Emergency relief and humanitarian aid sectors receive some of the largest grants every year from the government, foundation, corporate, and individual giving sources. In 2015, total funding from all sources for humanitarian relief totalled US$28 billion. While donors to these crises are often very generous in terms of grant size and grant terms, most of this funding goes directly to large INGOs, UNICEF, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, etc.
Fortunately, fundraising for humanitarian aid does not have to be limited to only the largest of NGOs. There are strategies other NGOs can use to take a piece of this aid pie as well.
Step 1- Plan in advance
Both natural disasters and man-made emergencies can happen suddenly, but that does not mean there is no advanced warning. Research your area and communities. Is there a past history of earthquakes, flooding, famines, landslides, typhoons, etc.? What about political uprisings, civil war, or other outbreaks of violence? Even if these risks are quite small, it may be worthwhile to strategize how your organization would react if the unthinkable happened.
Once you know what you are preparing for, start looking for donors now. Most donors for emergency response have pre-approved partners. This is so that once a humanitarian situation occurs, they can quickly send funds to known organizations. One of the reasons the largest organizations receive the bulk of emergency aid funding is because they have the capacity to accept large grants and also plan ahead for these eventualities. If you want to receive this type of aid, network now to find potential partners as a grantee or sub-grantee. There will be no time for networking once trouble is afoot.
Your organization should also have template grant proposals drafted to send quickly when a disaster occurs. Grant restrictions for humanitarian aid are typically looser than for your typical project proposal, but the application should still include planned results, an M&E plan, etc. And do not forget to include budget for operational costs and long-term post-recovery efforts in your timeline!
Finally, your organization should also have a response plan. When a crisis hits, who will be in charge of contacting partners, updating the website, and coordinating on-the-ground efforts? Are there back-ups in place in case your office is hit? What safety or check-in measures do you need? Make sure your team is well-versed and ready to act quickly and effectively when problems arise.
Step 2- When disaster hits, work fast
It takes a lot of preparation to receive humanitarian aid because once disaster hits, organizations need to move FAST. Not only do they have to coordinate efforts to combat the disaster, they also have to fundraise, update the media, etc. Nowadays, news stories can take just minutes to become breaking coverage half a world away.
Another reason large organizations can take in so much humanitarian funding is that while local NGOs are occupied with saving lives on the ground, INGOs with international staff can also immediately start fundraising. Within minutes of a disaster, they can update their website with specific pop-up ads requesting donations, update their social media pages, and send out pre-prepared proposals. Time is key here, not just for saving lives but also for getting money – large donations start pouring in within hours of a crisis when most smaller NGOs are not yet prepared. If it takes three days for your NGO to update your social networks, you will have already missed out on the vast majority of funding.