New coalition brings NGOs together for famine fundraising

    Majok received beans, oil and salt for himself and 8 of his family members during a food distribution by Oxfam in South Sudan, where many people are affected by the conflict. Photo by: Lauren Harnett / Oxfam / CC BY-NC-ND

    A group of eight international nongovernmental organizations are hoping that their unprecedented partnership will help draw attention and funds for the famine-like conditions endangering more than 20 million people across the globe.

    Large swathes of the populations in Somalia, Yemen and north-east Nigeria are hovering on the brink of famine, while a famine emergency was declared in South Sudan earlier this spring. NGO leaders say the magnitude of the crisis has not received the attention or support it needs since the United Nations first raised alarm bells in February.

    Now, CARE, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision have created the Global Emergency Response Coalition, which will run a two-week fundraising campaign beginning on Monday. This marks the first time the organizations have worked together to raise funds.

    “Our view is we can’t sit and wait,” said Tessie San Martin, the CEO of Plan International. The group of organizations hope they can collectively succeed where they have struggled individually, she said. While NGOs have seen some international commitments, donor support is so far insufficient to address the crisis, and funds can take time to be distributed.

    While the eight NGOs frequently collaborate on the ground or in policy advocacy, they have generally guarded their fundraising efforts, where they compete with one another for donors. The organizations also work hard to build and maintain individual brands and reputations.

    Those challenges are why this kind of collaboration hasn’t happened before, San Martin said. But the scale of the emergency and a need to act before the situation gets worse made the organizations set aside some of their concerns.

    “There is something very unifying in the urgency, in the sense of need and how powerful it would be to come together to break through and make this known,” said Abby Maxman, president and CEO of Oxfam America.

    The coalition will fundraise collectively for two weeks and then split the funds raised equally between the organizations. Via a separate platform that they manage, the NGOs may be able to raise funds where they are needed more quickly than usual contributions.

    Putting together the coalition did not come without challenges. Partnering organizations had to decide upon and agree to certain terms and parameters, including sharing how funding will be spent. Those involved are hopeful their work building the partnership can serve as a model for working together in the future.

    “I think that the commitment around collaboration is strong,” Maxman said. “I think there’s both the individual and collective interest in continually examining how we create impact most effectively, whether in the humanitarian or development space.”

    This coalition is time limited and will serve to test the model. The organizations will review how the collaboration works and see if it is a model they want to replicate.

    “It reflects the fact that we all need to be thinking differently that whatever has worked well for us the last 50 to 70 years is not necessarily what’s going to create success for us in terms of really delivering impact on the ground going forward,” San Martin said. “We do need to dare to think differently.”

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    About the author

    • Adva Saldinger

      Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.