Top DfID NGO partners: A primer

Christian Aid's Tax Justice Bus tours across Britain and Ireland to raise awareness about tax justice. Christian Aid is the official relief and development agency of 40 British and Irish churches. Photo by: John Cooper / Christian Aid / CC BY

Nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups are central to the U.K. Department for International Development’s aid delivery strategy. DfID reports that in 2011-2012, 880 million pounds ($1.2 billion), or 11.8 percent of its total program expenditure, was channeled through these groups.

Program Partnership Arrangements are one of the principal mechanisms by which DfID funds NGO partners, providing 120 million pounds each year through these instruments. For the current 2011-2014 funding round, DfID awarded PPAs to 41 organizations.

In May 2013, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact concluded that the organizations involved appeared to be on track to deliver their expected results and that the PPAs created improvements in their internal governance and management systems. DfID, however, lacked precision in framing its own objectives for the PPA instrument and, as a result, gained less knowledge from the process than it could have. ICAI also noted that PPA holders seemed to be burdened by DfID’s disproportionate monitoring and evaluation, which does little to reduce transaction costs. There are no PPAs currently open.

Other mechanisms used by DfID to fund NGOs include the following:

▪ The Common Ground Initiative, which increases access to grants for small and diaspora-led UK organizations creating sustainable changes to the poorest communities in Africa.
▪ The Disability Rights Fund, which assists the work of disabled people’s organizations in developing countries.
▪ The Global Poverty Action Fund, which provides funding to civil society organisations for projects that help reduce poverty.
▪ The U.K. Aid Match, which matches fund donations to charity appeals.

Application windows have closed for the Girls Education Challenge Fund, the Governance Transparency Fund and the Civil Society Challenge Fund.

Here are DfID’s leading NGO partners based on the volume of funding they received in the form of accountable grant payments, grants under the Civil Society Challenge Fund and PPAs, and payments for technical and advisory services from January to December 2012. Based on published contracts and grants valued at 500 pounds or more, DfID’s total spend for accountable grant payments was 495.4 million pounds, 145.5 million pounds for the Civil Society Challenge Fund and PPAs, and 502.3 million pounds for technical and advisory services.


Founded: 1972
Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Executive director: Mahabub Hossain
Awarded DfID funding: 51.3 million pounds

BRAC is reportedly the largest NGO in the world, based on number of employees and people served. The organization has more than 100,000 staff members and reports reaching an estimated 126 million people with its services. BRAC’s programming focuses on empowering the poor, especially women and girls, by providing them microloans and self-employment opportunities, as well as health, education and legal services.

2. Oxfam

Founded: 1995
Headquarters: Oxford, U.K.
International executive director: Jeremy Hobbs
Awarded DfID funding: 34.2 million pounds

Oxfam International is a confederation of 17 organizations known for responding to emergencies and lobbying decision-makers to reform policies that reinforce poverty and injustice. Oxfam funds projects of its partner organizations in 19 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and provides them with capacity-building assistance. Oxfam employs more than 700 people in 12 countries.

3. Population Services International

Founded: 1970
Headquarters: Washington, D.C., USA
President and CEO: Karl Hofmann
Awarded DfID funding: 31.8 million pounds; additionally, PSI-affiliate Society for Family Health country offices received 9.1 million pounds

PSI is a health organization that worked mostly in family planning in its first 15 years, but eventually expanded into broader health issues of people in the developing world, especially serious challenges such as HIV and AIDS, barriers to maternal health, and the greatest threats to children under 5, including malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. PSI works in partnership with local governments, ministries of health and local organizations. More than 8,000 staff members work for PSI and its affiliates.

SFH offices exist in Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia and Rwanda. PSI supports these organizations with financing (mostly bridge funding between donor funded projects), technical assistance, technology and innovation, and assistance in governance, to varying degrees. SFH-Nigeria has the capacity to manage its own funds and coordinate with international donors directly.

4. Save the Children

Founded: 1919
Headquarters: London, U.K.
President and CEO: Jasmine Whitbread
Awarded DfID funding: 29.4 million pounds (including grants awarded to country offices)

Save the Children works in more than 120 countries. It has 30 national member organizations and several coordinating offices. The organization’s work includes ensuring that children affected by floods, famines, earthquakes and armed conflict have access to medical aid, shelter, food and water; influencing policy to improve children’s access to education; and working with local communities to provide children with health services, especially for life-threatening conditions such as malaria, pneumonia and malnutrition.

5. International Rescue Committee U.K.

Founded: 1997
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Executive director: Carolyn Makinson
Awarded DfID funding: 26 million pounds

IRC-UK is the European headquarters of the International Rescue Committee, which works to save lives and rebuild communities in 42 countries. The organization raises funds for overseas programs, provides program management and technical support, and carries out policy and advocacy work in the United Kingdom and Europe on issues affecting people caught up in conflict and disaster. The IRC works in more than 40 countries through emergency relief, reconstruction, human rights protection, post-disaster recovery and advocacy programs.

6. Christian Aid

Founded: 1945
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Director: Loretta Minghella
Awarded DfID funding: 17.1 million pounds

Christian Aid is the official relief and development agency of 40 British and Irish churches. The organization supports sustainable development, poverty alleviation, civil society-building and disaster relief in South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Christian Aid speaks out on issues such as tax justice, trade justice, climate change and Third World debt. The agency claims to engage in projects and programs on a need basis, regardless of the religion, nationality or race of beneficiaries. Christian Aid works with 570 local partner organizations in 45 countries.

7. Marie Stopes International

Founded: 1976
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Interim CEO: Michael Holscher
Awarded DfID funding: 17.1 million pounds

Marie Stopes International focuses on sexual and reproductive health. The organization lobbies for the legalization of abortion and provides sexual and reproductive health care services including advice, vasectomies and abortions in the United Kingdom. With 8,500 team members, Marie Stopes International has worked in 1,700 social franchisees and 12,000 outreach locations. In 2010, 629 centers run by the organization across 40 countries provided 7 million couples with health services, including family planning, safe abortion and post-abortion care, maternal and child health care, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS.

7. CARE International

Founded: 1945
Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
Secretary-general: Robert Glasser
Awarded DfID funding: 16.5 million pounds

CARE International is a global confederation of 12 national members and two affiliate members. Each member is an autonomous organization and implements program, advocacy, fundraising and communication activities targeted at poverty alleviation in its own country and other developing countries. In 2012, CARE International worked in 84 countries, supporting 997 humanitarian aid and development projects and reaching more than 83 million people.

9. Voluntary Service Overseas

Founded: 1958
Headquarters: London, U.K.
President and CEO: Marg Mayne
Awarded DfID funding: 14.1 million pounds

VSO is an international development charity that recruits and trains professional volunteers to live and work in local communities. The organization has fielded more than 50,000 volunteers in at least 140 developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Latin America. VSO also offers short-term consultancy-oriented volunteer placements to complement more long-term placements and it supports more than 100 national volunteering programs in at least 20 countries. It has offices in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Kenya.

10. Malaria Consortium

Founded: 2003
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Chief executive: Charles Nelson
Awarded DfID funding: 10.1 million pounds

Malaria Consortium specializes in the prevention, control and treatment of malaria and other communicable diseases among vulnerable populations. The organization has programs and projects in 12 countries across Africa and Southeast Asia, with 95 percent of the staff working in malaria-endemic areas.

11. Manusher Jonno Foundation

Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Awarded DfID funding: 10 million pounds

12. Clinton Foundation

Headquarters: New York, USA
Awarded DfID funding: 9.6 million pounds (mostly for the Clinton Health Access Initiative)

13. International Planned Parenthood Foundation

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 8.1 million pounds

14. Merlin

Headquarters: Dorset, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 7.2 million pounds


Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 6.5 million pounds

16. ActionAid

Headquarters: Johannesburg, South Africa
Awarded DfID funding: 6.4 million pounds

17. The Carter Center

Headquarters: Atlanta, USA
Awarded DfID funding: 6.3 million pounds

18. Bond

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 6.3 million pounds

19. Action Against Hunger

Headquarters: New York, USA
Awarded DfID funding: 6 million pounds

20. IMA World Health

Headquarters: Maryland, USA
Awarded DfID funding: 6 million pounds

Also worth noting are the other nonprofit organizations and initiatives that were awarded grants and technical advisory contracts by DfID. These include BBC Media Action, the British Broadcasting Corp.’s International Development Charity (14.3 million pounds); Financial Sector Deepening, an independent trust that funds the development of financial markets in developing countries to expand poor people’s access to financial services (14.3 million pounds); and British Council, a registered charity and the U.K. international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

Academic institutions also received similar funding. These include the London School of Economics and Political Science, a public research university (9.5 million pounds); Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, a research and teaching institution and a registered charity affiliated with the University of Liverpool School of Medicine (7.3 million pounds); and the Institute of Development Studies, a research institute and registered charity based at the University of Sussex (6.1 million pounds).

Read more:

Top DfID private sector implementers: A primer
DfID’s contractor, CSO relations need improvement — aid watchdog
Assessing DfID reforms
Top global development organizations: The Devex lists

See our 2011 ranking of DfID’s top NGO partners. Check out more funding trends analyses online, and sign up as an Executive Member to receive the information you need for your organization to thrive.

About the author

  • Sharmila Parmanand

    Sharmila is currently an instructor at the University of Vermont. She has a master’s degree in gender and development and has supervised and conducted research projects on human trafficking and related issues. She has also worked as a debate and public-speaking consultant in more than 20 countries.