Gentleman | December 2021

Changing the culture of donation, creating new tools for charity, betting on millennials: these are the goals of Fondazione Italia Sociale, which brings together some of the most important Italian companies

By Emanuele Elli

In Italy, people donate little and poorly (we rank 33rd in the World Giving Index…). Those more suitable to donate do so, in proportion, less than other less affluent people. Italy’s identikit, drawn through a survey on the philanthropic experience of wealthy people (that is, with assets worth between 500.000 and 10 million euros) conducted by Fondazione Italia Sociale ( is not flattering. However, this is hardly surprisingly to the operators of the third sector. In fact, it was the premise for the rearrangement of the field that resulted in the new Codice and fostered the birth of new bodies that organize and thus encourage donations, producing an ecosystem of suitable professional figures. In fact, the increasing complexity of the world requires adequate preparation to donate (and to receive).

Fondazione Italia Sociale was born in 2018 upon public initiative, with the aim of fostering private ventures dedicated to social projects, thus enriching a welfare network that today cannot rely solely on public finances. “We wish to nurture the culture of donation in Italy,” states Gianluca Salvatori, secretary general of Fondazione, “and to increase charitable resources from 10 to 15 billion euros by 2030. Our tasks include creating new tools for charity, orienting resources towards particularly deprived areas, i.e. national projects, which, contrary to local ventures, usually attract less sponsors or participation”.

Fondazione Italiana Sociale has founded a research center, drawn two legislative proposals about the third sector and gathered the support of some among the most important private companies of the Country. Moreover, it has developed two new fundraising tools inspired by international experiences: a national charity lottery and a body dedicated to managing Donor Funds.

“This is the first Charity Lottery in Italy and the only one which allocates the entire proceeds, including the prize, to charitable purposes. Moreover, the body dedicated to managing donor funds supports the creation of single funds by companies or single individuals – the donor indicates their end use but delegates their management to an umbrella foundation. This is a model designed for average or big donors (that is, with donations from 400.000 euro and above), but it is also appreciated by companies for its fewer commitments and lower management fees than the creation of a family or corporate foundation would entail”.

There is still much progress to make, especially for what concerns affluent people. Out of the 10 billion euros destined to the third sector, the large majority is made of small sums. Therefore, Fondazione set itself to analyze in depth the habits of affluent people through a survey conducted with the financial research institute Finer Finance Explorer. The survey involved 1.375 people – 197 with assets worth between 5 and 10 million euros and 1.178 with assets worth between 500.000 and 5 million euros. “The survey gave interesting results, interesting both in themselves and in comparison with other Countries,” states Nicola Ronchetti, founder and CEO of the think tank that conducted the survey. Of particular interest is the comparison with the UK, comparable to Italy for population, yet with a higher average wealth. In Italy, over one third of the people interviewed donates less than one thousand euros a year and only 6% donate over 100.000 euros (17% in the UK); among the super wealthy, the average donation represents less than 0,1% of their assets. 85% of the people interviewed donate to one organization only, while in the UK 95% donate to more than one organization; only 14% are actively involved as voluntary workers, as compared to one third in the UK.

“British people live charity more responsibly,” states Ronchetti. “They choose, donate, enter in the board, hand over their skills. In Italy, philanthropy is lived as an answer to advertised necessities. In fact, the fear of impoverishment is not mentioned among the hurdles to charity, but rather the many requests and the lack of trust in associations when they do not represent a direct acquaintance. For the third sector, this is a paradoxical problem – the sector is very fragmented and thus would benefit from a certain degree of concentration, however financial support is still dependent on personal acquaintance with donors”.

Yet another theme is the so-called testamento solidale, described by 81% of people as the ideal tool for philanthropy (time will tell if they are telling the truth: over the next 10 years, one fifth of the wealth of Italians is predicted to be left without a direct heir) and an instrument for the higher level of involvement of companies, more responsive to charity issues than their shareholders.

“The survey highlights that, for a better future, we need to bet on two elements,” concludes Nicola Ronchetti: “ the involvement of Millennials, who show higher sensibility towards topics like culture and environment, in line with the synergies advocated by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan; and widening the network of financial advisors engaged in issues pertaining to philanthropy, which cannot concern lawyers and accountants alone, but would benefit from the involvement of financial advisors and the world of banks”.