BRAC: An Example of Scaling Success
How answering key questions led to one donor’s support of BRAC.
Giving back is crucial to my wife and me. We use a disciplined process to identify nonprofits for investment and collaboration. Several questions drive the best fit for us, especially given unique issues and opportunities for international organizations. The key questions we ask when determining what international organizations to support:
- Is the organization’s strategy compelling?
- Do they differentiate themselves?
- Is the organization sustainable and transparent?
- Does scaling impact drive their organization?
- Do they have a model that is effective for low-income countries?
As we answered these questions, we decided to support BRAC, a non-profit headquartered in Bangladesh, for the following reasons:
- Reputation: BRAC was voted the Number 1 Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by NGO Advisor from 2016-21. When their founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, died in 2019, The Economist devoted a two-page obituary about BRAC's crucial role in transforming the economy of its home country of Bangladesh since 1972. They were awarded a $60 million grant by The Audacious Project to accelerate their Ultra-Poor Graduation approach to help another 4.6 million families (21 million individuals) lift themselves from extreme poverty by 2026.
- Strategy: BRAC uses a multifaceted approach to ending extreme poverty, leveraging capabilities and partners across education, microfinance, health care, agricultural and humanitarian relief, among other areas.
- Model: 50 years of experience in a developing economy enables them to understand issues to tackle systemic poverty from the perspective of a peer, not a western-based, organization. They develop and pilot their programs in Bangladesh and tailor them elsewhere. BRAC's affiliates, BRAC USA and BRAC UK help to grow its support base and raise new funds to amplify their impact.
- Focus and discipline: They support only eleven countries, largely in Africa and South Asia. They are data-driven from the village to the national level. They do an excellent job of executing their strategy and reviewing progress against plan, rigorously using metrics to evaluate their goals and performance.
- Sustainability: BRAC celebrates their 50th anniversary this year. They have a perfect 100 score on Charity Navigator's Star Rating System. Approximately 80% of their income in Bangladesh is self-financed through 13 social enterprises, which enables them to reinvest their income into development programs. BRAC also aligns its work with the goals of the governments in the countries where they work.
- Innovation and agility: We value nonprofits using appropriate levels of technology leveraging a culture of continuous improvement. BRAC has reached 109 million people with lifesaving information since the start of the pandemic, including deploying distance technology to provide early childhood development and education to tens of thousands of students while institutions were closed.
- Impact: BRAC’s size (around 100,000 employees and 100 million participants served) and long-standing partnerships help them achieve a significant scale of impact. Their schools have graduated over 13 million children. They have 8.8 million microfinance customers. And, more than 2.1 million families have graduated from extreme poverty. Plus, they earned a 100 on Charity Navigator’s Impact & Results beacon, showcasing within their profile’s statement that “$40 increases the earnings of an adolescent girl by $190.”
- Current and future initiatives: Currently, BRAC is focused on reaching those who have fallen back into extreme poverty due to the pandemic and economic crises. BRAC has also targeted building skills and networks for 2 million adolescent girls and young women. They are also expanding climate change programs, piloting them in Bangladesh with plans to share learnings and capabilities elsewhere.
BRAC is a wonderful example of a leading nonprofit leveraging their scale and experience to transform millions of lives.
If you’re considering supporting international development, I recommend using Charity Navigator’s search feature to find organizations that answer the questions most important to you. If you’re interested in supporting several great nonprofits working to solve global poverty, you can support the Global Poverty Fund.
The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a long-time supporter of Charity Navigator at a leadership level. He and his wife do more than donate to the causes they care about--they invest in their future. They dedicate their free time to closely working with the organizations they support to foster growth and innovation.