The need for humanitarian assistance is severe, global and growing. Today, humanitarian crises affect over 125 million people in every region of the globe— a number that has nearly doubled since 2011. To this end, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation recently commissioned Dalberg Global Development Advisors to provide a high level overview of the current humanitarian landscape and outline potential roles through which philanthropy can contribute to the sector.

Not only is available funding inadequate to respond fully to existing needs, but the changing nature of crises, in terms of duration and complexity, has created new challenges. . Meanwhile, humanitarian assistance has not fully caught up to these changes, funding remains short-term in outlook and restrictive in nature. While the humanitarian sector is aware of these challenges, there is a persistent and urgent need to develop more effective funding mechanisms that address the long-term development needs of those affected.

With World Humanitarian Day tomorrow, we want to highlight the role that philanthropy can take in addressing these imminent needs. Private philanthropic actors— including corporate and family-funded entities— have a unique opportunity to catalyze change in the humanitarian sector.

Although private philanthropies comprise less than one percent of total humanitarian assistance, they bring core assets to the table.

This landscape assessment found that philanthropies have unique resources and capacity to impact the humanitarian sector in a multitude of ways:

  • Flexible funding: philanthropies can deploy funding quickly and flexibly towards higher-risk or long-term strategic efforts
  • Convening power: they can use their relationships and voice to convene unconventional or new actors (such as other institutional private donors and high net worth individuals) to shift dialogue and policy
  • Strategic expertise: they can deploy specific expertise in sectors relevant to humanitarian assistance, e.g., logistics, technology, data analytics

Today, the humanitarian system is facing a critical juncture where it must adapt to the shifting landscape of crises. Philanthropy, with its flexible, risk-tolerant capital and its unique networks and expertise, can play a key role in this process.

Roles for Philanthropy in the Humanitarian Sector

Prepared by Dalberg Global Development Advisors

Read the report