Small Grants Big Impacts

Small grants funds offer an effective, alternative way to channel big money from large donors and funds to local groups and organisations that are striving for a sustainable and just society everywhere around the world. 

Believe it or not, parts of the Sahel are becoming green and fertile. This doesn't happen entirely by itself though: In the 1980s, male and female farmers in the South of Niger started restoring the fertility of their land using a traditional method that had long been forgotten. They were supported with a small grant of just 5.000 euros. Thirty years later, 80 villages in the district of Dogonkiria have already adopted this traditional agro-forestry method and 11,000 hectares of land are currently regaining their fertility. This shows how a small amount of money, used the right way by the right people, can lead to great results.

Thousands of grassroots groups and organisations are working worldwide to protect and improve the environment, human rights and the living conditions of local communities. Together they form an enormous force for sustainable development, not only because they know exactly where the pain is and how it can be eased effectively, but also because they show how that natural resources can be managed in a sustainable, just and inclusive manner.

Local organisations too small and invisible

Unfortunately, the current system of financing is not designed to support these groups effectively. Most financial institutions, donors, and funders want to spend their money in the most efficient way, which means that money mainly goes to large projects. The positive effect of these large projects on local people and their environment on the long term is questionable.

Because of their small size, grassroots groups and organisations cannot meet the bureaucratic requirements set by major international funds, donors and financial institutions, or these groups are simply invisible. Moreover, some of them cannot operate openly for security reasons, let alone showing a 'track record'.

Small Grants Funds redivide the 'big money'

The dozens of existing, locally set up small grants funds can form the link between large donors and these grassroots organisations. These national or regional funds, raise funds with large donors and pass it on in smaller amounts – often not larger than a few thousand euros – to local organisations and groups. Small grants funds thus make sure that 'big money' ends up with those who know best what is really needed on a local level.

Small grants funds not only provide financing, but also share information and knowledge, help build networks and conduct joint lobby activities. Recipient organisations always decide for themselves what they spend the money on. Small grants funds can also respond promptly and effectively to crises, for example where environmental and human rights defenders come under threat. With small amounts of money, these people can quickly be brought to safety.

Building the future with existing small grants funds

Both ENDS is the co-founder of a number of small grants funds and works closely with funds that focus on environmental and human rights defenders, Our experience has taught us that these funds are indispensable in getting donated money to the right place and in generating maximum impact with minimum resources. Small grants funds are powerful alternative financing mechanisms for sustainable development stemming from a grass root level, and for citizen's initiatives in areas that are getting less and less conventional funding because the circumstances are getting ever more dangerous and insecure.

On a national and international level, Both ENDS calls upon countries to make much more use of small grants funds in the implementation of their policies. This can be done, for instance, by making sure that all international financial institutions (IFI's) that the Netherlands and other countries transfer money to, such as the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund, disburse a large part of their funds via the already existing network of small grants funds. Furthermore, countries can distribute part of their bilateral grants and aid via small grants funds.

For more information

Read more about this subject