40% of UK NGOs say they will collapse within 6 months without new support

Our COVID-19 coverage is free. Please consider a Devex Pro subscription to support our journalism.
£1 coin. Photo by: Dado Ruvic / Reuters

LONDON — More than 40% of U.K. development NGOs say they will collapse within six months if they receive no new financial support, according to a survey — and that figure appears to be rising.

Bond, the U.K. network for development NGOs, found that 50 out of 116 organizations it surveyed — 43% — could close because of the financial pressures sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

DFID sets out measures to support UK NGOs

The news is some relief for struggling NGOs — but they say more support is needed.

A previous Bond survey, conducted about a month ago, found that 34 NGOs out of 93 surveyed — or about 37% — feared collapse within six months.

Experts expressed concern about the figures and repeated calls for a “stabilization fund” to shore up the finances of struggling NGOs.

The organizations expecting to suffer the most are small and medium-sized NGOs — those with an annual expenditure of up to £20 million ($25 million).

“Government and donors worldwide, including the U.K. government, must act to protect NGOs.”

— Melissa Leach, director, Institute of Development Studies

But eight large organizations with bigger budgets also say they will not be able to survive another six months without more support.

The U.K.’s Department for International Development recently announced measures to support its NGO partners, including some advance payments and cash-flow support, but stopped short of announcing a stabilization fund.

DFID said it has provided £200 million in support to charities and international organizations, but most of that has gone to United Nations agencies, while the £20 million earmarked for NGOs is for programs rather than supporting the operational costs of running an organization.

Bond CEO Stephanie Draper said, “If over a third of organizations — particularly small, specialist ones — fold over the next six months, more vulnerable people will be at greater risk of going without food, clean water, education, and health care.”

She added: “To support NGO programs and their response to global challenges around the world, we ask donors to explore new funding mechanisms, including a stabilization fund, that allow NGOs, both big and small, to cover their core costs so they can to continue to provide essential services and ensure we do not leave the poorest behind."

Melissa Leach, director at the Institute of Development Studies, said that “government and donors worldwide, including the U.K. government, must act to protect NGOs,” which play a key role in delivering “transformational work.”

A DFID spokesperson said: “We have allocated £20 million of U.K. aid directly to NGOs to support their response to the pandemic. We have also pledged another £180 million to multilaterals and international charities to tackle coronavirus in developing countries and are encouraging recipients, such as the U.N., to channel this funding as quickly as possible to their own partners, including to NGOs.

“The international development secretary has, in addition, just written to our supply partners, including NGOs, to set out additional support on offer so they can deliver lifesaving programs.”

Visit our dedicated COVID-19 page for news, job opportunities, and funding insights.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.