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Civil Society Programme Funding

Irish Aid has a track record in providing multi-annual programme support to Irish non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through a variety of funding streams.  Since 2012, Irish Aid NGO partners of sufficient organisational size and with a record of sound grant management have been supported through an innovative new multi-annual funding mechanism, the Irish Aid Programme Grant.

Cash for Work programme at the Laminchila Pader district

  • Overview
  • Programme partners
  • Focussing on results



What is programme funding?

Our Programme Grant is a performance-based partnership arrangement that we have with a number of major NGO partners. The grant has a strong focus on quality programming, understanding how positive change happens and delivering results for poor households and communities in countries of operation.

The Programme Grant also recognises the role that Irish NGOs play in engaging with the Irish public on development issues and in building better understanding and commitment to development co-operation and global citizenship.

Why we provide programme funding?

Programme funding is on a larger scale than the project funding approach supported through Irish Aid’s Civil Society Fund and other mechanisms. It allows greater flexibility and predictability for our grant partners to implement more ambitious interventions aimed at holistic change for poor and marginalised people.

Encompassing a range of countries and sectors, our partnership with NGOs through the Programme Grant supports people to participate in the development of their communities and to influence decisions that affect them at local, regional and national levels.

The programme grant enables us to achieve our policy objectives under the White Paper on Irish Aid and the Irish Aid Civil Society Policy 2008 (PDF, 428kb). This includes facilitating and encouraging civil society to develop and function.

Read an overview of the purpose of the programme grant (PDF, 460kb).

How we achieve our objectives through the programme grant

Each NGO partner’s programme of work is based on its own strategic plan and sets out a clear understanding of how it plans to deliver a positive impact for households and communities in developing countries. 

Key principles underpinning programme delivery include working through partners at community, district and national level, ensuring accountability to and partnership with communities, building local capacity and demonstrating the results achieved, to ensure the greatest possible progress for communities and to learn from previous experience.

Through our NGO partnerships, the Programme Grant provides support in a range of areas, including:

Livelihoods and hunger: tackling hunger through better agricultural production and market access for the rural poor, leading to increased income

Water and sanitation: working with communities to improve and manage water resources and sanitation infrastructure and hygiene practices

Women’s empowerment and gender equality: improving women’s control over decision making, economic opportunities and access to public services

Education: working with governments to increase student enrolment, retention and completion rates in schools, and promoting teaching quality and a favourable learning environment

Health: improving maternal and child health and reducing malnutrition through working with governments to improve health services

HIV and AIDS: reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS, and assisting those affected by improving prevention, mitigation and treatment interventions

Human rights: working to ensure human rights defenders are protected from human rights abuses and violence, and promoting access to justice and human rights for vulnerable groups

Governance: empowering poor and marginalised groups to influence decisions that affect them whether at local, regional or national levels

Disaster Risk Reduction: increasing the resilience of communities to economic and environmental shocks and improving their ability to respond to disasters

How does Irish Aid ensure value for money and oversight of its support through the Programme Grant?

At the core of ensuring value for money is Irish Aid’s disciplined and robust approach to programme cycle management. Decisions are based on a transparent and robust set of appraisal criteria and grants are only disbursed once a framework of realistic and measurable results and correlated budget are agreed. Partnerships are governed by Memoranda of Understanding and the implementation of the grants is rigorously monitored.

Irish Aid assesses the cost efficiency and effectiveness of NGO programmes and as part of its standard appraisal process. Financing agreements between Irish Aid and NGO partners include clear parameters on certain cost categories, including administration costs.

Irish Aid requires its major NGO partners to adhere to standards above and beyond those mandated by Irish law, notably best practice financial reporting standards, including for staff salaries, set out in the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) in place in the UK. Programme Partners are required to report on the number of staff receiving salaries above €70,000.

Programme Grant partners are appraised against a number of the standards set out in the voluntary Code of Corporate Governance developed by Dóchas, the Association of Irish Development NGOs, along with some additional standards, to determine the strength of NGOs’ governance structures.

Programme partners

Programme partners

Who are our programme partners?

Fourteen registered charities of sufficient organisational strength and appropriate technical capacity are supported with Civil Society Programme Funding for development programming-to-scale.

In 2019 the following allocations were made:  

Action Aid Ireland


Children in Crossfire


Christian Aid Ireland


Concern Worldwide


Front Line Defenders 




HelpAge International  


Oxfam Ireland


Plan Ireland


Self Help Africa  








World Vision Ireland


Focussing on results

Focussing on results

Each programme grant is based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and an agreed results framework. These results frameworks are monitored on an annual basis to determine if they are on track or off track.

In their annual reports, NGO partners outline the changes to which Programme Grant funding has contributed during the period. The annual report also highlights changes in the operating contexts for the NGO programmes that may have affected the attainment of intended results and includes annexes containing financial information.

These desk reviews are also supplemented by field monitoring visits, evaluations, audits and ongoing reviews of compliance.