Why now is the time to consider partnering with the largest bi-lateral aid donor
USAID has long been the largest bilateral aid donor in the international development market. Recently, it has grown even further in size and has taken important steps to making its funding more accessible to new partners around the world. While securing funds from USAID can still be resource-intensive and highly competitive, getting a piece of the $21 billion annual USAID market can be well worth the effort for many organizations.
At AidKonekt Data, we support new partners entering the USAID market every day. We have seen several developments with USAID that make now an ideal time to take a serious look at this market. These include USAID’s New Partnerships Initiative (NPI) and Administrator Samantha Power’s acceleration of that work, as well as USAID’s role being elevated under President Biden’s Administration. Additionally, according to data from AidKonekt, there are currently more than $10 billion in forecasted USAID funding opportunities that organizations from nearly any country are eligible to bid on. This article is targeted to organizations who have been considering engaging with USAID for the first time, or have unsuccessfully tried in the past to access USAID funding, but are ready to take a renewed look at the market.
The New Partnerships Initiative
NPI is one of the flagship initiatives launched under former USAID Administrator Mark Green. While this is not the first time that USAID has reached out to new partners, there are several key differences with NPI. Most importantly, compared with past initiatives like USAID FORWARD that focused on growing partnerships with local organizations, NPI has a broader focus that includes outreach to international NGOs and consulting firms, faith-based organizations, and the private sector.
In certain procurements, NPI is using a new term, Locally Established Partner (LEP). In short, the LEP definition can, in some cases, allow a locally-based country office of an international entity to be eligible to bid on a procurement by being considered a local partner if they meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include having a continuous presence operating in-country for more than five years and being locally registered with a local bank account.
To further support NPI’s success, USAID invested more than $10 million in a New Partnerships Initiative Incubator Project. The goal of this project is to support new USAID partners by developing tools, resources, and training to support their journey to become USAID partners.
My conversations with Senior USAID staff all point to an acceleration of USAID’s efforts to work with new partners under Administrator Power. Matt Johnson, USAID Communications Director and Industry Liaison, recently shared:
At USAID, we are always looking for new, capable organizations to partner with. But, we understand that oftentimes it is a challenge to know where to begin. That is why we are gearing up to launch the WorkwithUSAID.org platform. This site will offer a variety of innovative services and curated tools designed to improve organizational readiness, connect partners to peers and experts, and prepare them to pursue USAID funding.
USAID’s elevated role under the Biden Administration
USAID’s role is being significantly elevated under the Biden Administration in several key ways. After the election, President Biden’s transition team not only announced their nominee for USAID Administrator before the Inauguration but also selected Ambassador Samantha Power, one of the highest-profile nominees for the role, to lead the Agency. She has long been an influential voice in humanitarian aid and was previously the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Obama-Biden Administration. She received strong bi-partisan support through the confirmation process which is impressive given the potential for political gridlock in appointments.
A big shift has been the addition of USAID to the National Security Council. This is important for USAID’s role in U.S. foreign policy. USAID is playing a leading role in the Biden Administration’s global COVID response and recovery effort. On a recent AidKonekt USAID Market Event that I hosted, Shanda Steimer, USAID COVID Task Force Pillar Lead, shared that when the America Rescue Plan was passed, it included $11 billion in new funding for the COVID response, a majority of which was slotted for USAID.
Increased funding availability
We anticipate seeing a continued increase in the availability of USAID funding. Last fiscal year USAID saw a significant increase in obligations to $21 billion. At the time Mark Walthers, USAID Director of the Office of Acquisition and Assistance, said, “USAID obligated over $21.4 billion in acquisition and assistance (A&A) mechanisms last year, far exceeding our previous high of over $17 billion.”
In addition to NPI, President Biden has already reversed the Mexico City Policy which allows more global health organizations to be eligible for USAID funding. The Administration also renewed the focus on Central America’s Northern Triangle and climate change activities, including naming former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change.
Another crucial, but under-reported change, is that we anticipate seeing greater predictability in the flow of funding from USAID. Given the nature of USAID’s work, there may still be ongoing issues and last-minute budget initiatives from Congress, but the White House is actively supporting and promoting USAID’s mission.
Next steps for new USAID partners
There are several resources available for organizations interested in taking the next steps in their journey to accessing USAID funding. These include following AidKonekt’s Four-P methodology to position your entity for growth with USAID.
- Past performance
- Match your organization’s past performance to current USAID funding opportunities.
- Allocate staff time to regularly monitoring USAID procurement and market intel, or streamline this process by subscribing AidKonekt.
- Build, grow, and manage your network of contacts with USAID, USAID’s implementing partners, and consultants and stakeholders in the market.
- Engage specialists familiar with U.S. federal procurement processes and regulations.
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About the Author:
Mike Shanley is the Founder and CEO of AidKonekt Data, the intel platform for USAID business development teams. AidKonekt helps new USAID partners to accelerate their path to USAID funding, and supports established implementors to access better USAID partnering data. He has more than 15 years of experience in the USAID market, including as the Founder of Konektid International (konektid.com), and working at Chemonics International. He has been invited to speak on USAID partnering best practices at humanitarian aid events and conferences around the world, including with USAID, Devex, and other aid associations and partners. Mike is an avid trail runner and enjoys spending time in the Rocky Mountains.