How start-up NGOs can gain equal footing in development work

Victoria Garchitorena, former managing director of the Ayala Foundation and current chief of party of the Phil-Am Fund. Start-up non-governmental organizations should partner with bigger and more experienced aid groups to gain credible experience and expertise in development work, Garchitorena said. Photo by: George Parrilla / CC BY

Funding and technical support is a crucial component for any humanitarian organization to successfully implement development programs. But to gain funding, donors set minimum requirements including enough experience and expertise — something which start-up NGOs don’t have much of.

So how can start-up non-governmental organizations gain credible experience and expertise in development work for future funding applications?

For a Philippine NGO leader, partnering with bigger and more experienced aid groups is the way to go. Development programs, despite the nobility of its cause, require some credibility in the way they are conducted, something which established organizations are more accustomed to.

“One way to help start-up NGOs is for them to partner with more established ones which can act as a big brother or big sister until the new NGO can stand on their own track record,” Victoria Garchitorena, former managing director of the Ayala Foundation and current chief of party of the Phil-Am Fund, told Devex.

The Philippines is considered to have one of the most active and vibrant NGO sector in the world with over 60,000 registered aid groups in the country. Despite this, however, many of these organizations in the country still fail to achieve significant results in line with development goals. Effectiveness and accountability remain a huge hurdle in achieving development, something that start-up NGOs can fill in once they are capable and experienced.

Track record

Donors require humanitarian organizations to prove their track record in doing development work because they want to make sure that their money is being spent effectively and efficiently. This, according to Garchitorena, ensures at the very least that mistakes are minimized and positive results are maximized.

“Funders need to ensure that their funds are properly utilized, so there is need for the NGOs to show some track record as basis for approval of the grant,” she noted. “They should apply for funding for projects for which they have proven track record or clear capability of delivering on the activities and outputs they are proposing.”

The issue of track record gained solid ground in a recent report released by Transparency International in Bangladesh, noting that some organizations without experience in climate change and environmental programs were given grants from the country’s climate change trust fund. The incident, the report claims, produced sub-optimal results and ineffectiveness for the country’s climate change initiatives.

To minimize ineffectiveness and other pitfalls, Garchitorena said monitoring and evaluation should be strict not only for donors but also from implementing NGOs themselves, spurring a mentality of “due diligence” in these organizations not only because it is required but also because it is necessary for the recipients of the programs.

“[Monitoring and evaluation is] very important. Funders can make mistakes, and so can NGOs.” she said. “With proper and timely monitoring, problems can be identified early and corrective measures undertaken to help the NGO revise its plans or undertake remedial measures before the problem becomes too big to be resolved without [the] loss of face, funds, or reputation.”

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.