Mordaunt pledges more funding for small and specialist NGOs

A scene during last year’s Bond annual conference. Photo by: Vicki Couchman / Bond / CC BY-NC-ND

LONDON — The United Kingdom’s aid chief Penny Mordaunt has announced new funding for small charities and specialist humanitarian organizations during her opening speech at the Bond conference in London.

“Let’s spend less time and energy negotiating with each other and more time helping the people we serve.”

— Victoria Wickenden, director of programs, CARE

Speaking Monday at the annual meeting organized by the umbrella group for U.K. aid NGOs, secretary of state Mordaunt said she wants to hand over a larger share of the budget from the Department of International Development to small charities “who do so much with small sums.”

As part of this, she announced plans to lift the £4 million ($5.31 million) cap on the Small Charities Challenge Fund, first announced at the Bond Conference two years ago. It offers grants of up to £50,000 to small, grassroots British charities working in lower-income countries. The new SCCF will go live in the summer and be “nimbler, easy to apply to, open and have a rolling application process,” Mordaunt said.

“There will be no cap. If you meet the grade, if you represent the best of British, you will have the funds you need to deliver the global goals,” Mordaunt said.

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The DFID chief also pledged £3.35 million over three years for members of the Humanitarian 2 Humanitarian network, a group of small international charities providing specialist services such as mapping and translation to humanitarian actors.

Ground Truth Solutions is a member of H2H, and captures the perspectives of local people and staff affected by crises in order to improve humanitarian response. Director Nick Van Praag said the new DFID funding would help support small, specialized agencies like his own, which can struggle to find funding.

“These players are mostly seen as too important to overlook but too complicated to fund because of the administrative burden on donors. The H2H fund offers a way to square the circle by bringing the expertise of smaller humanitarian service providers into the emergency response mix in an affordable way,” he told Devex in an email.

But he added “its full potential will only be realized when other donors join DFID to bulk up this promising new initiative.”

Efforts are also underway to make DFID easier for NGOs to do business with, Mordaunt said during her speech.

“In response to your feedback, we're also making changes at DFID: Shortening funding timescales, and when we do fund, ensuring that we pay full costs; promoting greater transparency; and making our funding more predictable,” she said.

The announcements were welcomed by many delegates. “We are really pleased to hear the secretary of state publicly commit to faster procurement and full cost recovery. Let’s spend less time and energy negotiating with each other and more time helping the people we serve,” Victoria Wickenden, CARE’s director of programs, told Devex.

Partnerships were also a major focus of Mordaunt’s speech, with the minister saying she was writing to the heads of “hundreds of British organizations inviting them into DFID” to form partnerships as part of a new initiative.

“Just think what we could achieve if we enabled all that our nation has to offer to be put behind the delivery of the global goals. That is the aim of the Great Partnerships initiative, working out how we connect our people, our discoveries, talents, skills and knowledge to the relevant problems and opportunities across the globe,” she said.

However, Jesse Griffiths, a specialist in development finance at the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank, said he doubts whether the aid industry, which is already highly fragmented, needs new partnerships.

“The way Mordaunt talks about partnerships … is about multiplying the different channels by which aid is spent when actually … we should be trying to focus on finding ways people can work together rather than creating lots of new channels,” he said.

About the author

  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.