Opinion: 5 tips for NGOs aiming at commercial contracts

Commercial contracts can be a big income generator for NGOs — if they can be procured in the first place. Photo by: Unsplash

Commercial contracts are a real and valuable source of income for many NGOs, yet they also remain a major challenge. Pursuing these opportunities is often viewed with skepticism about the impact on an organization’s nonprofit mandate, its soul.

Many of these fears are justified, but they should not tempt us to ignore the alternative operating basis that commercial contracts represent. Managed correctly, these contracts can help overcome some of the formidable challenges many NGOs face today: Falling grant income, the end of unrestricted partnership grants from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, more competition among NGOs, new entrants to the sector and an increasingly challenged or shrinking civic space in some countries.

So you want to switch from DfID grants to contracts

The processes for procuring DfID grants and contracts aren't so different; here are some tips for making the switch.

Attracting and successfully winning  commercial contacts is also littered with potential tripwires. Together with my colleagues at MzN International, we have been privileged to help several major international NGOs get “commercial contract ready.” Here are the top five tips we have learned.

1. Get ready and get serious

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About the author

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    Christian Meyer zu Natrup

    Christian Meyer zu Natrup is the founder and director of MzN International, a social enterprise focused on making the development and aid sector work better. Chris and his team at MzN work with NGOs, U.N. agencies and governments worldwide to build sustainable funding strategies, advocate for better working public institutions and research sensible innovation that helps beat poverty. Chris regularly writes about innovations in global development and aid. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChristianMzN