Gates Foundation: Fundraising for Disasters & Refugees

OVERVIEW: The Gates Foundation's contributions to disaster relief and response are smaller than those given to other areas; however, its disaster-related expenditures are large enough to make it one of the world's largest funders for disaster and refugee-related aid.  

IP TAKE: Small and large organizations will face heavy competition here from large INGOs; however, Gates does occasionally grant smaller awards. 

PROFILE:  The Gates Foundation supports a variety of aid operations through its Emergency Response program. Specifically, the Foundation focuses on distributing aid for rapid-onset emergencies, such as high-impact natural disasters and disease outbreaks; complex emergencies, such as political unrest or gender-based violence; and slow-onset emergencies, such as drought or famine.

For rapid-onset emergencies, grantees must be "pre-vetted." This permits rapid-response grantees to receive funds within 24 to 48 hours after making a grant request. The Gates Foundation has distributed these kinds of funds to large-scale organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee or the United Nations. In contrast, grants for slow-onset and complex emergencies must follow regular Gates' protocol. However, past Gates’ partners may receive preferential treatment. In the case of complex emergencies, grants generally fund more basic aspects of large-scale issues, such as providing food, shelter, or medical care. Overall, the Gates Foundation also invests in long-term efforts to support learning and innovation in building resilience.  Fortunately, the Gates Foundation details its funding process under its How We Work section.

While the Gates Foundation does not have a separate program to benefit refugees, much of its funding assists refugees indirectly. However, when funding is awarded to refugee-related issues, it is awarded through programs other than Emergency Relief and often given to projects that support women and children. The Gates Foundation website also features an excellent grants database, which helps potential grantees get a sense of the kinds of what kinds of groups it funds, where, and at what level.

As a general rule, Gates awards grants on an invitation-only basis. However, sometimes the foundation publishes a formal request for proposals, so grantseekers are advised to check the Gates' website often.

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