How Foundations Can Partner with USAID

Foundations have been partnering with USAID in a variety of ways to advance locally led development, and below are how some of those partnerships are being executed. For member foundations interested in working with USAID on their own locally led development initiatives, Council on Foundations staff is available to help connect those foundations with USAID staff to begin exploring ways they can work together.

In 2023, 15 global foundations joined with bilateral donors to endorse a Donor Statement on Locally Led Development. Since then, we've seen steadily growing momentum for establishing both informal and formal partnerships between philanthropy and government aid agencies.

Establishing a Formal Partnership with USAID

Foundations are increasingly establishing formal partnerships with USAID, utilizing Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on a range of activities. Some examples of these partnerships between foundations and USAID include:

  • Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: Through this agreement, USAID and the Hilton Foundation will identify and apply their respective organizational strengths to advance locally led efforts in areas of shared interest, such as early childhood development, youth empowerment, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, safe water systems, and engagement with faith-based and community organizations. The two organizations will leverage their convening power, share networks, and coordinate outreach to mobilize U.S.-based and global philanthropies, civil society, and other stakeholders to prioritize elevating local leadership of development and humanitarian assistance.
  • Hewlett Foundation: USAID signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Center for Global Development (CGD) focusing on approaches to evaluation and evidence-generation. The partnership launches USAID’s Evidence Localization Initiative, to begin in Africa, and contributes to USAID, CGD, and Hewlett's broader priorities on advancing evidence-informed policy and locally led development.
  • Humanity United: Humanity United signed an MOU with the USAID’s Center for Conflict and Violence Prevention establishing a three-year collaboration to work towards advancing best practices related to locally led development and inclusive peacebuilding; facilitating information gathering and sharing through structured feedback sessions with local peacebuilders and USAID Missions; and creating a network of domestic and civil society organizations to provide input and guidance as locally led development practices evolve.
  • Skoll Foundation: USAID and the Skoll Foundation signed an MOU to explore and evaluate innovative, efficient, and, where appropriate, joint approaches for locally led development, particularly around (a) engaging local intermediaries who serve as fiscal agents or provide administrative support (e.g., payroll, award management, human resources, etc.) to a local network of organizations; and (b) identifying, coaching, and elevating local actors to be better positioned to receive awards from USAID and other donors. Additionally, USAID and Skoll will strengthen collaboration at the local level in USAID partner countries and build multi-stakeholder partnerships, including with additional foundations and likeminded donors, to support health, climate, and gender equality and equity, and optimize investments to address information manipulation, strengthening the resilience of information and media environments. USAID works in tandem with the Skoll Foundation in countries such as Brazil, where they aim to expand the abilities of local actors to execute projects that push forward climate action, biodiversity conservation, and thriving communities in the Brazilian Amazon.

USAID and Locally Led Development

USAID has doubled down on locally led development during the Biden Administration. In November 2021, agency Administrator Samantha Power announced two targets in pursuit of these goals: (a) by Fiscal Year (FY) 2025, USAID will direct a quarter of its funding directly to local partners; and (b) by 2030, at least half of USAID programs will create space for local actors to exercise leadership over priority-setting, activity design, implementation, and defining and measuring results. USAID's FY22 progress report notes that it reached $1.6 billion in direct local funding – a step in the right direction, but far from its targets.

USAID has also released a Local Capacity Strengthening Policy and an updated Risk Appetite Statement, clearly communicating how it intends to support its local partners.

Learn more about how USAID is supporting research and initiatives around locally led development.

Democracy Delivers Partnerships

The Democracy Delivers initiative was launched in 2022 by Administrator Power and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to bring together partners across sectors that can surge resources to countries undergoing moments of democratic renewal to maximize the likelihood that their democratic gains endure. Foundations who have made commitments to support Democracy Delivers include:

  • The Ford Foundation, which committed $20 million in new grants to support civic engagement in Moldova and Zambia and to advance the work of democracy-oriented actors in Tanzania and Nepal.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation, which committed up to approximately $28 million to benefit the Democracy Delivers cohort through rural electrification, climate resilience, food security, and more.

Additionally, in 2023, the following foundations announced investments supporting Democracy Delivers countries and objectives: The Chandler Foundation, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation,, Humanity United, The International Chamber of Commerce, The Mott Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Skoll Foundation, The Tent Partnership for Refugees, The Tinker Foundation, The UPS Foundation, The Vodafone Foundation, and WINGS.

Read more about how foundations have supported global efforts to advance locally led development and democracy in Inside Philanthropy.

Additional Resources About Partnering with USAID

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