Budgeting for Security in Proposals

April 30, 2015 Alec Green

Risk management has become one of the most high-profile organizational imperatives in the aid sector. Despite increased emphasis governing agencies and funders have placed on organizational security, many organizations struggle to procure the necessary resources to fund a comprehensive approach to risk management.

Currently, there is little consistency in budgeting for security. Budgeted amounts for security in high risk environment can range anywhere from 3% to 30%. And, it is most common for organizations to not budget at the bid/no bid phase of their projects at all. Instead, they play catch-up at the time the security issues must be addressed or at the time of implementation of their programs. This approach can cause weaknesses in security and does not sit well with funders when the costs of security measures are added on after the proposal has been accepted.

In our recent webinar on Budgeting for Security in Proposals, Laky Pissalidis, security director of InterAction, along with Lisa Reilly of the European Interagency Security Forum and Ira Russ, Director of Security at Education Development Center (EDC) discussed the challenges of including security risks in proposals for funding of humanitarian aid efforts.

The three security specialists shed light on the current problems with NGO security, and suggested ways to calculate the cost of risk management. Further, the conversation highlighted the importance of risk assessment as the foundation of budgeting for security risk management. Finally, our guest speakers outlined typical costs associated with NGO security. The group made several key points about how to handle the crucial task of procuring funding for security.

  • Forget about conventional security such as tanks and guns. These measures are counterproductive to humanitarian goals and are, in fact, operationally impossible given that small groups of aid workers are scattered around the globe, often in remote locations.
  • Consider security to be a central part of delivering aid rather than an end unto itself.
  • Justify risk management costs to funders in a way they can understand and approve. Funders need to see accurate and reliable risk assessments to understand the need for funding security. To do this, NGO’s must gather information to identify threats, evaluate that information to determine who is impacted, and identify the price of providing necessary security to mitigate those threats.
  • Create specific line items for individual security needs, such as access, administration and logistics, communication, insurance and crisis management.
  • Identify risks as either direct risks like crimes against the staff or kidnapping to make a political statement against the NGO, or indirect risks such as natural disasters. Also, note the likelihood of the risk becoming a reality.
  • Gather a group that includes members of the NGO, stakeholders and funders of the project to discuss security needs. This gives funders more information to support accepting proposals that include security costs.
  • Map out costs on a matrix showing likelihood on one axis and impact on another axis. The point of intersection where both qualities are highest are the risks you must mitigate, so they must be included in the proposal.
  • Calculate costs for each security measure needed and incorporate them as direct costs within the proposal.
  • Present the information in a logical and evidence-based format so the donor can easily see the direct needs for security costs.
  • Incorporate security measures into every job description within the NGO and include them in standard operating procedures.

According to Pissalidis, 95% of the costs that are clearly outlined and justified are going to be approved by donors. The truth is that the main issue isn’t that funders won’t approve security costs. Instead, the problem stems primarily from the failure to identify the risks and calculate the costs.

The full webinar on Budgeting for Security in Proposals is available now and covers all these issues and recommendations, along with more detailed information on security needs in the aid sector. 


About the Author

As Chief Marketing Evangelist, Alec Green is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners and beneficiaries. Previously, Alec was Vice President of Marketing at The Search Agency, the largest independent online marketing agency in the U.S. He has also held marketing leadership roles at Zynx Health and Amgen Inc. and began his career as a seventh-grade mathematics teacher in the New York Unified School District. Alec holds an MBA in marketing from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a BA in psychology and sociology from Amherst College.


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