Key Actions by:

Standard 5: Early engagement with donor to inform design.

Engage donor prior to and (as possible) during project design and proposal development to encourage a manageable and realistic project scope, budget and timeline in line with donor priorities.

Engage with donors to guide funding to sound projects that meet priority needs of those CRS seeks to serve.

  • Why

    Through their work at local, regional, and national levels, CRS and partners are often aware of emerging needs and opportunities—at the community, regional, national, or even global level—that donors may be unaware of. CRS and partners also know how to turn these ideas into projects grounded in field realities. Engaging with donors around these issues and highlighting CRS’ capacity to respond with high-impact interventions:

    • Deepens donor understanding of the context and opportunities for emergency and development programs.
    • Strengthens donor understanding of CRS’ capacity.
    • Encourages the donor to consider funding projects that appropriately address needs and that CRS can implement well.
  • Who

    • Primary responsible: Country representative (CR) or IDEA staff (for centrally managed donor relationships)
      • The CR (or IDEA staff, for centrally managed donor relationships) maintains communication with existing and prospective donors, seeking to create occasions to discuss needs and opportunities around which a donor might invite a proposal.

    • Others involved: Head of programming (HoP); project managers/chiefs of party (PMs/CoPs); senior managers and technical advisors (regional and headquarters, including from the Humanitarian Response Department); country program and regional business development (BD) staff; headquarters (HQ) advocacy staff.
      • The HoP, PMs/CoPs, senior managers and technical advisors provide information for these potential donor meetings and participate when possible;
      • IDEA and regional BD staff provide insights into donor interests and guidance on effective ways to engage with donors to shape their funding plans.

  • When
    • Ongoing
  • How

    As noted in Standard 5, key action 3, there are many ways to discuss programming needs, opportunities and capacities with donors and to help shape the supporting environment for relief and development programming. These include strategic advocacy for emergency and development funding; strategic use of regular communication with donors; leveraging donor visits to existing projects and active CRS engagement in multi-stakeholder fora where CRS can share insights, influence agendas, and demonstrate capacity.

    The steps below offer guidance on how to optimize opportunities to influence donors to support projects grounded in the realities of needs, capacities, and constraints:

    1. The CR or delegate convenes regular meetings with the HoP, PMs/CoPs, and any country program BD staff, to analyze information from partners, communities, and other stakeholders about priority needs and opportunities for the people CRS seeks to serve. They also consider CRS global or regional programming strategies as well as the country program strategy. Together, the group compiles a list of potential programming ideas that would address those needs, advance strategies, and leverage CRS and partner experience.
    2. The CR, HoP, and BD and donor engagement staff (country program, regional, and IDEA) review ideas in detail; discuss which donors may be interested; and brainstorm how best to engage them, within the framework of any agency-level donor engagement strategies or priorities (see supplemental donor engagement document).
    3. Using the ideas developed in step 2, the CR (or IDEA staff) contacts the donor to explore their interest in discussing possibilities for collaboration.  
    4. If the donor is open to further discussion, the CR or IDEA staff schedules a meeting to discuss programming ideas, and works with CRS staff to prepare (see supplemental donor engagement document).
    5. The CRS team meets with the donor to exchange information, discuss ideas, and share the prepared materials (see supplemental donor engagement document).

    Give, take, and listen in donor meetings: When meeting with donors, avoid the tendency to focus solely on presenting CRS’ ideas. Approach the meeting as a conversation, not a presentation.

    1. Following the meeting, the CR or IDEA staff member debriefs all participants to discuss the results of the meeting (see supplemental donor engagement document).
    2. The CR or IDEA staff member writes a thank you to the donor, including any follow-up information or action that may have been discussed.
    3. The CR or IDEA staff member uploads a record of the meeting to the Institution Record in Gateway.
  • Partnership
    • Partners can make important contributions to donor engagement efforts and have excellent insights into field realities. Where feasible, involve partners in donor meetings and work closely with the partner on meeting preparation, to ensure clear and consistent messaging and a well-coordinated approach.
    • For any joint meetings with donors or donor field visits, be sure that CRS and partner staff review objectives and key messages together as part of meeting/visit preparation.
  • When CRS is a sub-recipient
    • Not applicable
  • Emergency projects
    • Sharing needs with donors is particularly important in emergency settings where the context evolves quickly and donors often have limited information. Consider multiple, ideally low-effort, ways to rapidly engage the donors: site visits if possible; daily emailed photographs, sharing rapid assessment findings, or Situation Reports (Sitreps); phone calls or meetings to share CRS’ preliminary strategy.
    • Keep communication concise and clear, respecting the time constraints of all involved.
    • Emphasize how CRS is responding with discretionary resources, as well as with other donor funding.
    • As the response shifts from the initial relief phase, let donors know CRS’ evolving strategy (see Other Resources for examples). Emphasize how CRS’ new project ideas leverage and consolidate any work the donor is currently funding.
    • Remember that consistent participation in emergency cluster and working group/INGO coordination meetings is key. Taking on the chair or co-chair role is also a useful strategy.
    • Best practice, especially for ongoing emergencies, is to develop an emergency response strategy that guides capture planning and influence efforts. See Other Resources for examples.