Private donations fund a quarter of the world’s humanitarian assistance, and have a unique role to play alongside government funds, finds new research

Private humanitarian assistance has reached $5.4 billion according to the latest data – a quarter of total international humanitarian response, reveals a new study published today by the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme of Development Initiatives. The study is the only comprehensive annual review to put a figure on this important source of emergency support. It also found that private donors tend to respond more generously to rapid on-set natural disasters than longer-term and conflict related disasters, making up a significant share of overall funding in crises such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.

Chloe Stirk, GHA Programme Advisor at Development Initiatives said, “At a time of unprecedented crises, humanitarians are increasingly focusing on the role of private actors to help respond to growing needs but private donations are often under reported and difficult to track. This report aims to shed light on the role of private finance and shows that it plays a significant role in humanitarian response and works in a different way to government funding – providing greater flexibility for humanitarian agencies to choose how, where and when it is spent.”

The research found that individuals contribute the majority (72 per cent) of funds and that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continue to receive by far the largest proportion of private assistance, raising $22.7 billion between 2009 and 2013.

The report also looks beyond cash donations to explore a range of innovative new approaches to humanitarian donorship. Private companies and corporations are taking a more ‘partnership’ approach by providing a range of skills and resources ranging from legal tools for domestic governments following natural disasters to electronic systems that facilitate fairer and quicker distribution of provisions in refugee camps.

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Anna Hope, Communications Manager at Development Initiatives

E: T: +44(0)1179 272505 M: +44(0) 7894442055

Notes to editors:

Key findings include:

  • The volume of private humanitarian assistance given has grown from US$5 billion in 2012 to US$5.4 billion in 2013. However, from 2012-2013 the proportion of total international humanitarian assistance from private donors fell from 27% 25%.
  • Individuals continue to contribute the overwhelming majority of private funding, providing an estimated 72% (US$3.9 billion) of the total in 2013.
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) continue to receive by far the largest proportion of private assistance, raising an estimated US$ 4.7 billion in 2013, and US$22.7 billion in the five years between 2009 – 2013.
  • Private and government donors show different expenditure patterns depending on the type of crisis, with private donors tending to respond more generously to rapid onset, natural disasters than they do to chronic and conflict-related disasters
  • Private funding can be more flexible than government funding, giving it a unique role for humanitarian agencies in that they have more freedom to choose where, how and when it is spent
  • Private donors, in particular the private sector, are diversifying the type of support they offer beyond merely financial assistance to include new and innovative forms of in-kind assistance.


About Development Initiatives (DI)

Development Initiatives works to end extreme poverty by 2030 by making data and information on poverty and resource flows transparent, accessible and useable. We help decision-makers use information to increase their impact for the poorest people in the most sustainable way.

The Global Humanitarian Assistance programme of DI provides objective, independent, rigorous data and analysis on humanitarian financing and related aid flows.

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