• Report
  • 2 May 2014

Humanitarian assistance from non-state donors: what is it worth?

Humanitarian need around the world is increasing but traditional funding from governments and institutional donors is not keeping pace. As a result, aid ag

Humanitarian need around the world is increasing but traditional funding from governments and institutional donors is not keeping pace. As a result, aid agencies are looking to a diverse set of new non-state funding sources in both established and emerging economies to fill this gap.

This report provides a comprehensive picture of non-state humanitarian assistance within this changing context – measuring funding from individuals, foundations, and companies and corporations – and assesses who the money comes from, how it is raised, and where it is spent. The research draws on a broad set of data sourced directly from humanitarian agencies, and covers the period from 2008 to 2012.

Private giving is an important source of funding for humanitarian assistance 

The report finds that private giving is a growing source of funding for humanitarian assistance. Private funding was an estimated US$4.1 billion in 2012, and over a quarter of all international humanitarian assistance came from private donors between 2008 and 2012. However, both institutional and private contributions have fallen year-on-year since 2010, with private donations falling more steeply (a drop of 26%, compared to a fall of 7% in institutional funding).

The shifting focus of private fundraising efforts in new and emerging economies

Humanitarian agencies are stepping up their private fundraising efforts in new and emerging economies, with Asia and the Middle East both playing important roles. For example, in response to Typhoon Haiyan, World Vision Philippines was able to raise US$1.7 million in-country to use for response activities.

UN agencies are receiving an increasing proportion of funding from private sources, particularly companies and corporations

While the majority of private funds come from individual donors and are given to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), UN agencies are receiving an increasing proportion of funding from private sources, especially companies and corporations. In 2008, UN agencies received less than 1% of humanitarian funding from private companies, but by 2012 the share of contributions from this group of donors had increased to 15%.

This is reflected in a wider trend of private companies and corporations beginning to play a more direct role in responding to humanitarian crises beyond financial support – through skill-sharing, long-term partnerships, and staff volunteering, for example.

Non-state and institutional donors often support different types of crises

The report also reveals some startling differences in the types of crises supported by non-state donors. Since 1999, the average funding appeal raised by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for conflict-related crises was £21 million, while natural disasters raised £67 million on average, over three times more.

There are also some key differences in terms of where private funds are spent. For example, Haiti dropped in priority for institutional donors in 2012, with only 46% of its Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) needs met as opposed to 73% the previous year. In the same year, Haiti was the top recipient of private funds according to our data, but was only the 15th highest recipient of bilateral government funding.

The added value of private funding

Although private funding amounts to less in terms of volume than funding from institutional donors, it is particularly valuable to humanitarian agencies in terms of its flexibility, reliability and durability. Privately generated funds tend to come with less earmarking and a longer time frame than funding from institutional or state donors.

The critical need for better data on non-state humanitarian funding

The lack of available data on private funds is a recurring theme throughout the report. A large group of organisations support GHA’s research in this area by directly providing us with data and information on their private humanitarian funding flows, which we supplement with data taken from publicly available sources such as annual reports. However, this only gives us a partial picture.

Information on all financial flows needs to be better reported in order to gain a clearer understanding of the total resources available. This would lead to a more coordinated response and help ensure that resources are allocated according to need. To achieve this, and ensure greater accountability, coordination and efficiency in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, all actors – state and non-state – should publish their financial information to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard.

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