5 tips to access Nordic funds

5 September 2018
Author: Rebecca Owen

Nordic donors are renowned for their progressive stance and pioneering approach in the international development arena. Their generosity, flexibility and commitment to genuine partnership mean these institutional donors are a much-valued and sought-after partner. 

In spite of this, the process of accessing Swedish, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian funds can feel mired in opacity. Here are five tips to help you reach these donors.

1. Choose a suitable funding modality 

The Nordics tend to have dual funding modalities - either calls for proposals and/or the establishment of partnership frameworks. 

Calls for proposals are advertised online and will fund specific timebound interventions. These are more applicable to smaller organisations with a singular mandate and can serve as a good entry point for a longer-term engagement. 

Partnership frameworks are preferable for both donors and larger partners as they provide multi-year funding agreements that allow for multi-country, cross-sectoral programming. An additional benefit of framework agreements is the adaptability to respond to contextual change. 

2. Consider the organisational investment required 

Partnership frameworks rely on relationship building, where trust is a key component. Ensure that as an organisation you are willing to commit resources and invest time into the relationship-building phase. This is likely to take a minimum of 18-24 months. 

Points of entry should simultaneously target both the headquarters and the regional/country offices. Establishing and building contacts at both levels is important, as this is where critical decision-making and influencing takes place.

3. Focus on results and outcomes

Be prepared to be detail-orientated and to have clear objectives with tangible, verifiable results. The Nordic donors tend not to be prescriptive; make sure this is truly advantageous for both parties. A good starting point is to clearly define what the partnership will achieve, and how this will be demonstrated. 

4. Tap into the Nordic network

Although the donors do not work exclusively with Nordic organisations, it can help to partner with Nordic organisations such as NGOs, private sector companies or research agencies. This can help you create links with the donors, help you become more familiar with funding mechanisms and present your organisations as more accessible.

5. Get to grips with Nordic policies and strategies

Familiarise yourself with Nordic priorities and focal areas by thoroughly understanding their humanitarian and development policies. These inform the allocation of funding and will be essential communication pointers as you foster the new relationship. 

Share your experiences of working with Nordic donors and ask follow-up questions in the Bond Funding Group

And you can hear more about trends in institutional funding at Bond's Funding for Development Conference on 8 October.

About the author

Rebecca Owen
Oxfam GB

Rebecca Owen is Oxfam GB's Nordic partnership manager, working with both humanitarian and development funding. Prior to this she was based in the field for 10 years.