Complex International Grantmaking—And 4 Ways To Simplify It

International grantmaking is more complex in some regions than in others—here are four challenges to keep in mind.

My colleagues at GlobalGiving have disbursed funding to nonprofits in more than 175 countries since 2002.

It may look easy when the country names are in alphabetical order in a clean font, but the list is incredibly complex. Differences in governmental structure, culture, currency, language, and laws, among other factors, make each country—and the process of sending funds to nonprofits there—unique.

International grantmakers like GlobalGiving aim to standardize their grantmaking process. But some cases involve complex regulations that require additional steps and considerations.

The geopolitical landscape is constantly changing, and shifting policies can affect local nonprofits and the entire NGO sector. Here are some of the ways we consider these factors when reviewing a grant request:

    1. Check against United States laws and sanctions.

    US 501(c)(3) charitable organizations like GlobalGiving must follow regulations for grants to organizations outside the US—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. These include IRS requirements related to earmarking, equivalency determination, and charitable purpose, as well as compliance with laws such as the USA Patriot Act and sanctions determined by the US Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control.

    Types of sanctions can vary, and we carefully review the laws to ensure we are in compliance and that our operations support the requirements.

    2. Follow international country laws.

    Just as the US can issue new laws and regulations with limited notice, other countries can, too. Did you know that more than 60 countries have passed laws in the last decade that govern, and in some cases, restrict how nonprofits receive overseas funds?

    GlobalGiving is positioned to comply and disburse funds—and it helps that we have existing banking relationships and nonprofit partners all over the world.

    With each new regulation, we pause and confirm we (and our nonprofit partners) adhere to the law. And we seek to act in everyone’s best interest.

    It’s important that the nonprofits also understand the regulation to receive the funds and execute their programs without fear of noncompliance.

    3. Consider language and location.

    With more than 7,000 languages globally, even bilingual or multilingual staff members can encounter communication barriers that make it challenging to answer questions and troubleshoot concerns. We are fortunate to live in a world where digital technology can help with translation. But for tax and record-keeping purposes, we may still need documentation in a language like English, which might be unfamiliar to a nonprofit’s staff. And they may not have easy access to files in English.

    Some of our partners live and operate in remote areas, and they need to travel long distances to get documentation or confirm information with a bank. Even when funds arrive quickly, an organization may need to factor in long-distance travel to their bank to confirm reconciliation. In these instances, the funds arrive on time, but the confirmation is delayed.

    4. Prioritize the safety of nonprofit staff and community members.

    Nonprofit staff and volunteers often support people and communities impacted by violence (sometimes within their own community). Depending on where a nonprofit operates and how violence affects their area, funders need to prioritize physical safety to ensure nonprofits and the communities they serve do not become targets for violent activity.

    In these extreme circumstances, funders must communicate directly with nonprofit leaders to determine the best path to send funds to comply with regulations and put their safety first. We work to identify approaches that can minimize risk for the nonprofit and the people they work with.

Our goal at GlobalGiving is to provide companies and donors with a reliable, thoughtful, and effective grantmaking and disbursement process that fuels our nonprofit partners’ incredible work. Now that you have an inside look at what happens in complex international grantmaking situations, we hope you feel more prepared to make a life-changing grant—with the needs of your nonprofit partner at the center of your timeline.

See how we can simplify your complex international grantmaking to meet your goals.


Featured Photo: Literacy for Adults: Reading the World (Mexico) by Atzin Mexico / Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario AC

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