DfID’s Top NGO partners: A primer

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell speaks with members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent about the humanitarian situation in Libya. Photo by: DfID / CC BY

When disaster strikes, British NGOs are usually among the first on the scene. Why? Because of their global reach and their support from one the world’s most generous donors, the U.K. government.

The United Kingdom’s relief and development arm, the Department for International Development, spent more than $12 billion on aid activities in 2010, making it the second-largest bilateral aid agency in the world. DfID is one of only a handful that has opened up all funding opportunities to worldwide competition, although the bulk still goes to domestic groups.

No wonder, then, that the U.K. NGO scene is highly influential with DfID. For smaller institutions looking to subcontract on DfID-sponsored projects, and for consultants and aid workers eying a U.K. government job, it pays to work with one of DfID’s NGO implementing partners first. The reward: crucial networking opportunities and experience in collaborating with a donor that, with the Cameron administration’s focus on aid transparency and value for money, has emerged as a leading global aid reformer.

Here are DfID’s leading NGO partners based on the volume of funding they received from May 12, 2010 — when Mitchell assumed his role as head of the bilateral donor agency — to June 30, 2011. DfID, along with seven of the organizations below, made the list of Devex Top 40 Development Innovators.

1. International Committee of the Red Cross

Founded: 1863Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland President: Jakob KellenbergerAwarded DfID funding: 55.8 million pounds ($90.1 million)

The Red Cross’s vast network of supporters and its reputation as an independent, impartial first responder has allowed the group to deliver swift humanitarian relief to victims of violence and war. Its U.K. chapter is the oldest member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. ICRC has won three Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1917, 1944 and 1963.

The awarded funding does not include grants provided to the British Red Cross, in the amount of 4.7 million pounds.

2. Population Services International

Founded: 1970Headquarters: Washington, D.C., USAPresident and CEO: Karl HofmannAwarded DfID funding: 40.9 million pounds

PSI offers lifesaving products, clinical services and behavior change communications, with a focus on malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health. It has a presence in 67 countries and operates a European office in Amsterdam. In 2009, PSI, a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator, reported revenues of $524 million.

The awarded funding includes grants to PSI program affiliate Society for Family Health, in the amount of 11.2 million pounds.


Founded: 1972Headquarters: Dhaka, BangladeshExecutive director: Mahabub HossainAwarded DfID funding: 37 million pounds

BRAC is reportedly the largest NGO in the developing world. It provides microloans, self-employment opportunities, as well as health, education and legal services, which are said to have benefited more than 138 million people in Africa and Asia. BRAC was chosen in April 2011 as a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator. It boasts more than 47,000 full-time employees.

4. VSO International

Founded: 1958Headquarters: LondonChief executive: Marg MayneAwarded DfID funding: 32.6 million pounds

VSO is the world’s largest independent volunteer-sending charity. It has deployed more than 40,000 volunteers to work in poverty reduction efforts in at least 90 countries. VSO won as top international development charity in the U.K. Charity Awards 2004.

5. Save the Children

Founded: 1919Headquarters: LondonSave the Children International CEO: Jasmine WhitbreadAwarded DfID funding: 31.4 million pounds (includes all country offices)

Save the Children, another Devex Top 40 Development Innovator, works in more than 120 countries. It has 29 national member organizations and operates four offices that advocate for children at the African Union, European Union and United Nations.

6. International Rescue Committee U.K.

Founded: 1997Headquarters: LondonExecutive director: Carolyn MakinsonAwarded DfID funding: 29.6 million pounds

IRC-UK is the European headquarters of the International Rescue Committee, which works to save lives and rebuild communities in 42 countries. It hosts two of IRC’s technical units on governance and rights, as well as on economic recovery and development. IRC is another Devex Top 40 Development Innovator.

7. Oxfam

Founded: 1995Headquarters: OxfordOxfam International director: Jeremy HobbsAwarded DfID funding: 25.4 million pounds

Oxfam International is a confederation of 15 organizations that fight poverty and injustice. It provides lifesaving aid during humanitarian emergencies, supports sustainable development programs of local partner NGOs, raises public awareness and lobbies decision makers to change “policies and practices that reinforce poverty and injustice.” Oxfam is also a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator.

The awarded funding includes grants for Oxfam’s general account and institutional income account as well as Oxfam India’s trust fund.

8. CARE International

Founded: 1945Secretariat headquarters: Châtelaine, SwitzerlandSecretary general: Robert GlasserAwarded DfID funding: 18.3 million pounds (includes country offices)

CARE International comprises 12 national organizations working to end global poverty. In 2010, this Devex Top 40 Development Innovator says it supported 905 projects that benefited 82 million people in 87 countries. CARE is often among the first responders to emergencies caused by natural disasters and conflicts.

9. Medicines for Malaria Venture

Founded: 1999Headquarters: Geneva, SwitzerlandCEO: David ReddyAwarded DfID funding: 13 million pounds

MMV seeks to discover, develop and help deliver new, effective drugs against malaria in endemic countries. It is a virtual organization, having no laboratories nor drug manufacturing facilities. It relies entirely on public and private sector partners to meet its mission.

10. International Planned Parenthood Federation

Founded: 1952Headquarters: London President: Jacqueline Sharpe Awarded DfID funding: 12.8 million pounds

IPPF champions sexual and reproductive health rights worldwide. It says it is one of the world’s largest organizations, having more service delivery points than McDonald’s. It has six regional offices and works in more than 170 countries. The federation has 153 member associations.

11. Merlin

Headquarters: London Awarded DfID funding: 12.5 million pounds

12. Christian Aid

Headquarters: London Awarded DfID funding: 10.9 million pounds

13. Malaria Consortium

Headquarters: London Awarded DfID funding: 9.4 million pounds

14. Comic Relief

Headquarters: London Awarded DfID funding: 8.65 million pounds


Headquarters: London Awarded DfID funding: 8.55 million pounds

16. Action Against Hunger

Headquarters (U.K.): London Awarded DfID funding: 6.8 million pounds (including country offices)

17. Plan International

Headquarters (U.K.): London Awarded DfID funding: 6.4 million poundsDevex Top 40 Development Innovator

18. ActionAid

Headquarters (U.K.): London Awarded DfID funding: 6.3 million pounds (including country offices)

19. Concern Worldwide

Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland Awarded DfID funding: 6.2 million pounds

20. Aeras

Headquarters: Rockville, Md., USAAwarded DfID funding: 5.5 million pounds

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.