This week, the U.K. Department for International Development launched a new page designed to make it easier for the aid agency’s development partners to find funding opportunities — a tool that has garnered the approval of a number of implementers.
Various filters make searching for opportunities easier. Users can choose the type of fund available per country or per sector, or which funds are applicable for a particular type of organization. For example, nongovernmental organizations, U.K.-based nonprofits and humanitarian relief organizations may be eligible to apply to DfID’s U.K. Aid Match fund, but not U.K.-based diaspora groups, local government institutions in partner countries or companies doing business with the agency.
Each fund, however, caters to specific sectors. The Match fund, for instance, has funding available for water and sanitation projects or those relating to livelihoods, but it doesn’t offer support for organizations looking for funding for technology-related activities or emergency crises.
The countries section includes all 28 DfID priority countries and territories, including India and South Africa — areas where the agency have begun downsizing its aid portfolio. Only two funding opportunities are currently open to these two countries: one for scholarships and fellowships for postgraduate study and another for professional development in the U.K. Both countries are eligible only because they are Commonwealth member nations.
Users can also filter by funding value. Some funds, for example, provide only up to 100,000 pounds ($164,256) per opportunity. Others offer as much as 1 million pounds.
In addition, the page allows users to check only funds that are currently open for proposals. And for those that already know the specific fund they are looking for, they can just type it down in the search function at the upper left part of the page.
Organizations doing business with DfID find the new page a big improvement from before. Jennifer Parsons, fundraising manager for Riders for Health, a small U.K. NGO, told Devex it is “very user-friendly and logical,” and makes DfID feel more “approachable.”
The eligibility function appears to be a favorite. Elliot Bates, VSO International’s institutional donor manager, said it is “particularly useful as this is probably the first question that an NGO needs to answer and it allows us to rapidly find the most appropriate opportunities for our programmes.”
He adds that this is useful not only for them in London, but also for their regional and country teams.
The funding page is yet another example of how DfID is leading donor efforts on transparency, an area it has been lauded for repeatedly. And implementing partners can’t help but compare this new platform with those of other donor agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development or EuropeAid, where, as one puts it, you can easily get “lost.”
But the new tool has also drawn its share of critics.
An official from an international organization who spoke on condition of anonymity told Devex that DfID’s funding opportunities are now relatively easier to find, given that they are all now just in one page, but the eligibility filter does not include international organizations or multilaterals.
In addition, notification options are not available for all funds. So unless an implementer checks the page every day, he or she wouldn’t always get a follow through. DfID did say it is looking to add email notification so users would know when a new fund is added or a new funding window has opened.
The official is hoping DfID would also include a short description of what the agency wants to achieve with each fund, and what they require for organizations wishing to apply. It can be on the page or a link to another page. This would make it easier for an organization to assess whether they can meet those conditions from the onset.
But more than the functionality of the platform, what is most important for the official is for DfID to still engage and consult with partners from the conception of a fund down to the detail of implementation. There was a time when this international organization had to pull out after the agency introduced a number of conditions without prior consultation.
“In general, this is a problem with donors. Governments want more partnerships with multilaterals, but there are particular sectors where the only opportunity is to go out with big funds. There they need to change the way they bring along multilaterals as opposed to the way they work with NGO sectors,” the official argued.
Have you checked out DfID’s new funding page? What improvements would you suggest? Let us know by leaving a comment below.