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While voluntary work is an important element in most NGOs' activities, obtaining funding may be necessary to successfully realise projects, campaigns and lobbying activities. Obtaining funding is a challenge for many NGOs, and this page aims at giving you an overview on how to go about tackling it. Questions regarding the right of NGOs to access funding have been examined in an ISHR briefing paper.
We are going to consider two types of potential donors: Institutional and individual donors. Institutional donors - such as state development agencies, UN and other international institutions, development banks, or private foundations and charities - may be able to contribute substantive amounts of money to your work and sometimes commit themselves for several years, while at the same time accompanying you throughout the realisation of your project through providing advice and contacts.
On the downside, you may lose autonomy when depending on one single donor. Therefore, some NGOs chose to raise a large part of their funds with private individuals. This allows you to strengthen your independence from state or UN donors and their interests and policies. In particular if you are engaging in advocacy activities, you should consider how receiving large donations from institutional donors impacts on the perception of your independence and thus on the legitimacy of your work. The disadvantage here is that raising your funds with individual donors may be more costly in terms of time and money you have to invest in order to secure the amount needed and to do so on a mid and longer term basis.
Fundraising with Institutional Donors
Keep in mind the following general principles to be followed when soliciting institutional donors:
- Know donors' priorities and grant requirements: Institutional donors usually have clearly stated goals they wish to achieve through grantmaking. Before you contact any potential donor, make sure you are aware of its priorities and conditions. You will increase your chances to actually obtain funding by carefully matching your proposal to the donor's grant requirements (thematic or regional focus, amounts to be allocated to projects, etc.). Gather as much information as possible before formally submitting a funding request - the first contact may proof decisive, and you have to make a good impression by showing that you understand a donor's priorities and that you can effectively contribute to their realisation. Using language and expressions outlined in grant conditions may help convincing your potential donor.
- Use and extend your network: Donors may be more inclined to fund projects of organisations they know. Therefore, it is important that you constantly aim at extending your network and that you let people know about your work. If a donor is aware of past successful projects realised by your organisation, this may increase your chances to secure funding for new projects. Make your organisation known and create a reputation for it. In the end, it is all about credibility!
- Be clear about your goals and how you want to achieve them: Condition for any successful funding request is that you be in a position to justify why your project is needed, to clearly state your goals and to show how you are going to achieve them. Be as specific as possible, and show the concrete impact your project will have on your stated goal.
- Establish a detailed and realistic budget: Donors want to know what you are going to do with their money. It is therefore important that you provide a detailed budget that states expected expenses along specific categories. Break expenses down as far as possible: donors usually do not like budgets that anticipate 60% of non specified "administrative expenses"! And be realistic in assessing your own capacities: does your organisation have the necessary expertise and time available to successfully realise the project?
Recursos sobre la recaudación de fondos
Más recursos útiles sobre la recaudación de fondos se encuentran en nuestras páginas en inglés y francés.
Development Agencies & Other Donor Contacts
Traditional bilateral agencies
European Union & Comission
Introductions to funding from the European Union
A very useful short introduction is given by the publication New funds, better rules. A more extensive overview is provided in the brochure Introduction to the thematic instruments and programmes for 2007-10. For further clarifications, you may consult the Civil Society Homepage which includes a database with a glossary of terms relevant to EU-NGO relations as well as a collection of relevant papers and guidelines.
EU funding - Basic distinctions
- Programmes run by national and local authorities of EU member states: These programmes are financed through so-called structural funds. Applications for these programmes need to be addressed directly to national or regional authorities.
- Programmes run by the European Commission: These programmes are administered either by the relevant Directorate-General (DG) of the Commission or by specific offices or agencies of the Commission (and probably soon also by the newly established European External Action Service). The Commission publishes calls for proposals. You need to send your funding application directly to the European Commission or to one of its agencies.
- Action grant: funding for a specific project of your NGO under a European programme. Normally, these projects have to be co-financed, meaning that the EU does not cover the whole amount needed to realise the project, but your organisation will have to cover the other part. Where justified, it may though be acceptable that the co-funding is done through an in-kind donation, for instance through contributions of your staff's working time.
- Operational grant: funding for the functioning of your NGO in general. Operational grants may be allocated only to NGOs whose aims correspond to a general European interest or form part of a European Union policy. Examples of European Community programmes providing operational grants are PROGRESS (social inclusion, non-discrimination, gender equality), Europe for Citizens, Action 2, LIFE+ (environment) or Culture 2007, Strand 2. See also the full list of community programmes.
- Assistance provided within EU member countries: Resources come from the so-called structural funds, such as for instance the European Social Fund. These funds are often - yet not exclusively - allocated to the social, educational, and environmental sectors. The website of the Directorate-General for Regional Policy provides information on the European Union's action in support of regional development.
- External assistance: Funding in non-EU member countries is mainly provided in the fields of development co-operation, human rights, democracy programmes, and humanitarian aid.
EU External Assistance (funding for countries outside the EU)
For the period 2007-2013, there are five instruments to provide external assistance (an 'instrument' in EU slang being a legal basis to provide funding):
In addition to these instruments, there are also two additional funding opportunities
- European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO): provides emergency assistance in cases of natural disasters or armed conflict outside the EU
- European Development Fund (EDF): provides funding for development cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries as well as overseas countries and territories in the fields of economic as well as social and human development, and regional cooperation and integration.
A graphical overview on these instruments to provide external assistance may allow you to better understand which instrument covers what and where. Based on these instruments, the EU funds a number of geographic and thematic programmes for which calls for proposals are regularly published. For the time being, external assistance is implemented by five different DGs . This is bound to change with the establishment of the European External Action Service . A Practical Guide (also called "the PRAG") has been published to explain procedures when applying for EU external assistance.
Identifying EU funding opportunities for your project or NGO
We have compiled a list of EU funding opportunities for you. It includes programmes, calls for proposals and operational grant opportunities from European institutions, for external assistance as well as funding within EU countries.
Traditional multilateral agencies
Funds and Foundations
Nuevos donadores y donadores estatales no tradiconales
Over the past few years, new actors have emerged in the world of aid and cooperation. For an overview on this trend, see a recent article published in The Economist. It could be worth checking with foreign ministries and - where they exist - with bilateral development agencies - if your work fits their conditions of funding. You may in particular check:
New members of the European Union such as Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia or Estonia among others)
Emerging Economies, such as Brazil, India, South Africa, China, Gulf countries
Multilateral Financial Institutions
Fundraising with individual donors
Many techniques of fundraising with individual donors, such as mailings, telemarketing or streetmarketing, are only suitable for NGOs of a certain size. Yet some techniques may also be promising for smaller organisation, in particular in order to raise funds for a specific small scale project, to gain some additional resources to complete your core funding or to support your advocacy activities. Here are some ideas of how small NGOs may raise funds with private individuals, while at the same time creating an opportunity for you to promote knowledge about your organisation by telling people about your project or your cause and engaging in discussions with the public:
- Holding a sales stall: Many NGOs regularily hold sales stalls in busy shopping streets, during the local market or at fun fairs and sell goods that their members have produced (for example sweets, handicraft, postcards etc.). A variation of this could also be to sell items that you have obtained for free from a private business (for example chocolates), based on the understanding that the revenue of the sales will be given to your NGO. Opting for selling items that have a close relationship with your NGOs project (for instance food from the country you are working on) can reinforce PR effect of your action.
- Organising a theme evening in a local business: You may be able to negotiate a theme evening with a local business (for instance a restaurant or a café), where a given percentage of the day's sales revenue goes to your organisation. To obtain such a deal, you will have to propose to the business owner to advertise the event within your network, offering thus a perspective of bringing in more clients than the business would usually get. Here as well you may wish to ad a special note related to your work, for instance through the foods and drinks offered or by decorating the premises in in accordance with your cause or project.
- Organising a or participating in a fun run / charity run / ralley: Charity runs typically are sport events where your members look for sponsors among families and friends who commit to contributing a certain amount for each unit achieved (for example, 1 dollar per kilometer run in a race).