What more can funders do to help in Ukraine?

What more can funders do to help in Ukraine?

This is an article written by Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at CAF (Charities Aid Foundation). You can find more information here.

Despite the months-long build up, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the many scenes of devastation have shocked the world.  More than a month on, the UN estimates that 10 million civilians are thought to have fled from their homes, including 3.5 million who have sought refuge in other countries.

In the face of immense human suffering, the response of civil society has been tremendous. The Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) raised more than £200m in its first two weeks, making it the second biggest since the DEC’s first major appeal in 1996.

Beyond the initial outpouring of generosity, many are now asking what more can be done. Here are some considerations for philanthropists wanting to do more:

Providing humanitarian aid is urgently needed but also complicated

Experienced charities and large humanitarian aid organisations are most likely to be able to operate at scale and provide longer-term assistance. However, even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is in an increasingly difficult position to operate in embattled areas, considering the duty of care towards their staff. But relief organisations strive to continue to provide aid, reaching deep into communities in the face of immediate danger, and have decades’ worth of experience in operating in conflict situations. Supporting organisations with experience and expertise is recommended in unstable and rapidly changing situations. 

Funders can look for where they can add value on the local level

Donors can support local communities by identifying local leaders, and organisations and groups embedded in communities, including faith-based charities. There may be gaps in the large scale response, and organisations can be found who understand the specific context of war and displacement in Ukraine.

There are also many organisations in neighbouring countries which have historic ties to communities and civil society across the border. Funding them to support others could present a safe route for resources to help the newly-arrived refugees.

Map the gaps and think about infrastructure

Collectively understanding the needs, and available resources on the ground will serve to improve the coordination and, most importantly, the impact of the overwhelming humanitarian response that we have seen. Local civil society needs to have the measures and the tools in place to be able to absorb funding for both the immediate and the longer term. But the war has dismantled many of the resources that civil society rely upon and the infrastructure basics will need to be rebuilt to ensure funding reaches communities safely and is used effectively.

Philanthropic organisations and other larger donors can be nimble, assess gaps in the essential response from large bilateral and multilateral funding, and play a role in thinking strategically about how to support efforts over years to come. There is, conservatively speaking, at least a decade’s worth of rebuilding to be done that will require substantial philanthropic investment.

Don’t forget about the rest of the world

Although the news agenda is rightly focused on Ukraine at the moment, there are unfortunately many ongoing humanitarian situations around the world requiring support. DEC’s Afghanistan Crisis appeal is still raising money to help malnourished women and children against the backdrop a difficult winter and political instability. Conflict continues in Yemen and Ethiopia and food insecurity and drought hang over the Horn of Africa. 

Apply the lessons of the pandemic

One of the very few brighter moments to come from the Covid-19 pandemic is the ability of funders to give in a flexible, fast, unbureaucratic and trust-based way.

For some institutional funders, their charitable mission might come with restrictions that prevent them from giving towards aid efforts. But pooling funding could be a solution here. Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) can be a flexible tool, as they can fund various causes. For instance, CAF America have recently launched Corporate Aid for Ukraine, a charitable fund spearheaded by the American Chamber of Commerce in Poland in cooperation with several other leading business organisations.

Giving larger funds will increase efficiency and could be useful when giving to organisations in neighbouring countries that can either operate across borders or grant onwards to smaller, frontline groups. Giving over time of smaller, targeted funds to a set of organisations could be one a way to deal with risks when giving directly to those operating on the ground.

Transferring funds into Ukraine is difficult but possible

Some organisations are still present in the country, and some are set up with structures outside of the country. Giving needs to be done in a quick but also compliant way – working with intermediaries and partner organisations in neighbouring countries can be a way of transferring resources into Ukraine. There are also other countries that need support to help them cope with the surge of refugees who have crossed into their county. CAF’s network partner BCause in Bulgaria has partnered with the Association of Ukrainian Organisations in Bulgaria to deliver aid directly to people in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in the west of the country and is also supporting refugees through employee payroll giving. CAF America also lists charity partners in the Ukraine, as well as neighbouring countries, that they have been working with, and the Zagoriy Foundation, is also coordinating non-profit organisations in Ukraine.

Tackling the impact of the hidden war

Information is proving to be a key battleground in this crisis. Donors can help to challenge misinformation (and disinformation) and seek out independent, objective and trustworthy information. They can also help with funding dedicated fact-checking organisations – in particular in neighbouring countries where the media ecosystem may be fragile and citizens are in need of reliable information.

Build emergency response into your strategy

Having some contingency in your funding strategy can help to account for ‘the next crisis’. This includes setting up a giving method that can be used quickly. An example of this could be a business  with an established trust and complementary payroll giving scheme that can be utilised instantly when an emergency occurs, allowing them to response at speed to a desire of both the company and its employees to help and fundraise.

History has taught us that crises can have a long tail. It is acceptable and, in some cases, prudent for potential funders to take some time and look at the longer term. Donors can use the momentum of today to build funds to be deployed at a later date, potentially earmarked for particular projects such as health or education. No one doubts that the need to rebuild will remain long after the war is over.  As long as the funding reaches those most in need at different stages of this crisis, it will be worthwhile.

You can watch Philanthropy Impact's Walk in my Shoes focussed on what Professional Advisors should know about the Ukraine crisis here  

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