the areas concerned ( 36.6%) and by reorganizing operational structures and intervention models in these areas (35.2%).


Donations for emergency-related causes increased (52%) versus a decline in donations (19.7%) for anything non-news related. But this trend, of emergency generosity, also defined by some as the long Covid effect, ended up favoring institutional realities, such as hospitals, civil protection, religious institutions, putting many associations in increasing difficulty. Which have seen – according to ISTAT – the donor population drop from 14.3% in 2020 to 12% in 2021, reaching a historic low of just 6 million Italians. In particular, NPOs that have recorded a drop in fundraising, still in 2021 (according to the latest edition of the Donation Observatory of the Italian Donation Institute[3], presented last week) were 71%. And for 32% the drop was more than 50%. Those who have suffered the most are small and medium-sized enterprises, with a turnover of less than one million euros, and those engaged in objectives and projects that are not in line with the urgent issues of the moment. .

Attention to fundraising campaigns through solidarity numbers is again growing. 60.6% of associations over the past 3 years have applied for a TV fundraising campaign via solidarity numbers. And about half of those who haven’t (18.3%, out of a total of 39.6%) are seriously considering applying for this opportunity again, precisely to meet the growing fundraising needs to ensure the sustainability of their projects.

In Digital, the emphasis is on the great classics. The The tendency of NPOs to promote online, accelerated in recent years by the impossibility of organizing meetings and physical events, especially for fundraising purposes, is confirmed and places Social ADS in the top 3 tools the most used (91.5%), DEM (75%) and Google ADS (68%). But the experts are also projecting towards dialogue with new targets: social networks such as TikTok or addressable TV have been indicated as the innovative digital channels currently being tested.


In the next 2 or 3 years, the situation of uncertainty will persist and according to 45% of people working in the third sector, the problems will be the same as those highlighted today. Faced with this, 38% see the emergence of a company strongly committed to resolving these emergencies and a slightly lower share, 23.9%, which yields to the pessimistic vision of an increasingly poor, individualistic and withdrawn society. on herself.

Almost half (48%) believe that the Third Sector will be able to meet the needs of Italians even where the institutions do not reach and will have a fundamental and socially recognized role in overcoming the crisis (39.4%). Those who work in NPOs think that, to respond adequately to needs, it will be increasingly necessary and important to associate with institutions (22.5%) and it will be essential to organize oneself with second-hand realities. lobbying level (24%) and increase its relevance and effectiveness.

There will be more and more associations dealing with poverty and the health emergency (31%) and the campaigns will focus more and more on Italy (28%) and on the problems of our compatriots. In this not very rosy vision of the future on the part of NPOs, the theme of the progressive crisis of solidarity, which is the least felt in public opinion, frightens on the contrary 32.4% of those who work on a daily basis. in solidarity. On fundraising, two visions are compared: for 35.2% of associations they will decrease, for 23.9% they will increase. A look at the future under the sign of uncertainty and caution, in the face of a present which, photographed by the Italian Donation Institute, sees for 2021 a drop in fundraising for 41% of NPOs, unchanged for 13% and increasing for 46% of associations.

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