By Pat Christian – Executive Director
Caleb Missionary Relief Services in Decatur GA
This blog brought to you as part of International Grant Professionals Week, when we focus on how grant professionals “make the world a better place, one grant at a time“.
For two decades, I’ve worked in the humanitarian educational sector globally. I’ve had the privilege of being the founder and executive director of a small international nonprofit organization that has impacted thousands of children in Haiti through education. I’ve also served as the grants administrator/writer and successfully obtained grants to improve the quality of education of children in Haiti. These grants built a new school after the earthquake, provided clean drinking water, decreased learning gaps, and established a hunger response program.
The guidelines for writing an international grant are similar to a domestic grant, but the grant process is different. Eighteen years ago, I attended a PVO Partnership workshop in Virginia hosted by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that provided pertinent information on their grant programs for the upcoming fiscal year. One consistent point of discussion among the smaller NGOs at the workshop was their ability to compete against the larger NGOs for USAID grant funds. USAID recommended the small NGOs form collaborative partnerships with the large NGOs with organizational capacity to manage USAID grants. This strategy provided access for me to secure international grant awards and brought new investment to our mission.
Many large international NGOs have local offices in host countries. These country offices are responsible for the management of grant-funded programs. Also, large NGOs will collaborate with other NGOs to implement their program initiatives. Developing relationships must take place with the NGOs’ Country Offices and Country Directors. This focus on relationships works: I have successfully done so, submitted a grant, and then received a portion to implement the initiative. It’s a win-win-win!
The importance of relationships was critical after the earthquake in Haiti and resulted in prioritized funds. This disaster caused collapsed school buildings and deaths. Afterward, the government required school buildings to be more earthquake proof during post reconstruction. The school our organization sponsors was thankfully not in an area affected by the quake, but it was poorly constructed and created a health risk for students. The needs assessment addressed several structural building violations and created a sense of urgency that resulted in a grant eights month later but obtaining this grant was based on several key factors such as:
- Submitting a well-written grant proposal to the corporate NGO office in the US
- Developing a relationship with the country office
- Traveling by car on a bumpy road for eight hours to another section in Haiti to develop a relationship with the NGO grant manager
- Developing relationships with people in the corporate office in the US
- Documenting every expenditure
The grant was awarded in four phases and took almost an entire year to receive full funding. After each stage of the award, the NGO grant manager would inspect the project. All funds had to be accounted for prior to receiving the next phase of the grant. This type of distribution in not uncommon when working cross-culturally with nationals where there is a lack of accountability in the leadership of the host country.
In closing, building effective international relationships can tap significant resources for development and humanitarian response and make the process easier to secure funding.