Humanitarian, aid and development FOMO

Daryl Crowden 

What you need to know:

In a context of decreasing funding many of us are also held to account to attract more and new funding

I arrived early at the response site to make sure we were prepared for the day. A donor team was coming to town!

It was a large, almost empty field. The ubiquitous branded tents formed the boundary of the refugee holding area and down the far end, our medical tent and my twelve-member team were busy setting up for the day’s outpatients that would soon begin arriving.

Four hours before the donors were scheduled to arrive, mine was the only vehicle in the area. But the serious Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) transformation was about to begin. By the time the donor convoy appeared there were 15 vehicles parked around the site.

The donors joined a well-choreographed circus that on the surface looked like it was always this busy, this chaotic, this welcoming.

I suspect many of you, like me, have been in similar situations. When you have been the special guest you know, or at least sense, what is an act and what is genuine – don’t you? After an off the record discussion with one of the visitors it was evident that he knew what was real and what was a FOMO activity and presence as well.

Of course, we need to welcome our donors, we need to show them that we are accountable with their money. We must show them the impact of their funds and the remaining needs and gaps. In other words, why do we need more money? We know it and they know it. For the donor, the visit is about assessing what their partners have done and are doing. For us it’s about convincing them that the response needs more investment and that they should make the investment through us. Let’s be honest none of us are innocent in the ‘game’.

However, while we all know the rules of the game, most of the humanitarian actors that I have worked alongside are genuine, hardworking, accountable, and transparent in their work.

We may not get it all right all the time, but we do everything we can to ensure that the people we serve receive the best we can give them, and the people and organisations who trust us to spend their money can be assured that their funds are spent in accordance with their guidelines and passion. Donors can be confident that what they see, is what they get and what we say we will do, we do.

But, in a context of competitive and decreasing funding many of us are also held to account to attract more and new funding, so that we can do more and better.

My concern and observations in several responses, not just here in Uganda, is that sometimes we act disingenuously out of FOMO. If not creating, then playing a key role in the aid circus to convince donors that we are their best option.

I acknowledge and have been embarrassed by the FOMO circus. But I also fully believe in what NGOs do and the impact we have and will have in the future. I know that most NGOs are respected partners, cost effective, uniquely placed and exceptionally capable of delivering sustainable and durable solutions for many of the world’s most vulnerable people. And we need the trust and funding of the donor (supporter) community to do it.

Will I stop advocating for more resources and trying to influence donors to support the people of concern through the NGO I work for? Of course not. But nor will I be driven to put on an act of intentional misrepresentation from the FOMO.

Daryl Crowden, Country Director, Medical Teams International