4 key trends in private humanitarian fundraising

Compared to publicly funded donations, private contributions represent a significantly smaller portion of global humanitarian assistance. But it won’t be a stretch to think that in the future that share — currently at 25 percent — could grow, given the recent trends.

And that’d be welcome news for relief groups. Humanitarian agencies highly value donations from individuals, corporations and private foundations because they offer greater flexibility than contributions from government and multilateral institutions, which normally carry tight conditions on whom, when, where and how the money should be spent, according to a new report looking at the pattern and volume of humanitarian spending sourced from private donors.

“That means, it could be used for less popular sectors that perhaps government funders don't fund as much,” Chloe Stirk, author of the report and program adviser for the Development Initiatives’ Global Humanitarian Assistance program, told Devex.

The report indicated that institutional donations have not kept pace with the increasing humanitarian needs. As such, if private humanitarian funding from traditional sources such as North America and Europe remains the same and organizations see a spurt of income from new markets, “then potentially we could start to see the share of private humanitarian funding increasing,” Stirk noted.

Click the infographic for a summary of the report’s findings.

Private humanitarian assistance in numbers. Source: “Humanitarian assistance from nonstate donors: What is it worth?” Global Humanitarian Assistance program

Stirk completed the report using data provided by more than 80 organizations and interviews with select groups. And based on these as well, she shared with Devex what she expects could shape the future of private humanitarian fundraising.

1. The private sector will become more involved in humanitarian aid delivery

Corporate partnerships go beyond money, with companies also providing expertise and goods to aid groups responding to crises. The report noted, however, the difficulty of reporting about their value.

2. Aid organizations will fundraise more actively in emerging economies

South Africa is a growing market for humanitarian fundraising; organizations are also looking at Kenya and Nigeria. That said, Europe and North America will likely remain the biggest source of privately sourced income for humanitarian agencies.

“They certainly weren't going to stop focusing on those markets for their fundraising and that they're going to diversify,” Stirk added.

3. Domestic fundraising for domestic crises will grow

Some international humanitarian agencies have developed programs to mobilize funds in countries affected by disasters. Médecins Sans Frontières, for instance, is developing a fundraising model in India.

“India has huge numbers of people affected by natural disasters every year … and what we might see is an increase in private domestic response to crisis,” Stirk said.

4. Digital technology will be key to increasing private income for humanitarian groups

Stirk as well as the report gave the example of that International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and its use of a global donation and engagement platform called ammado to boost corporate donations to large-scale emergencies.

“That has a potential for huge impact in terms of their capacity to fundraise in response to crises because they can get that platform online within an hour or two of a crisis hitting,” she said. “It can be accessed by millions of people worldwide very quickly.”

Join the Devex community and access more in-depth analysis, breaking news and business advice — and a host of other services — on international development, humanitarian aid and global health.

About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.