Advice for Small Businesses: our donors

In addition to finance, the EBRD enables small and medium-sized businesses access business advice to help them grow.

All of these activities are only possible thanks to the generous support of donor organisations. In fact, our activities have been majority donor-funded since the very beginning. To date, more than 20 bilateral and institutional donors have supported us with over €230 million in funding.

Our principles

The partnership with our donors is an important ingredient in our success. It helps us to keep our principles sharp and our work relevant. The experience and insight of donors, together with the demand for high quality delivery, drives us to continuously improve. And over the past two decades, we have built up strong and productive relationships with our donors. Many of them fund our programmes again and again, and trust us to innovate effectively.

Relevance

We do not provide one-size-fits-all consultancy. Rather, our advice is tailored to the specific needs of each business with which we work. From micro-production issues to international strategy, our clients receive services that are relevant and practical, leading to effective solutions based on experience.

We know that markets are different in each country. We therefore differentiate our approach depending on the national and, often, local context. All of our programmes align with national priorities and strategies. Our efforts are coordinated carefully with other stakeholders to maximise impact and to complement rather than duplicate their efforts.

Management for results

After more than 18,000 projects with over 14,000 businesses, our track record speaks for itself. We have used this experience to continually improve the way we operate. At the EBRD, we work to the highest standards of integrity. Before each project begins, we perform thorough integrity checks and due diligence on our clients. In addition, our monitoring and evaluation procedures are well tested. We are very clear from the outset about the results we expect, and monitor closely whether we are on track to deliver them throughout the project cycle.

To determine project success, every intervention is evaluated for relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. Through regular updates and donor reports we keep donors informed about our operations, and we are always available to answer questions or provide updates.

We then compare those results across countries and regions, benchmarking projects against industry trends and market developments. This keeps us responsive to changing needs in each market and also means that we can take knowledge gained in one context and see whether it could apply elsewhere. We take the time to learn our lessons – turning success into best practice is part of what makes our programmes effective. We share these stories systematically, contributing to a broader demonstration effect.

Sustainability

We want results that last and markets that thrive. We look beyond the lifespan of a single activity and design projects to produce changes that will last independently of the EBRD. Our goal is to develop a robust private sector of dynamic businesses that innovate, access know-how and financing as needed, and continue to prosper and grow.

Part of this goal is to develop a thriving local market for business advice on which small and medium-sized businesses can draw. By gradually reducing the subsidies we offer, and encouraging higher client contributions to projects over time, we support the move toward a self-sustaining, competitive market for advisory services that is independent of donors.

In addition, close collaboration with stakeholders such as chambers of commerce helps create a lasting support structure. In more developed markets, we can be even more ambitious, engaging with government so that they can take over what we do once we’re gone.

Value for money

We recognise our responsibility to ensure that the donor funds with which we are entrusted generate the greatest possible impact and practise sound financial management. Over the past few years we have increasingly encouraged clients to share in the cost of projects. To date, almost half of our project costs are covered by the clients themselves. Altogether our clients contribute over €7 million each year, making our funding go further. This means we can reach more businesses than under more traditional development approaches.

It is not just about money, it’s about incentives too. Because our clients put in their own resources, we ensure that we have their full commitment and ownership. That’s how we know that when we invest in our clients, we generate the greatest possible impact.

Partnership

Our donors are vital partners in every aspect of our work and we recognise their contribution every step of the way – from the material we present to potential clients and consultants, to the presentations we make to stakeholders and to the media that showcase our stories. Our donors are invited to participate in regular steering committees, public events and visits to clients and stakeholders, providing an additional platform for local engagement.