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Thinking Big – and Unrestricted

The Management Centre

=mc held a thought leadership seminar in Geneva two weeks ago to discuss a major concern among all INGOs and UN Agencies: how to raise unrestricted income, especially now with governmental funds reducing. 

Participants included senior figures from a number of key agencies including UNHCR, International HIV/AIDS Alliance, WWF, CARE International, IFRC, International Diabetes Federation, Terre des Hommes, The Global Fund and UNICEF. Several =mc staff were also present managing the event and we shared presentations form a range of agencies.

The day was run under Chatham House rules, so we can’t share the detail but some general points emerged that we can share.

Successfully raising unrestricted income begins with three key principles:

  • making a clear and coherent case for unrestricted income is essential – both internally and for donors. This case must include a shared rationale for the ‘special status’ of unrestricted. Many agencies were worried tat they hadn’t made the internal case well enough
  • aligning internal processes to ensure that income raised as unrestricted remains unrestricted. Often the key blocks are internal rather than external with fundraisers ‘encouraging’ restrictions unnecessarily since they have  mindset that donor won’t give unrestricted
  • reporting on the impact of unrestricted income is key. This involves ensuring donors feel they are making a difference rather than just covering existing work that would happen anyway. Simply telling donors how their money was spent isn’t enough

There are some common tactics that help drive success:

  • almost all successful agencies are building significant investment funds to support growth. There are, however, a number of different models in use. These vary according to culture, organisational structure, and openness to risk in specific agencies. More risk open-ness is needed
  • new and emerging markets are key for the long-term growth of unrestricted income. So market entry competencies are key for agencies. The good news is that many agencies have evidence that donors in such settings are willing to fund beyond their borders
  • vendor capacity is a key limiting factor for mass market individual giving. In some emerging markets this has led to agencies signing ‘exclusivity’ deals with vendors to restrict competitor activity or vertical integration with agencies setting up their own internal vendor capacity

Simple advice perhaps. And not easy to implement. But if agencies are to deliver on the needs of the world’s poor, then growth, especially in unrestricted income, has to be part of the new ways of working. 

If you’d like to be invited to a future =mc thought leadership event- held in London and Geneva let us know by contacting Bernard Ross here.

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