How to Win Business with Foreign Donors

A construction crew works on a road project in Shebirghan, in northern Afghanistan's Farah province. Development firms and nonprofits that work in hot spots like Afghanistan may find doing business with multiple foreign donors a tempting prospect. Photo by: Massoud Hossaini/USAID

Development organizations may be tempted to compete for overseas funding to grow their business. But winning work with foreign bilateral donors requires a long-term commitment, smart partnerships and the ability to adapt to a new client's demands.

"It's always hard to break in," said Emerging Markets Group President Andy Dijkerman.

EMG is a U.S.-based firm that serves American, European and multilateral donors.

"Even though the apparent barriers have come down," Dijkerman noted, referring to a trend by governments around the globe to allow contracting with foreign firms, "the hidden barriers are still there. And a lot of those hidden barriers are related to relationship development, being known and having credibility [with donors] and so on … One needs to be a bit patient in one's attempt to break in because it's not fast - it's slow."

This article is for Devex Members

For full access to the content of the article sign in or join Devex.

About the author

  • Oliver profile pic

    Oliver Subasinghe

    Oliver joined Devex in late 2008 as an international development correspondent and researcher. He previously served as a microfinance fellow for Kiva in Kenya and Uganda. During his tenure, he worked with Kiva’s field partners to improve their operations and governance. Oliver holds a master's in business from the College of William & Mary.