April 18th, 2016 - 1:31 pm § in Good Practice, Reflection & Rumination

A new kind of donor: 4 things they do differently

We all know there are aid donors and international funding partners out there that want to change “business as usual,” to challenge the terms of global development. (Or at least people inside those institutions that do).

We also all know that for various reasons, they’re not moving quick enough for those working on the ground.

New donors could come in and fill the gaps. But more importantly, we need a new kind of donor, whether they are recent to the scene or not.

The organizations that I see doing the most important and exciting work out there these days most often do not fit into current donors’ way of doing business. Donors who rely on lengthy proposals, onerous reporting, and heavy-handed funding mechanisms frankly cannot offer useful capital to organizations that don’t fit the “high capacity” mold, let alone emerging social movements.

To change this, this new kind of donor will do four things better than donors still stuck in the old ways of moving money around:

1) They are patient.

They invest not just today’s services or activities delivered, but allow for uncertainty and potentially fewer short-term results in favor of long-term outcomes.

2) Their money follows ideas and people, rather than activities.

Projects may be the modus operandi, but they do not allow them define or confine relationships.

3) They demonstrate a tolerance for risk, rather than failure.

They help keep a focus on results, yet offer flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions.

4) They are able and willing to look within.

They examine how their own policies and practices exclude and/or inhibit some of the most innovative and effective organizations.

Aid financing can no longer be disconnected from people and place, flowing into a community based on a donor’s imperatives. A new kind of aid donor is courageous enough to put their partners’ needs first – so that both can adapt to arising needs, inherent complexities, and local realities.

A new kind of aid donor knows that serving their partners’ interests first is what will ultimately fulfill their own.


This post originally appeared on in 2012. It is, unfortunately, relevant as ever. 


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