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Six reasons to fund grassroots NGOs overseas

Whether your goal is to maximize the return of your philanthropic investments or achieve sustainable impact, local organizations deserve a closer look.

by Jared Tham (Account Director, Corporate Giving)

Helping communities respond to today’s challenges—and prepare for tomorrow’s needs—requires a strong, grassroots social sector. At Give2Asia, we believe that the best ways to do this are listening to community-based leaders and funding local initiatives.

An increasing number of CSR professionals and philanthropists agree. Localized philanthropy is gaining traction with funders, who are fostering program ownership by empowering local stakeholders.

This approach disrupts the traditional international development framework. And we think that’s a good thing. Here are six reasons why funders benefit when they support and partner with local charitable organizations:

1. More Ownership

Local nonprofits are inherently more invested in the long-term outcome of their work. As members of the community they serve, they have a strong incentive to find relevant, practical solutions that don’t just look good on paper.

2. Local Knowledge

Local nonprofits possess more knowledge about local conditions and context than international NGOs. In fact, many international NGOs end up leaning heavily on contracted local nonprofits for this reason. Funders can have more impact dollar-for-dollar by going straight to local program implementers.

3. Higher Return on Investment

To do their work, international NGOs must spend on overhead costs for international travel and administration. Directly supporting the operations and sustainability of local organizations offers a lower cost structure and a stronger foundation for long-term impact.

4. Greater Relevance

International development has traditionally been treated as a commodity. If an intervention is demonstrating promising outcomes in one country, why not do it in 10 or 20? Recent failures of this approach have led savvy funders to seek bottom-up models that prioritize local knowledge and ownership.

5. Diversification

Private sector investors hold a portfolio of investments to maximize their returns. In the same way, funders can increase their odds of achieving a desired impact through a portfolio of local partnerships. Rather than betting big on one NGO, this approach creates multiple opportunities for growth and impact.

6. Government Relations

In many countries, governments see international NGOs as unwanted foreign influence, exposing funders to unforeseen political consequences. In contrast, most governments and communities look favorably on local nonprofits with self-directed programs—and the funders who support them.

While direct international giving comes with its own challenges, giving to in-country nonprofits opens up new opportunities for funders. Whether your goal is to maximize the return of your philanthropic investments or achieve sustainable impact, local organizations deserve a closer look.

Want to learn more about supporting local organizations in Asian countries? Schedule a meeting with Give2Asia to discuss.


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Photo courtesy of Foundation to Educate Girls Globally

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