What role for intermediaries?

Andrew Kingman

For those of us who aim to encourage international giving, it is a depressing fact that overall levels of giving to international causes remain stubbornly low in most ‘donor’ countries. One reason for this is a reluctance on the part of some donors to give via a regranting intermediary, whether based in the donor’s own country or in the recipient country – largely because of unwillingness to pay the intermediary’s costs. This article looks at what different types of intermediary can offer the donor and at the challenge for donors who want to ‘miss out the middleman’ or do something other than simply fund a northern-based international NGO.

The largest proportion of so-called international giving is routed via international relief and development NGOs based in the same country as the donor. These NGOs often offer specialist knowledge of a sector and country/region, skilled staff at home and in the field, a track record of project and programme delivery, and excellent communication strategies illustrating impact or effectiveness. The best international NGOs offer an effective mechanism for any donor wishing to invest in international development. However, for some donors, a constant question mark hanging over international NGO intermediaries is that of their costs. We have to be careful here: donors must recognize the added value of an effective support operation and the legitimate costs of fundraising and marketing. Nevertheless, they rightly expect value for money.

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