Geelong, Australia

Sixteen Australian aid agencies, including some of the largest, have joined in a new alliance which aims to help them better raise funds to address large scale international emergencies.

The move - which involves faith-based agencies including World Vision, Tearfund Australia, Anglican Overseas Aid, Baptist World Aid Australia and Caritas Australia - has seen the formation of the Emergency Action Alliance which was formally launched at an online event earlier this month. It is charged with overseeing the raising of funds from Australians in response to humanitarian disasters overseas of the scale of Typhoon Haiyan - which struck the Philippines and other parts of South-East Asia in late 2013 taking more than 6,300 lives - or the 2015 earthquake in Nepal which killed almost 9,000 people.

Emergency Action Alliance logo

Emergency Action Alliance logo.

Kerren Morris, executive director of the EAA, told Sight that the alliance would enable a centralised fundraising effort in a bid to raise more money in response to disasters as well as increase the speed by which the funds raised can get to where they are needed and ensure that the money raised is used to help with the specific emergency.

"I think the Australian public can sometimes think, 'Well, I'm giving to this charity but I don't know if the money is even going to be going to that particular emergency'," she said. "So this takes all that doubt away, it takes all the brands away, which means that there's no brand confusion - 'Do I donate to UNCHR or Oxfam or Tearfund?' It takes that uncertainty and that hesitation out of the equation. People will jump online, make the donation and these are factors that contribute to the speed of response - it means more money gets there, sooner. That's the intention."

It is anticipated that the EAA, which is funded by the member agencies, will run an appeal about once a year in response to a major international crisis. While the NGOs involved will still be able to appeal to their own donor bases during such emergencies, the EAA will provide "a whole new level and layer or fundraising activity", said Morris.

"[W]hat we're doing here is, rather than having 20 different voices, saying give now to 20 different brands, there will be one voice and one brand to give to. But it won't stop any donors from giving to the organisations that they traditionally give to...We're aiming to get more people to give than would normally do."

The move is also expected to result in significant cost savings in the fund-raising process.

Kerren Morris

Kerren Morris, executive director of the EAA. POICTURE: Supplied.

"Rather than 16 charities...all spending money on aquiring donors and promoting their appeals, whether it be through TV advertising or however they would normally launch their will be [done through] one single agency - the Emergency Action Alliance," Morris explained. "So efficiency is key - less money will be spent on marketing for these appeals because it will all be centralised through Emergency Action Alliance."

As part of the process once an appeal has been activated, those member organisations that are responding to a particular emergency will tell the alliance of how they intend responding and the funding they're looking for. These submissions will be reviewed and the money then distributed according to a formula based on the historical aid expenditure. The agencies will then be required to report back on how the money was spent.

While there have been discussions about the possiblity of such an alliance in Australia for decades - similar bodies exist in countries including the UK, Canada and Ireland - the push for such a body in Australia started in earnest about three years ago. 

Matthew Maury, chair of the EAA's board and CEO of Tearfund Australia, said that when the organisations started discussions on the idea for the alliance among the reasons put forward in favour of the idea was that there was a need to "remove the barriers" to giving.

"And one of the most obvious ways to do that was to give people one clear choice of how to give as opposed to this competing sense of voices," he said.

Maury said the initiative also emphasised a cooperative rather than competitive approach.

"This initiative was really about saying if we work together, not only do we believe we can raise some more money, but we believe by doing that we're going to be help more people. And at the end of the day, that's what our mission statements are all calling us to do."

Maury added that the Federal Government's support for the initiative - Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was among those who attended the online launch - will be critical as will be partnerships with media organisations (the alliance already has a memorandum of understanding with Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC).

Bec Oates, director of marketing and communication at Baptist World Aid Australia - among the initial 16 organisations taking part, said the alliance "harnesses the learning and resources of Australia’s best aid and development agencies to ensure they are poised to deliver an instant response with a shared focus during a rapid onset or protracted global disaster".

"It’s the opposite of reinventing the wheel; we all ride the same wheel for greater impact," she said.

Oates added that the alliance will help Baptist World Aid ensure they are able to listen to communities impacted by disasters in real time.

"We then provide the resources they need not only to cope with the impact of the disaster but to build capacity to prevent future disasters in vulnerable communities."