Humanitarian organisations work in an increasingly complex environment. The global context for their operations is affected by geopolitical changes, making humanitarian work difficult and more dangerous. The multiplication of actors means the creation of new opportunities but also increased competition between aid groups. There has been much criticism from the media and the public of competition between humanitarian organisations and this has arguably weakened confidence in the humanitarian sector.

Climate change and urbanisation are combining to cause more disasters which increasingly affect urban populations. Technological changes are challenging global boundaries as the world gets smaller and information travels faster. Great effort is being made to adapt to these changes, to improve cooperation, coordination and preparedness for delivering humanitarian aid ‘on the ground’.

Significant opportunities for collaboration to improve fundraising results are only now beginning to be understood.

Potential exists both at the national and international levels. In several countries joint national appeal organisations already exist; some since the 1940s, others are more recent. The large mobilisation of resources after the major crises of the last decade (tsunami of 2004) have added to the scrutiny of international humanitarian fundraising and strengthened the arguments for more cooperation. Characteristics of joint appeal mechanisms vary, but usually combine two core ingredients: the participation of experienced global humanitarian organisations and partnerships with national media and the private sector.

Overall, joint appeal mechanisms are able to:
  1. Establish clarity with a one-stop-shop; a single and united voice across the humanitarian sector takes the guesswork out of giving and makes the donation process easy for the public as well as national media.
  2. Guarantee quality; collectively adhering to humanitarian standards gives the public a guarantee of professionalism and experience. Collaboration further enhances information sharing for improved knowledge of humanitarian situations as well as informed decision-making on when to launch an appeal.
  3. Save advertising and media costs; unlike in a competitive fundraising scenario, where organisations compete for media coverage and pay for duplicate advertising campaigns, one joint appeal can reduce wasteful duplication of costs and expand partnership potential. The option to deal with a single humanitarian sector contact point for the media is clearly preferable to managing multiple organisations and messages.
  4. Enhance opportunities for partnerships; it is more attractive for corporate partners to work with an organisation which represents a whole sector and has a strong national ‘brand’ than it is to choose among organisations. In fact, faced with competing requests, many donors and businesses simply do not make a contribution.
  5. Increase accountability; sharing costs and reducing the burden on field staff through joint reporting has strong benefits. In addition, visible coordination contributes to improved confidence among the public.