What Do Nonprofits Need To Overcome Uncertainty? Unrestricted Funding.

As increased uncertainty grips many communities around the world, nonprofits need support to respond and continue their work. Unrestricted funding is their lifeline.


Today’s geopolitical landscape is increasingly complex, fragile, and disruptive. It is forcing every sector to continually adjust and adapt. While governments shift foreign policy strategies and businesses reorganize their operations, nonprofits are caught in the crosshairs of a constantly changing environment—with extremely limited resources.

I recently had the privilege of visiting several of GlobalGiving’s community-led nonprofit partners in Mexico City. Over the course of a week, I sat down with leaders from four nonprofits to discuss the challenges they face, their hopes for advancing their work, and how GlobalGiving can better support their missions. From climate change to children’s rights, these organizations are working tirelessly on some of society’s most complex issues:

  • Fondo Semillas is a feminist fund that mobilizes resources and supports groups working to achieve gender equality in Mexico.
  • Ednica, institución de asistencia privada defends and promotes the rights of children and youth who live or work on the street to help them create alternatives for a dignified life.
  • Fundación ProEmpleo Productivo A.C. encourages people seeking a better personal and productive life by offering training and consultation on job creation, self-employment, and enterprise development.
  • Cooperación Comunitaria improves the habitability conditions and promotes resilience of Indigenous, rural communities in Mexico by facilitating sustainable self-management of factors for rural development.

These organizations are vastly different in the issues they address and the scale at which they operate, but I am struck more by their similarities than their differences. In each meeting, I heard the same three challenges:

  1. Cultivating donors to maintain core operations
  2. Working in a country that discouraged a thriving civil society
  3. Managing the scope of their work given the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues

Hurdles and red tape

While the need for unrestricted funding and scope management plague every nonprofit, not all operating environments are the same. Local politics and regulations can have a considerable impact on the progress of community organizations. Whether it is responding to bureaucratic registration processes or building funding pipelines in places where donors lack financial incentives to give, the hurdles are plentiful. And in all of these scenarios, community leaders are forced to adapt. They largely depend on unrestricted funding to pay for unexpected legal fees, replace stolen goods, or reimagine a program structure to ensure their work continues.

With partners in more than 175 countries, we regularly hear about the red tape our nonprofit partners must navigate to solicit and receive funding, and to implement their much needed programs in local communities. Unfortunately, countries with the most difficult operating environments are often where the needs are greatest. Our teams work closely with these organizations to support them through the due diligence process and ensure they can access the resources they need via GlobalGiving. In reaching the vetted status, they have demonstrated their strength and integrity as an organization despite the external headwinds.

Nonprofits still need unrestricted funding

In 2020, we observed a notable trend among donors: They actively shifted their philanthropic giving to unrestricted grants to ease the burden for nonprofits and respond to the pandemic’s impacts. While some donors continued with unrestricted giving, others have slowly returned to their original approach.

However, few nonprofits have moved on from the state of crisis—and perhaps never will.

When the geopolitical and economic landscapes are always changing, so are the needs of nonprofits working tirelessly to support their communities amid the instability.

The organizations I met with in Mexico City have challenging goals ahead of them: moving thousands of kids away from the streets, supporting disaster-prone communities in building long-term resilience, and advancing the rights of women. But these goals don’t account for the unpredictability of their operating environment. Nonprofits like Ednica, Cooperación Comunitaria, and thousands of others across the world need donors who believe in their work, understand its complexity, and trust their decisions. They’ve proven themselves through our very rigorous vetting process, now let’s give them the resources they need to pursue their missions—no matter what comes next.

We make it seamless and safe to give in more than 175 countries. Learn more about how we can support your organization’s CSR and philanthropic programs worldwide.


Featured Photo: Empowering women and girls in Mexican communities by Fondo Semillas

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