Derek Ray-Hill

Director of International Strategy and Corporate Services

Charities Aid Foundation


Giving to Ukraine: what we've learnt two years on

26 February 2024

The conflict in Ukraine has brought about challenges that resonate across the world. As we explore the efforts of organisations dealing with the crisis, we begin to understand the collaborations and initiatives making a difference, and what donors can do to support them.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis 

The figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) paint a stark picture:

And it's the most vulnerable who bear the brunt of this crisis. Women and children make up the majority of those displaced, according to UNICEF. This puts them at more risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse.


Tackling the challenges of the humanitarian response

Many international organisations have stepped up to help, supported by corporate and individual donors. A leading example is the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, which has raised over £426 million. This includes £9.2 million from CAF donors. CAF America's Corporate Aid for Ukraine Fund has provided over $45.5 million in corporate donations.

Yet two years on, organisations have documented many challenges.

As of February 2024, the UNHCR is appealing for $993.3 million. Currently only 13% of that is funded, demonstrating the strain on humanitarian operations. Similarly, while international NGOs mobilised quickly, the obstacles they faced hindered immediate action.

This is where local organisations were able to step in and be the first to respond. But they are now reporting an emotional state of burnout. Of the 600 NGOs surveyed by the Zagoriy Foundation:

  • Only 26% are unaffected by fatigue
  • 49.6% are beginning to experience burnout
  • 35.3% are fully engulfed in burnout

Staff and volunteers are experiencing difficult working conditions and a tough psychological environment. While low income, overwork, distrust, language barriers, and financial and legal complexities make it difficult for them to collaborate and deliver support locally.

Despite this, since February 2022, Ukraine's charity sector has transformed significantly. Around 84% of the population have seen a growth in charitable efforts. Among them:

  • 63.5% note a significant increase
  • 18.8% perceive a moderate increase
  • Only 5.5% claim no change

The Ukrainian people are doing everything to support themselves. The country ranks second in the most recent World Giving Index after coming in at tenth last year. This ranks higher than the world's richest and most stable countries. 

Local organisations are also establishing long-term relationships that are reinforcing the effectiveness of their support. The Zagoriy Foundation, for example, secured foreign funding for nearly 15 organisations. This has led to faster, more strategic responses and the inclusion of local organisations in decision making. While the use of up-to-date local information is supporting efforts on the ground.


Shared lessons for donors

The efforts to support Ukraine are testament to the power of collective compassion and adaptive strategies. As we reflect on the challenges, three important lessons emerge to help donors increase the impact of their donations in Ukraine and other crises going forward.

1. Be flexible

A recurring theme is the need for flexible funding, especially in a crisis. The evolving needs of affected communities demand agile responses. Grant proposals, while important, must be balanced with the need for adaptable approaches.

As shown in Ukraine, a shift from merely funding projects to forming relationships can yield long-term, sustainable impact. Continued on-the-ground support remains paramount, both within Ukraine and neighbouring countries. A sustained commitment to nurture the growth and resilience of affected communities is essential.

2. Think local

Building on this, donors should seek to add value at a local level. Delivering direct donations to local organisations is arguably the key to effective aid. Their insights enable faster response times that better fit the needs of local communities. And they can continue to deliver food, water, medical aid, protection, and trauma care. By supporting local organisations, donors can ensure targeted interventions where they’re most needed.

3. Collaborate to build up resilience

Support for organisations in neighbouring countries with existing ties to Ukrainian communities can also offer the lifeline that affected people desperately need. Their local knowledge means they can respond efficiently, flexibly and with resilience.

During the Ukraine crisis, many of CAF's fellow partners in Transnational Giving Europe have given invaluable assistance. Beyond the immediate help they provided, they are supporting a longer-term rebuilding of lives and communities through initiatives such as Global Challenges Local Solutions, which provides grants to Ukrainian refugees. These have funded scholarships, entrepreneurial efforts and micro-grants to improve their quality of life. All of which exemplify the importance of strengthening local NGOs and homegrown programmes.

As donors and organisations navigate the challenges together, these lessons and partnerships can contribute both to immediate relief and the collective strength of our global community, for a more resilient, sustainable future.

You can read more on our recommendations for responding strategically to humanitarian emergencies and incorporating long-term disaster response into your giving strategy.


How to give to Ukraine

At CAF, we help donors make sure their giving creates the biggest possible difference.

We enable safe, impactful gifts to any qualifying charity – anywhere in the world. Donations stay secure, cost-effective, and, where possible, tax advantaged. Find out how you can donate overseas through our giving accounts:

You can also download our Guide to Giving for more insights on making a greater impact with your giving.