Interview with Sotiris Petropoulos from HIGGS, Greece

Our Italian partner Fondazione Lang Italia interviewed Sotiris Petropoulos from HIGGS, our Greek partner.

Publication date: 30 Oct 2019


Sotiris Petropoulos, Founder and Director of HIGGS, presents the mission, activities and achievements of HIGGS. Sotiris furthermore reflects on the potential avenues for development the organization’s cooperation with the TGE Network has opened for the Greek philanthropic sector.


HIGGS, social innovation incubator at the service of Greek non-profit organizations


Thanks to our new Greek partner HIGGS joining the TGE Network in February 2019, it is now possible for European nonprofits to collect donations from their Greek benefactors, guaranteeing them the fiscal benefits provided by Greek legislation; vice versa, European donors will be able to support their favorite Greek organizations, while receiving their national fiscal benefits for gifts.

HIGGS is a social innovation incubator that helps non-profit organizations to grow providing them free training and mentoring activities. The name is a tribute to the scientist Peter Higgs, who showed that the void is not empty, but actually rich in particles: if we “hit” the vacuum, we generate energy. This is indeed the mission of HIGGS: to move the invisible forces of the Greek social sector, stimulating people and organizations to activate new projects. There is no “empty space”, but a not-fully-exploited energy: with the right support and direction, it can bring excellent results.


HIGGS has just joined Transnational Giving Europe Network: how will this help Greek donors and Greek nonprofit organizations? And what do you expect from this activity?

HIGGS’ recent collaboration with the Transnational Giving Europe Network will provide the Greek nonprofits and donors with important benefits in the donations and sustainability field.

HIGGS has significant experience in working with nonprofits in Greece, in-depth knowledge of their needs and challenges and solid track record of how to support Greek civil society. Due to our statute’s objectives, we are benefiting from income tax incentives, allowing particularly HIGGS to make grants to organizations in Greece with tax-deductible donations received.

Thanks to our partnership with the TGE Network, we will be able to promote the cross-border philanthropy in Greece and the region, through the exchange of information and best practices, and provide a secure and efficient solution to enable cross-border donations. The timing is also important as the Greek Nonprofit ecosystem is becoming more internationalized and has drawn the attention of various European donors. HIGGS will be facilitating tax-effective donations from Greek donors, accepting donations from abroad and enabling organizations to extend fundraising to foreign countries, without having to set up branches or sister organizations for that sole purpose and without having to master different national laws.

We are certain that our collaboration will improve and extend the TGE network to new countries as a trusted and practical service for a tax-effective philanthropy across Europe. Moreover, we will advance philanthropy, by attracting more donors and initiating innovative projects in Greece, in the region and in Europe.


What are the fiscal benefits for a Greek donor using TGE?

The main benefits are related to the fact that their donation in favor of European organizations will benefit from the same tax-deductibility as donations directed to a Greek Nonprofit. In particular, individuals can deduct up to 10% of the amount donated, with the restriction that donations may not exceed 5% of the taxable income. For companies, the total amount will be deducted up to 10% of the net income or profits.


Does Greece have other tax incentives for giving?

Unfortunately, the Greek legal framework on donations is not very developed. During the past years some steps towards facilitating donations to nonprofits have been initiated, creating a more favorable fiscal environment than before.


What are the main particularities of the philanthropic environment in Greece?

The NGO sector in Greece can be described as a relatively young one. Though several studies have presented Greek civil society as weak, the recent dual crisis in Greece, i.e. the debt/economic crisis and the refugee crisis, have stimulated the enhancement of the sector through the strengthening of existing organizations as well as the creation of numerous new ones. According to recent studies (i.e. Thales 2015 and Thales II 2019) the sector consists of more than 700 active organizations, with an average of approximately 30 employees and 120 volunteers per organization. The ecosystem attracts more than €200,000,000 in donations per year with only a small part being channeled by single donors. Philanthropic foundations, CSR departments and European funding are the main source of funding. In terms of sectors covered, Greek nonprofits are present in the whole spectrum with the provision of social welfare and (more recently) the support of migrants / refugees attracting much of the dynamism the ecosystem has shown in the last decade.


Let’s talk about HIGGS: it was created in 2015 but actually your activity started three years before. So what is the origin of your organization and what is your aim?

HIGGS is the first Incubator & Accelerator for Nonprofits in Greece. It was founded in 2015 and started its activities on March 2016, with the aim to reinforce the nonprofit organizations through capacity building, in particular training, counseling, networking and events. Our goal is to provide the nonprofits with all the necessary skills, technical tools, knowledge and support, in order for them to operate effectively to the full of their capacity, to be more productive and sustainable, and maximize their social impact on Greek society. This way, we will manage to gradually cure everything that is wrong in Greek society and be able to experience a better reality than the one we have been living in and seeing in the last few years.

In its essence, HIGGS is the result of a series of turning points. The founders of HIGGS, Mr. Sotiris Petropoulos & Mr. Asteris Chouliaras, who are also professors at the University of the Peloponnese, were commissioned in 2012 by Stavros Niarchos Foundation, to design and implement an intensive training program, called “Autumn School”, in order to address the needs of nonprofits operating in Athens, Greece. The program, being rather successful, was then expanded to 8 additional Greek cities reaching more than 230 organizations across Greece.

At the same time, they designed a program, entitled “THALES – Evaluation of Greek Nonprofit Organizations”. This program led to the assessment of 158 nonprofits in Greece, and, due to its research character, confirmed the existence of the same needs in the ecosystem. THALES was completed in 2015 creating the first ever credibility index of Greek nonprofits.

Because of our team’s success and the constant confirmation of the nonprofits educational needs, we decided to set up a more systematic support model that would provide them with all the necessary tools, methodologies and monitoring, in an innovative and inspiring space in Athens. So, HIGGS was born; a hub of creativity and open dialogue that promotes collaboration and innovation in the Nonprofit sector, as well as a meeting place of all interested parties, both literally and symbolically!


What is the relation between HIGGS and Stavros Niarchos Foundation?

Stavros Niarchos Foundation was the first donor that believed in our vision and trusted us to bring change in the society.

In 2012, it funded and co-designed with our team the “Autumn School”, the intensive educational program that was implemented all over Greece. Later, in 2015, it reaffirmed its trust in our team by becoming our Founding Donor and covering all the functional needs of our newly established organization for its first two years. After these two years, the Foundation renewed our collaboration by offering us a challenge grant: For every funding we receive from other stakeholders, the Foundation increases it by 2.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation is one of our strongest supporters in our vision and our most trusted partners. Through its frequent presence at our events, its generous support in all our efforts and its valuable guidance, it gives us even greater impetus to achieve our goals.


What are your main projects? What results have you achieved?

In order to achieve our goals, we offer 3 core programs: the Incubator, the Accelerator and the Recharge.

Image result for icon bullet point" The Incubator program addresses to new initiatives or organizations that are in the process of being created (or have already taken their first steps), and lasts from 12 to 24 months. It helps them organize and operate efficiently, build their strategy, attract volunteers, as well secure their first funding.

Image result for icon bullet point" The Accelerator program has a 6-months duration and focuses on small and medium-sized organizations. During this program we work with them on reviewing their strategy and on writing and submitting a funding proposal.

Both programs provide the nonprofits with all the necessary skills, tools, knowledge, and support in key areas such as: Management, Planning – Implementation – Monitoring – Project Evaluation, Budgeting, Legal, Resource, Networking and Communication, in order for them to work effectively and effectively. Our team of experts help the nonprofits work on the strategic planning in order to address organizational and management problems in their entirety, such as their organizational chart, their staff and volunteer management system and their marketing and communication plan, so that they will be in a position to successfully absorb funding. As part of our programs we also provide them with networking with major Greek and international nonprofits, as well as day-to-day support in generating funding proposals for domestic and international donors.

Image result for icon bullet point" The Recharge program lasts 6 months and targets nonprofits that have been operating for at least 5 years and are facing a vital need to adjust rapidly and effectively to a constantly changing environment. Through a business performance consulting service, the nonprofits improve and upgrade their operation and enhance their capacity to apply structured solutions.

Moreover, in collaboration with well-known organizations, corporate representatives, nonprofit experts and media, we organize educational events and seminars open to the general public, covering topics and needs we have realized that exist in the ecosystem and building bridges between them and potential donors.

Finally, HIGGS is collaborating with the National Bank of Greece “Business Seeds” program and the US Embassy Athens in terms of exchanging expertise and organizing trainings. We have, also, undertaken an educational, consulting and external evaluator role for Municipality of Athens and Doctors Without Borders. We are associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications – Civil Society Unit, disseminating information about United Nations priority issues and the role of the organization to the world, networking with other nonprofits and contributing to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

At the same time, we have nonprofits in our venues for meetings and other activities, encouraging dialogue, cooperation, innovation and networking.

Until now, 121 NGOs from all over Greece have participated in HIGGS’ programs, which, consequently, affect more than 150,000 beneficiaries, coming from a variety of vulnerable groups. Indicatively: children, homeless, refugees, imprisoned, drug addicts, blind, mentally disabled, with mobile disabilities, patients, the elderly, animals, the environment. We helped them, also, create more than 50 new job positions and secure approximately €3,000,000 in funds.


For more information, visit HIGGS’ website here.

Whether you are a Greek donor seeking to support an organization in another EU country; or a Greek organization with donors abroad, we invite you to get in touch with HIGGS at:

Phone: +30 211 4116300

Email: [email protected]

Address: Viktoros Ougko 15, Metaxourgeio – Athens, Greece, 10437