Marketing disaster response projects: what interests bilateral donors? -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Marketing disaster response projects: what interests bilateral donors?

By Todd Garth

What are bilateral donors looking for? How can your program access some of the $7 billion in humanitarian assistance from bilateral agencies? Disaster response uses a multitude of approaches, but all require designs meeting specific community needs at a point where the relief to development continuum crosses with the interests of donors and with the capabilities of your HFH program. Within this context, here are some of the things that donors are looking for:

  • Donors want to fund competent organizations they know and trust. If your national organization is not already talking with donor missions, attending shelter cluster meetings, participating in public forums on disaster preparation and mitigation, it needs to start now. If there isn’t a shelter cluster or dialogue group, consider starting one and invite others to participate. These are the seeds of future partnerships, grants and sub-grants.
  • Donors want to fund organizations that know the context they are working in. Look at shelter in the context of the relief-to-development continuum, from the blanket wrapped around the earthquake victim pulled from the rubble to the reconstruction of the community. You’ve heard the phrases “housing is a process” and “housing is a verb.” The same is true of shelter—it’s a dynamic process. Lee Malany, a USAID disaster consultant and urban planner, expressed it with “The Shelter Curve.”

Much of the program discussion at Habitat rightly focuses on improving our performance in the important “institutionalization” portion of the curve. When HFH takes into account disasters, however, it must adapt its interventions to address pre-crisis mitigation and preparedness, emergency response, transitional shelter, repairs, rehabilitation, rebuilding and reconstruction.

  • Donors want to reduce the impact of a disaster before it even occurs. Sadly, there are places in the world where we know disasters will happen sooner or later. USAID and the UN ( speak of “disaster risk reduction.” According to USAID, “Such activities could include community-based disaster preparedness and mitigation, early warning systems, conflict prevention or mitigation, information dissemination, public awareness campaigns, technical training, national policies and plans, vulnerability and capacity mapping and analysis.” All of these are valid approaches for HFH programs in disaster-prone areas and fit well with our shelter and community mobilization expertise.
  • Donors want to fund agencies that can move quickly. Look at this from two perspectives:
    Rapid preparation of concept papers: With some planning, baseline data and concepts can be assembled and waiting for the event of a disaster. An update based on actual assessment of the disaster can complete the concept, and concept development achieved within four to five days of the crisis. This is the timeline our competition works from. It is unacceptable to wait a week before doing an assessment and another week to submit a concept paper. By that time, funds have been allocated.
    Rapid emergency response: Habitat for Humanity is not technically a disaster relief organization. But when disasters happen to affiliates, HFH staff and volunteers organize themselves to help—pumping out flooded wells, clearing debris, assessing damage to buildings or offering assistance to other relief agencies. HFH needs to plan to make itself relevant in the immediate aftermath of a disaster so that it is relevant to the community, donors and potential partners. Housing Resource Centers could be a way to formalize and organize this immediate response, meeting emergency needs by ensuring the availability of materials and construction technical assistance. Together with networking and attending shelter cluster meetings, this will lay the groundwork of relationships that will lead to funding success.
  • Finally, donors want to fund organizations that speak their language. The language of relief is different than that of sustainable development. For example, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) cannot fund “houses,” but can fund “shelter.” There is no difference, but this semantic is important to our donors who think of shelter in a relief context and housing in a development context. We need to use their language. OFDA has an entire chart of approved sectors, subsectors, indicators and keywords from which applicants must choose in designing the matrix of their proposed interventions. You will find OFDA language fairly typical to the field. See the 2008 OFDA guidelines.

Habitat’s largest bilateral donor for disaster response is USAID, which gives US$5 million, followed by CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and the United Kingdom’s DFID (Department for International Development).

Another important resource for bilateral funding opportunities is HFHI’s Public Funding Opportunities 2008.