Section 3: Key Actions within 72 Hours of Disaster



Reallocate internal funds and access national contingency funds

Who does this: member/country programme, with support of Country Co-ordination and International Finance

Fundraising in emergencies, particularly for smaller scale and slow onset disasters, can be a challenge and often the fastest and most appropriate source of funding for disaster response is at the national level. In most cases, the member/country programme is expected to make efforts to access national level funds before seeking funding support from the wider ActionAid federation or global donors.

These sources can include:

  • ActionAid country level contingency funds: members/country programmes are expected to hold contingency funds for disaster response, and these should be activated to fund immediate relief activities and the rapid assessment. The country programme should be clear before a disaster how these contingency funds are to be used and the criteria for accessing them.

  • Reallocation of ActionAid budgets:if a medium-large scale (orange or red alert) disaster affects the communities that ActionAid works with, ActionAid is obliged to respond and prioritise the disaster response over existing programmes. If appropriate, the member/country programme should look at ways to reallocate existing budgets to support the disaster response. This should be done in consultation with Country Co-ordination, International Finance and, if necessary, donors.

  • External country level contingency funds: if appropriate contingency funds exist at the national level (for example government or the UN), ActionAid should apply for these. To save time in a disaster response context and to increase chances of success, ActionAid should have identified in advance any external contingency funds, built relationships with the donor and ensured that they are familiar with the application requirements and procedures.

The member/country programme will be expected to demonstrate that they have attempted to access funds for disaster response at the national level (both internally and externally) before applying to other sources, such as the DPRF (see below). This is to make sure that ActionAid’s central funds in the DPRF are used for the situations of greatest need, and to ensure that a strong argument can be made to external donors that their support is needed. However, in very large scale crises this requirement may be waived – if the scale of need is obvious and seeking funding at the national level would put an unnecessary burden on the member/country programme or pose a reputational risk for the federation, then international funds may be provided immediately.

Apply for DPRF funds

Who does this: member/country programme, with support from IHART

If the member/country programme is unable to secure adequate funds for disaster response at national level, then they can apply for funding from ActionAid’s internal Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund (DPRF). This fund is managed by IHART.

A request for DPRF funding can be made immediately after a disaster, and funds can be released within one week (though it is often much sooner) of a request being approved. The request for funding can be made in one of the following ways:

  • By completing the relevant section in the ActionAid situation report (see Annex 5). This should contain a brief outline of planned activities and a top line budget.

  • By submitting a written or verbal request (by phone, email, SMS etc.) to the Head of IHART (contact details Annex 4). This should contain a brief outline of planned activities and a top line budget.

  • Through mutual agreement between the Head of IHART and the relevant Country Director (or Head of Country Co-ordination in the case of a multi-country response) in cases of human resource (EFAST) deployments.

Decisions to disburse DPRF funding are made by the Head of IHART, based on the following:

  • Overarching criteria: applications to the DPRF must meet both of these criteria to be successful:

    • The member/country programme must be able to demonstrate that they have used any contingency funds available for disasters at national level and have made attempts to find resources from within existing budgets. In exceptional circumstances, where the scale of the disaster and the response required is such that a lack of immediate response would carry a reputational risk for ActionAid, this criteria may be waived.

    • The work must clearly relate to disaster preparedness or response.

  • Purpose of the work: applications to the DPRF must meet at least one of these criteria to be successful:

    • The work must demonstrate potential for policy leverage, i.e. strengthening the efforts of ActionAid/partners to secure relevant policy outcomes.

    • The work must contribute to increasing the visibility of the crisis and/or ActionAid’s approach to emergencies.

    • The work must respond to clear humanitarian needs within communities that ActionAid works with, that are not being met by other agencies.

  • Fundraising potential: applications to the DPRF must meet at least one of these criteria to be successful:

    • The DPRF disbursement represents co-funding for a grant secured by an institutional donor (e.g. ECHO).

    • The work demonstrates clear potential for leveraging further funds from external donors at the national or international level.

    • The member/country programme must be able to demonstrate a strong likelihood they will be able to secure sufficient funding that will enable them to reimburse the money to the DPRF (for example evidence that a donor is prioritising the disaster response, verbal or written commitments/expressions of interest based on donor meetings etc).

Once a funding request has been approved, this will be communicated by the Head of IHART to the affected country with instructions on how to access the funds. An MOU outlining the mutual accountabilities for the funds and reporting requirements will also be sent. The Finance Officer working with IHART will ensure that International Finance make the appropriate internal disbursement and IHART’s systems and the Surge Capacity Officer will maintain a database of disbursements.

A separate handbook on the DPRF is available, which describes in detail the different funding strands and the processes for applying for and managing funds. This is available on the Hive

Apply for priority institutional donor funds

Who does this: member/country programme and fundraising affiliates, with support from IHART

External donors may also make funding available for immediate response through rapid response mechanisms at the global level. These are funds that are released very quickly after a disaster, and provide funds to ensure that help reaches communities as quickly as possible. Whilst the information required in order to secure funding from institutional donors varies from donor to donor.

There are a number of common areas:

  • A strong rapid needs assessment, highlighting the rationale for our proposed geographical and sectoral areas of intervention.

  • Prior links and an established relationship with the donor. Our intention to submit a proposal should be communicated to the donor as soon as possible – meeting with donor staff (either face-to-face or over the phone) also gives us an opportunity to find out more about their priorities, so we can tailor our proposal to the geographical areas and sectors that they are proposing to fund. If we haven’t been in contact with the donor prior to the emergency, communication now is essential.

  • Demonstrable co-ordination with other responding agencies. We need to be able to show that ActionAid is in contact with other agencies that are responding/planning to respond, to minimise the risk of duplication/overlap and help identify gaps.

The relevant ActionAid affiliate will be responsible for applying for funds from specific bilateral donors (e.g. ActionAid UK for DFID, ActionAid UK for funding from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), ActionAid Denmark for Danida etc). Affiliates must co-ordinate with IHART before submitting proposals, and IHART will co-ordinate liaison with the member/country programme in the affected country. For multilateral donors and for bilateral donors that are not ‘owned’ by a specific ActionAid affiliate, IHART will co-ordinate the applying of funds with International Fundraising and the International Partnership Development Team in the International Secretariat, applying for the funds directly.

See Annex 11 for a quick reference guide to emergency donors.


AusAID channels its funding through accredited Australian NGOs, of which ActionAid Australia is one. Countries can rarely apply for funding directly, so members/country programmes are advised to contact ActionAid Australia if there are upcoming funding opportunities.

DFID RRF and in-country funding

DFID may make funding available for emergencies either directly from the in-country office, or through the DFID UK office, normally via the Rapid Response Facility (RRF). There is no set way for DFID to fund – in-country or RRF will depend on DFID internal discussions. Regardless, a dual approach is best whereby the member/country programme talks directly to DFID in-country, and ActionAid UK talks to the DFID UK office. Co-ordination between the member/country programme and ActionAid UK is still vital to ensure that all messages to DFID are consistent.

ECHO primary emergency financing decision

An ECHO primary emergency financing decision must be taken within 72 hours of the onset of the disaster and the total funding available for allocation is a maximum of EUR 3,000,000. The duration of actions under a primary emergency financing decision is limited to three months.

ECHO recognises that NGOs will not have a complete picture of the disaster nor our planned response within 72 hours. As such, in order to apply for primary emergency financing we should ensure we have at least enough information to satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  • The essential elements required to understand the proposal and its rationale (needs assessment, ActionAid’s strategy and presence in the affected country, results of rapid needs assessment).

  • Main components of our proposed response (geographical areas of intervention, type and number of beneficiaries, logical framework).

  • Means of implementation (human resources, implementing partners, financial overview).

  • Key challenges relating to co-ordination, security (if relevant), etc.

ECHO may publish the primary emergency funding decision on their website – although in a primary emergency context this is often an unreliable source of quick information, so it is recommended that colleagues in the disaster-affected country link directly with in-country ECHO representatives in person or on the phone to check whether funding is being made available.

Once written, the primary emergency financing decision proposal must be submitted by ActionAid UK (as the ‘owner’ of the ECHO relationship for the federation) using ECHO’s online information exchange platform, known as ‘Appel’. Note ECHO will not accept applications submitted directly by the ActionAid member/country programme in the affected country.

See The Hive for guidance on actions that need to be taken by different parts of the federation in order to respond to the launching of an ECHO primary emergency financing decision.


Sida is not in a position to take on new humanitarian partners at present due to a lack of internal capacity, and ActionAid can therefore not access funds. However, Sida is reviewing its application guidelines and humanitarian partners so the situation may change.

See Annex 11 for further information on institutional donors.

UN funding opportunities

The UN system also has a number of opportunities for funding for NGOS. There are three types of pooled funds: the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Common Humanitarian Funds (CHFs) and Emergency Response Funds (ERFs). While the CERF can cover all countries affected by an emergency, the CHFs and ERFs are country-based pooled funds that respond to specific humanitarian situations in currently 18 countries. Download Global Overview of 2012 Pooled Funding. Only UN agencies may access CERF funding, but in many cases the agencies rely on NGOs to implement projects and will sub-contract. CHFs and ERFs can allocate funds to international and national NGOs. The majority of ERF and CHF funds are now provided to NGO partners.

It is important for ActionAid to engage with the UN clusters at local/national level if these are activated in the disaster-affected country, as these co-ordination mechanisms provide access to UN funding sources (see section on co-ordination). If you are considering applying for UN funds, contact IHART and the UN donor co-ordinator for guidance (see contact details Annexes 4). Also see Also see ‘co-ordination’ later in this section.

Public fundraising appeals


    AGIRE is a network of 10 Italian NGOs (including ActionAid), which gather in times of humanitarian crises to mobilise private funding and ensure a timely and effective response to major humanitarian emergencies (see Annex 11 for further information)

  • Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)

    ActionAid is one of 14 UK charity members of the DEC. Appeals are reserved for major disasters and emergencies that cannot be dealt with by the usual coping mechanisms within affected countries, and where DEC member agencies are in a position to respond quickly and effectively (see Annex 11 for further information).

Launch ActionAid public fundraising appeals

Who does this: fundraising affiliates, with support from IHART and International Fundraising

In major disasters, fundraising affiliates across the ActionAid federation are expected to contribute to fundraising. ActionAid will identify a ‘ball park’ figure for fundraising (the cost of the programme action) as early as 24-48 hours after the disaster, which will then be revised over time. However, this figure will be used for initial contact with institutional donors and appeal fundraising. The Oversight Group will guide the organisation on the level of fundraising activity required for the response, and will direct the organisation on types of fundraising activity that will be undertaken.

If public fundraising appeals (widespread appeals via television, radio, press advertisements etc) or supporter appeals (communication to existing ActionAid supporters) are to be launched, this should ideally be done within the first 72 hours following a rapid onset disaster. This ensures that funds can be raised as quickly as possible to support the critical early stages of the response. It also ensures that ActionAid’s profile in the disaster response is established alongside other agencies.

RED alert disasters

In RED alert disasters, all fundraising affiliates are expected to launch public or supporter appeals. It is recognised that considerable costs are attached to launching a widespread public fundraising appeal, and it is up to the relevant affiliate to decide on what kind of appeal is most appropriate. However, at a minimum, all affiliates are expected to contact existing supporters to request funds and to feature a donation button on their websites.

When a RED alert disaster is declared, IHART will contact fundraising affiliates to gather information on planned appeals. Affiliates will be asked to estimate their fundraising targets and to keep IHART informed of progress – it is important that IHART knows when to expect appeal income so that they can help the member/country programme plan its response effectively.

  • In advance of a disaster, it is good practice to establish a process for the development of public/supporter public fundraising appeals. This should cover:

    • Roles and responsibilities of different teams within the fundraising affiliate.

    • Clear timelines for sending the initial appeal communication and subsequent follow-ups.

    • Establishing relationships and service level agreements with relevant external suppliers, e.g. print-houses, to outline processes, roles and responsibilities around fundraising appeals. Where possible, this should include pre-printing of emergency appeal materials (e.g. letterheads and envelopes), so turnaround time can be minimised. Pre-designed email templates and SMS messages can also be established, for the same effect. This will also give supporters a consistent design element for all emergency appeal communications.

  • When developing content for appeals, affiliates should first consult situation reports circulated by IHART for background information on the situation and ActionAid’s initial/planned response. All appeal content should be in line with ActionAid’s planned response and should not suggest that we will be engaging in activities that are not outlined in the situation report/Emergency Response and Resilience Building Plan or communicated directly by IHART. As with all public communications, emergency appeals should communicate ActionAid’s rights-based approach and not present those affected by the disaster as helpless victims.

  • If affiliates have specific communications content requirements – e.g. photos, quotes from affected community members, etc. – they should link with IHART in the first instance to request such content.

    NOTE: the ActionAid UK/ActionAid International Picture Desk function (contact, based in the UK, often has access to generic photos of the disaster through Alertnet, which can be made available for ActionAid public fundraising and web appeals.

    Best practice public appeal factors to consider are:

    • Compelling/emotional content from a person affected by the emergency, explaining how the disaster has affected them and their family and talking about what they need now to survive. For follow-up communications the case study should focus on a person who has benefited from ActionAid’s emergency response, talking about how our response has helped them and their family.

    • Strong photograph to accompany the case study.

    • Direct quote from an ActionAid staff member in the country of the emergency, to explain first-hand the depth of the emergency and to show that ActionAid is working on the ground, and have close connections with the communities affected.

Income raised from public and supporter appeals should be transferred to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund (DPRF). This is an internal ActionAid fund for disasters, which is managed by IHART. Appeal income from all fundraising affiliates will be pooled in the DPRF and disbursed to the affected member/country programme by IHART. The member/country programme then reports on the use of appeal income from the DPRF, and IHART shares these reports with fundraising affiliates. This system is designed to reduce the burden on the member/ country programme during disaster responses – instead of linking with several affiliates and having to manage and report on multiple grants, IHART liaises with the member/country programme on behalf of the federation and channels all appeal income through a single mechanism.

The DPRF handbook describes in detail the processes for managing and reporting on appeal income through the DPRF.

When a public appeal is launched, IHART will maintain a record of all income, and targeted income, for the disaster and communicate this regularly to the affected country programme and Oversight Group for planning purposes. The affected member/country programme and IHART will have an MOU that outlines accountabilities for appeal income.

Further support and guidance on running emergency fundraising appeals can be provided by IHART and International Fundraising (see contact details in Annex 4).

ORANGE alert level disasters

In ORANGE alert level disasters, while fundraising remains a priority, it is not expected that affiliates will launch public or supporter appeals, although if they feel that there is a particular opportunity for these, they should discuss first with IHART and International Fundraising. Instead, as a minimum, affiliates should concentrate on seeking funds from institutional donors and major donors, guided by ongoing gaps in funding for the overall Emergency Response and Resilience Building Plan (ERRP).

Further support and guidance on running emergency fundraising appeals can be provided by IHART and International Fundraising (contacts Annex 4).