COVID-19 Funding Round Up

A summary of funding trends and opportunities relevant to UK international development NGOs in response to COVID-19, as at April 10th 2020. This information has been researched and collated by Rachel Haynes, of Flamingo for NGOs, and Dermott McDonald.

Donor Funding Response to COVID-19 - overview

In their statistical analysis of funding opportunities Devex has identified almost US$11,000,000 million of COVID Response Initiatives, the full range of government, multilateral, philanthropic and private sector donors by April 5th.  The majority of these are bilateral, multilateral and government institutions. 

58% of these initiatives relate to vaccine or treatment development, and 12% to Health Systems Development.  

Examples of the types of initiatives that we are seeing are as follows:

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is making up to $100 million available to improve detection, isolation and treatment efforts and protect at-risk populations in Africa and South Asia, as well as accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. 

The Global Fund have announced that countries can use up to 5% of approved grants to fight COVID-19 and to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic on existing HIV, TB and Malaria programmes, through redeploying, repurposing and reprogramming existing grants. Activities under the new COVID-19 guidelines include epidemic preparedness assessment, laboratory testing, sample transportation, use of surveillance infrastructure, infection control in health facilities, and information campaigns. The 11 countries using Global Fund resources from grant savings so far are Belarus, Eritrea, Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Moldova, Myanmar and Rwanda.

The UK government on March 6 announced a £46 million ($60 million) aid package to support vaccine and diagnostics development, and it was praised for supporting a rapid test to be produced in Senegal. It later said it would commit up to £150 million for the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to help lower-income countries deal with the economic fallout of the crisis.

The Dutch government, on March 23, detailed new ODA pledges to be allocated to the COVID-19 response including an extra contribution of €4 million to the World Health Organization, intended for countries with weak health systems; an increase to the existing contribution to the Contingency Fund for Emergencies from €1 to 2 million for 2020; €800,000 allocated to the International Red Cross Federation; and an ongoing contribution to the Central Emergency Response Fund of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 

Norway is leading the creation of a new multi-donor fund at the United Nations to assist developing countries with weak health systems to address the coronavirus crisis. ‘In global crises like this, international cooperation is absolutely necessary. We are concerned about how the virus will affect developing countries already struggling with poor health systems. International solidarity across borders is more important than ever. That is why it is important for us to contribute financially to a UN fund of this kind,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein. 

France have announced that they will reallocate almost €1.2bn of African development aid to the fight against COVID-19 in Africa, in the form of loans to provide short-term liquidity to African countries, their state development banks, health agencies and NGOs.  Only €150m will be in the form of grants.  The money will go to 19 priority countries, including Sengal, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Guinea.

The European Commission are preparing their funding package, Devex reports that an internal policy note suggests that this will include “reorienting” ongoing development programs and those planned for this year, as well as tapping the reserves of the European Development Fund, or EDF, an aid fund that is paid into by member states separately from the EU budget.  As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EC has already announced that it is mobilising an Eastern Region emergency support package for immediate (€140m), and short to medium term (€700m) for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine.  The funds will be used to support the health sector, and most vulnerable groups in society, the latter with grants to CSOs of up to €60k to respond to immediate needs.  

Seven Key Trends in funding in response to COVID 19

1.    Humanitarian donors have been the fastest to respond 

The Start Network has also launched a new COVID-19 aid fund to respond to critical virus-related humanitarian needs in low-income countries, kickstarted with funding from IKEA Foundation for €1.5M, whilst more donors are being approached.

Similarly, Elrha is launching an urgent funding call for research proposals to support the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings. The call aims to fund public health research that will produce robust findings that will contribute to the effectiveness of the current humanitarian response and increase the evidence base for future responses. Proposals will be eligible for research that targets: Refugees or IDPs in camps or urban humanitarian settings, or conflict-affected people in humanitarian settings in LMICs; Health systems and health care workers supporting the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings in LMICs. Deadlines: Round 1 April 13; Round 2 April 20; Round 3 May 4.  Applicants can be based in any country in the world and must apply as part of an established organisation. The research team should include academic and humanitarian partners, as appropriate.

On April 7th DFID announced on an intention to provide funding through the rapid response mechanism.  Some of these funds would be available through the UK’s biggest humanitarian NGOs, and through the Start Network, although NGOs have said that they had heard that the amount available may be much less than what some NGOs think is needed. 

Many funders are also increasing research and response capacity, such as the Department for International Development (DFID) and The Wellcome Trust’s Epidemic Preparedness research call. 

2.    A few direct opportunities have emerged to support civil society organisations

The Elton John AIDS Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund is looking to support community-based organisations to implement lifesaving interventions to help mitigate adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV response efforts for key population communities around the world. 

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responding on a rolling basis to fund selected proposals until the yearly programme budget is exhausted (there is still room for new projects this year). The advice for CSOs is to approach local Dutch embassies with an initial concept note (no set format) for projects between €25,000 and €70,000 as soon as possible (preferably, in the next 2-3 weeks): “In practice, we look for the real needs rather than budgets adjusted to our ceilings – sometimes the most effective interventions do not require big money” As the MOFA cannot fund humanitarian aid and technical assistance projects out of the delegated country funds which are reserved for human rights and accountability, it will be important to integrate a human rights perspective and focus on women/girls and LGBTI persons.

The UK Department for International Development have referred NGOs to their Funder Finder pages to monitor specific country level opportunities which are likely to emerge over the coming weeks.    Announcements on the next rounds of UK Aid Direct and UK Aid Match are also likely soon, with the UK Aid Direct Small Charities Challenge Fund currently open for applications, and it is highly likely that these rounds will have a strong COVID-19 focus, however bearing in mind that these grants do take some months to come through.  

IKEA Foundation is committed to spending up to €10 million, primarily with existing partners. 

Global Giving are offering US$1000 microgrants. This scheme, which can be accessed through this link,  is currently suspended due to high demand.

The South Asia Collective have launched a call for proposals for COVID-19 support grants to support small (under €1000) short-term projects to examine and address the specific issues that minorities are facing realting to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This grant programme aims to support initiatives in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and/or Sri Lanka.

3.    Donors and current contracts with NGOs are unanimously committing to flexibility

Foundations and institutional donors are responding with a commitment to flexibility, including:

·      Adapting plans

·      Pivoting plans

·      Changing payment schedules 

Examples of this can be found in various philanthropic for a (e.g. US’s Council of FoundationsLondon Funders), , as well as with institutional donor commitments – an example is with DFID, or Global Affairs Canada.   Some examples of individual Trusts and Foundations taking this approach include the Barr Foundation, Ford Foundation, Three Colours Trust, Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, Paul Hamlyn Foundation. 

While DFID’s Deputy Head of Civil Society has confirmed their willingness to pivot and adapt, UK NGOs have experienced some level of inconsistency from SROs in their response to pivot requests. 

DFID have also confirmed that they are in discussion with other government departments as to how best support their grantees, many of who, according to a recent survey from Bond, have said that they are at serious risk of going bust (only 37% of Bond members who responded think that they will still be operating in 6 months’ time).  The support package for the UK’s third sector announced by the UK Chancellor is likely to be targeted at domestic charities, and DFID are considering the implications for their grantees. 

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs have put in place an accelerated procedure to asses proposals to pivot existing grants to combat COVID-19 and mitigate its repercussions, which will take into account in particular synergy with the activities of other development actors, the feasibility of the proposals, the ability to act quickly and attention to gender and vulnerable groups.  

4.    Other donors are putting grant making plans on hold or responding to the crisis more slowly 

Guernsey Overseas Aid has responded: Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission has postponed its single year grant application around which usually has a deadline in July due to staff being reassigned due to COVID-19. Its new multiyear funding around (which closed this month) is unaffected. Its Disaster and Emergency Relief Awards stream is still open but not available for COVID-19 related projects: “the Commission is not minded to consider COVID-19 pandemic related Disaster and Emergency Relief Awards applications at this time as the World Health Organisation (WHO) data on the impact this virus will have on least developed countries is not clear at this time.”

Despite holding the world’s third-largest aid budget and a force of aid workers around the world, Devex reported that the UK government’s  international response has been slower than other countries to materialize. “What’s needed, considering the catastrophic nature of this whole crisis … [is] to reorient all the development programs they have, wherever they are, and find resources from existing programs and integrate COVID work within those programs. Otherwise, the development gains that might be achieved … are going to be completely unrealized.”

The European Union’s response is complicated by the timing, coming at the end of the seven year MFF.  Devex reports for example that the Development Cooperation Instrument is experiencing a “very limited margin of manoeuvre”, as there are only €7.5 million unallocated funds left.

5.    Newer funding models are being announced, adopting non-traditional funding approaches

Several new financing modalities are being announced, including a US$3 billion COVID-19 social bond from the African Development Bank, and the World Bank’s US$14 billion COVID-19 response plan which will complement its existing insurance-based Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility by supporting national systems for public health preparedness through loan.

A number of challenge funds, similar to innovation funds, have been established including the Africa wide, Nigeria based Co-Creation Hub; The Government of India COVID 19 Solution Challenge; and the Solve Health Security and Pandemics Challenge

6.    Fundraising platforms and networks are responding to the challenges many organisations are facing in terms of falling income from campaigns and individual giving.  

A few examples of such initiatives are: 

·      Facebook group for UK based fundraisers: 

·      Examples of Just Giving campaigns that have been launched. 

·      Crowdfunder is making it 100% free for community and charity crowdfunding projects during the crisis.

·      Chapel & York - are waiving their normal fees to speed up matching donors’ fund with charities. 3 April. 

·      While many charities are having to furlough staff collaborative “furlough swaps” are being organised amongst fundraising staff who have been furloughed.

7.    Opportunities to watch

DFID have announced a handwashing campaign in association with Unilever:   At the time of writing it is not clear how these funds can be accessed, and whether this will be implemented in partnership with INGOs. 

Other links and resources

Bond is regularly updating its Coronovirus support information pages, with a range of topics from thematic, to implications for organisational sustainability and funding.  

The Kaiser Family Foundation have created on online resource to track the donor funding for COVID-19 response, as well as a COVID-19 case visualisation tool.

Development Initiatives have a series of blogs analysing how humanitarian and development funding can best mitigate the impacts of coronavirus on the poorest and most vulnerable.