UK INGOs at risk of being unable to curb spread of COVID-19 globally due to funding restrictions and inability to fundraise

UK INGOs are increasingly at risk of being unable to curb the spread of COVID-19 globally due to funding restrictions in existing grants from donors and the sudden decline in public fundraising, a survey carried out by Bond, the UK network for NGOs has warned. Unless Coronavirus is contained globally, many UK INGOs are concerned it will continue to be a threat.

The survey was carried out with 93 organisations, ranging from small to large organisations from across the UK and found that drops in individual giving, combined with cancellations of fundraising events, marathons, bake sales and charity drives, has put 41% of the UK international development sector’s income at risk (£1.28 billion).

Though some organisations reported that donors were willing to provide flexibility, the lengthy administrative process and inconsistent requirements across donors were causing INGOs to take urgent immediate steps by cutting staff or scaling back in-country operations. 60% of NGOs reported that they had already cut back on staff in the UK and overseas. This comes alongside resourcing constraints on domestic charities also compromising their ability to support the UK.

An anonymous survey respondent said:

“A temporary unrestriction of existing grants would not only save us but also allow us to immediately redirect programme activities to Covid-19 response. Because we can’t cover core costs and are also short staffed when some become ill (combined with the inefficiencies of current home working), it’s not practical to renegotiate programmes and budgets, or even develop applications for new funds. Donor staff time is overstretched too. A simple temporary unrestriction seems the ideal solution.”

86% of respondents reported either considering or having to cut back on in-country programmes due to COVID-19 by either postponing programme implementation, closing country offices or limiting funding to global programmes. Reasons provided for these steps were contractual constraints prohibiting INGOs to continue to pay staff despite being unable to fulfil programme proposals, health risks to frontline staff, spiralling inflation causing in-country costs to rocket, border closures or lockdown measures preventing access to communities at risk, particularly older people, those with underlying health conditions, women and girls and people with disabilities.

Graham MacKay, Chief Operating Officer at Bond said:

“This is an unprecedented global pandemic and many UK INGOs are reconfiguring their services and support so people in the UK can get access to the basic healthcare and the living essentials they need. But COVID-19 is a global pandemic that also requires a global response. We need a UK INGO sector that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 so it doesn’t devastate the lives of people living in cramp refugee camps or impoverished conditions. But NGOs can only do this if they are provided with greater flexibility by donors which would allow them to urgently respond to the crisis before the situation deteriorates. Many smaller NGOs or those with low reserves, or unable to furlough staff, also need financial support to avoid further job losses or programme cuts.

The UK has some of the most experienced humanitarian and development organisations in the world that are going to be needed now more than ever. UK INGOs are already ramping up their operations around the world by providing handwashing station to communities, as well as basic food, healthcare and clean water. Prevention is our only option with COVID-19 because there is no cure, but we can only get on the front foot of this with rapid action and support from donors.”


  1. According to Rapidata, there has been a 41% increase in direct debit cancellations for UK charity donations this month. 31% of international NGOs’ income comes from individual giving (donations and legacies), according to our 2015-2016 data. A further 10% of funding comes from earned charitable activities and public fundraising activities. This includes fundraising events, marathons, bake sales and charity drives, which NGOs have cancelled over the next few months. If INGOs lose 48% of their voluntary income and a third of their total income, as Institute of Fundraising’s survey suggests, then the international development sector stands to lose £1.28bn.
  2. Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 450 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.
  3. For further information please contact Maryam Mohsin on 07555 336029 or [email protected]