Each year, the development community, relief organizations and governments make billions of dollars in cash payments to poor households through benefit stipends, emergency relief payments and other development initiatives. Moreover, in the last decade the international community has made a significant transition away from the distribution of in-kind goods toward cash transfers, not only in emergency relief but also in the areas of health, education, food security, and poverty alleviation. While these efforts hold great promise, making an additional shift from physical cash toward electronic payments will allow individuals and organizations to realize fully the benefits of this transition while accelerating the rate of financial inclusion around the world.
Because of the prevalence of cash-based societies in developing markets, NGOs often are forced to rely on physical cash for both their work with beneficiaries (microfinance payments, conditional cash transfers) as well as their internal operations (payroll, expenditures, etc.). While using cash is often the most apparent means of payment, this traditional approach can present significant overhead costs, overburden staffing resources, open the door to corruption and security concerns and present missed opportunities to advance financial inclusion. By exploring new technologies and building new approaches, the humanitarian and development communities can improve the efficiency, transparency and impact of their programs while enabling individuals to begin participating in the formal financial system.
Humanitarian and development organizations already have begun to explore a wide variety of technologies to facilitate payments and manage resources. An increasing array of technologies and opportunities are emerging, providing the flexibility of cash and mitigating the challenges of resource distribution and program operations that transcend diverse geographies. Vouchers, prepaid cards, electronic remittances and mobile money transactions are just a few of the options becoming increasingly available in place of the distribution of physical cash. These mechanisms can have immediate and positive impacts because they help reduce the costs and risks of distributing cash. At the same time, by receiving money electronically, beneficiaries, vendors and employees engage in the financial services cycle and discover the ways in which that cycle can support their livelihoods and their communities.
However, a study by the Cash Learning Partnership entitled, “New Technologies in Cash Transfer Programming and Humanitarian Assistance” reveals significant obstacles facing organizations trying to make this transition, including technological, operational and attitudinal barriers. While some of these barriers are being overcome through greater knowledge-sharing and an increase in public-private partnerships, the report calls for greater investment in overcoming internal barriers and additional funding for adoption of new technologies.
To help organizations address these challenges and questions, Visa has launched the Visa Innovation Grants program. Through this program, Visa is making available five grants of $100,000 each to non-profit humanitarian and development organizations to support innovation, implementation and adoption of electronic transfers and/or payments within their programs and/or within their organizations.
Examples of projects that could be considered for funding:
Implementing or transitioning a cash transfer program (e.g., cash grants, cash-for-work, voucher) to using electronic payments instead of in-kind goods or physical cash for an emergency humanitarian scenario or in a non-emergency development program
Electronifying the distribution and repayment of microloans or other financial services
Electronifying payments to NGO field staff
Electronifying significant payment streams for local suppliers in the field
By helping humanitarian and development organizations transition to electronic payments and transactions, Visa believes that these grants will help foster financial inclusion in the communities they serve as well as strengthen the organizations’ ability to realize their missions.
Submission is now closed.
RFP period opens: Week of Nov. 26, 2012
Webinar call for potential applicants: Thursday, December 6th, 2012 at 10:00 am EST/ 7:00 am PST. Webex recording link
Electronic proposal submission deadline: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 11:59 p.m. PST
Notification of grant awards: As of April 19, 2013, due to the large number of quality proposals, the review process is still underway. Please check back here for updates.
Director, Strategic Partnerships