DFID should work more effectively with private foundations

20 January 2012

The International Development Select Committee has concluded that DFID needs to work more effectively with private foundations in order to improve the impact of aid. 

The Committee has published its report following an inquiry into the role of private philanthropy in international aid. It recommends Foundations should sign up to International Aid Transparency Initiative guidelines and be brought into global structures to ensure that they coordinate their work with other donors.

Working more closely with DFID

DFID currently engages with foundations on an ad-hoc basis and the report recommends a more systematic approach to the Department's relationship with private philanthropic organisations. The Committee recognises that DFID officials cannot meet all small foundations on a one-to-one basis, but it believes that the Department should make more efforts to engage with them.

It recommends a designated contact official for foundations should be established and a DFID minister should hold an annual meeting with groups of smaller foundations. The Department should produce a publication indicating what DFID funding foundations might apply for, and how to apply.

DFID should include foundations as fully as possible in future development events and processes, including the High Level Forum on Aid & Effectiveness; the forthcoming Rio + 20 UN conference on Sustainable Development; and discussions of a post-2015 Millennium Development Goal Framework.

Nuffield Foundation evidence

The Committee's recommendations were informed by evidence from Sarah Lock, Head of the Nuffield Foundation's Africa Programme, who told the Committee that engagement with DFID Ministers was not always successfully followed up by civil servants, and that both the department and foundations would gain from improved contact:

"There is at present little liaison between DFID and the mid-sized Foundations. We believe that both sides would gain from better contact. For example, most Foundations do not have an in-country presence and could benefit greatly from DFID’s technical expertise. Similarly, DFID could find reports from work that the Foundations are funding of interest."

Global grant-making

The contribution from foundations to international development causes is significant. A recent report commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation and others found that the annual contribution was in the region of £292 million, almost half as much spent by DFID through NGOs. 

The report, Global grant-making also found that spending on international development represents 9% of the spending of all UK grant-making foundations. The region attracting the highest number of foundation funders is Africa (37%), in particular East Africa. This is followed by Asia (23%).