November 20, 2023

Funder Practices that Strengthen Nonprofit Resilience: Lessons from India

Five practical principles funders can use to support strong, resilient nonprofit partners in India.


Funders and their nonprofit partners share a commitment to making progress on some of society’s most pressing problems. Yet, while many funders back programmes that are making a big difference for communities and the environment today, they have a huge opportunity to amplify that impact by also investing in their grantees’ organisational strength and resilience.

That means covering core costs associated with shared administrative and support functions, supporting organisational development (OD) initiatives like strategic planning and technology upgrades, and backing efforts to advance financial resilience such as contributing to reserve funds. Today, chronic underfunding of nonprofits’ true costs blunts the impact funders and nonprofits strive for.

The Bridgespan Group, along with five anchor partners, launched the Pay-What-It-Takes (PWIT) India Initiative in 2020 to understand the extent of this underfunding problem in India and seek solutions.1 What we found makes a compelling case for change:2

compelling case for pay what it takes graphic

We spoke with several funders who have embraced practices that strengthen nonprofits in India. Their efforts guided us in developing a set of PWIT principles all funders can adopt to support strong, resilient nonprofit partners: 

  • Develop multiyear funder-nonprofit partnerships
  • Pay a fair share of core costs
  • Invest in organisational development
  • Build financial resilience
  • Embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in grantmaking

Aligning funder operations and grantmaking practices with these principles won’t be easy. Chronic underfunding is a complex issue, and all stakeholders need to work together to solve it. But funders hold the purse strings, which puts responsibility for leadership in their court.

But where to begin? There isn’t one set way to “pay what it takes.” Rather, funders have the flexibility to tailor their own approaches. While some funders start with unrestricted, flexible funding as their cornerstone, for many, the process begins with gradual steps that help build mutual trust with grantees, paving the way for more expansive forms of true-cost investment. This guide offers funders a menu of ways to live into these principles.

Download Funder Practices that Strengthen Nonprofit Resilience: Lessons from India

1 The Pay-What-It-Takes India Initiative was seeded by five anchor partners: A.T.E. Chandra Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, EdelGive Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Omidyar Network India. Omidyar Network India co-sponsored the initiative only in 2020. In 2023, two other anchor partners joined the initiative: Forbes Marshall CSR and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2 Pritha Venkatachalam, Donald Yeh, Shashank Rastogi, Anushka Siddiqui, Umang Manchanda, Kanika Gupta, and Roger Thompson, Building Strong, Resilient NGOs in India: Time for New Funding Practices, The Bridgespan Group, March 2021.
Creative Commons License logo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available in our Terms and Conditions.
The Bridgespan Group would like to thank the JPB Foundation for its generous and ongoing support of our knowledge creation and sharing work.