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Facilitating Financial Sustainability Research

In 2017-2018, the Facilitating Financial Sustainability (FFS) team designed and conducted research to identify the ways in which different factors interact to support and hinder financial sustainability of CSOs in various operating environments, and the various strategies available to CSOs to achieve sustainability in these complex settings. The research was conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mexico, Uganda, and the Philippines.

The FFS research focused on the following overarching question:

What are the critical characteristics of systems that are particularly conducive to local CSO financial sustainability as a way to allow these CSOs to take ownership of the development process?

The research culminated in the publication of three research papers, which provide key information on how civil society actors, funders, policy makers and other relevant individuals can support and increase local CSO financial sustainability.

Finanacial management system
Executive Director of the Genesis Project in Banja Luka (BiH), shows off her impressive financial management system. Source: Megan Renoir - Peace Direct

Research Findings

Research findings

“This research is useful to educate donors with robust, credible and third-party information… It helps validate and reinforce the message that CSOs are trying to get across to the donor community in general”

Research participant from Mexico.


Financial Sustainability Research Synthesis

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An overall synthesis of the key lessons learned on strategies and approaches to CSO financial sustainability based on CSO stakeholder interviews and a large-scale analysis of grants.

Funder Deep-Dive Analysis

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Deep dive analysis of the strategies that funders use to support financial sustainability in six countries.

CSO Deep-Dive Analysis

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Review of the drivers of CSO financial sustainability based on interviews with representatives from 30 CSOs across six countries, using a Qualitative Comparative Analysis method.

Executive Summary

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An overview of the findings from across the research reports.

Systemic Review

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Analysis of the discussions surrounding CSO’s financial sustainability, highlighting best practices and where the international development community might take research and practice in the field forward.


To support data collection and analysis and to provide further insight to practitioners accessing the FFS publications and findings, FFS developed a set of interactive network maps showing transactional relationships between donors and grantees in the six country contexts. The maps allow users to identify the most central and prolific donors providing CSO sustainability support, CSOs that are receiving funding from one or more of those donors, and intermediary organizations that are active as “sub-donors” and support providers.

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