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Doctors Without Borders: Resource Development Plan Report (Assessment)

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Updated: May 28th, 2021


Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a large nonprofit association that has a well-developed system of loyal donors. Its mission has a broad appeal, thus attracting both medium and large individual contributors. However, the nonprofit does not use all functions of social media, failing to attract people interested in specific crises. The potential sources of funding include small individual donors, people with interests in specific populations or regions, and supporters who respond well to urgent calls to action.

These types of contributors can be cultivated with the help of social media platforms. Such websites as Facebook and Twitter will allow MSF to reach whole communities of people and engage them in personal stories of affected persons. MSF should pay attention to creating a simple and effective way to donate. Options to thank the new donors should be limited to personalized digital cards and newsletters to keep the costs low and make sure that the supporters know where their money is being spent.


Nonprofit organizations greatly rely on the public to fund their operations and continue their work. Therefore, the cultivation of donors is one of the most crucial parts of any nonprofit management strategic plan. The organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), usually recognized by its English name Doctors Without Borders, represents an example of a nonprofit that uses a variety of tactics to retain a high number of individual contributors (MSF, 2017). Nonetheless, some suggestions can be given to the association to make its pool of potential resources ever wider than it is now.

Currently, MSF focuses on large one-time and recurring donations but fails to engage small donors and disaster response contributions. By adding the option to make small monthly and annual payments and choosing which project the donation will go may help the nonprofit enhance its relationship with the international communities that have personal concerns in population health.


Brief History and Mission

MSF was officially established as a nonprofit organization in 1971 after 13 French doctors and journalists saw the news about the crisis in Biafra, Southern Nigeria (“Founding,” n.d.). Some French healthcare professionals volunteered to assist the victims of the catastrophe as a part of the French Red Cross. However, they realized that the organization was bound by legal and governmental concerns, thus being unable to provide similar care to all people requiring medical assistance.

In 1971, a number of volunteers formed MSF in hopes of helping people regardless of their location or status (“Founding,” n.d.). The group was small and disorganized – some of the founders started to discuss the possibility of becoming a more structured nonprofit organization. Seven years later, in 1979, the majority of MSF’s members voted in favor of establishing the association (“Founding,” n.d.).

Since then, MSF has continued to follow its original goal of helping people in need. Nevertheless, it also began focusing on the nonprofit’s expansion and other activities. The organization grew in size and acquired offices in different countries to gain international support and minimize the time in which a helping group can be deployed to the center of a crisis. Currently, MSF operates on all major continents, providing medical assistance to whole populations and small groups.

MSF exercises the same principles that it had established during its first mission – it remains “independent, impartial, neutral” (“Principles,” 2017, para. 1). This particular statement implies that MSF does not value some groups that require help more than others based on their religion or political affiliation. The doctors of MSF help victims of human-made crises as well as groups led by warlords and government officials.

Furthermore, MSF does not rely on government support for financing or territory access (“Principles,” 2017). MSF members travel to other locations regardless of the existing borders, thus needing to establish strong connections with local communities.

The mission of the organization is to provide medical assistance to all people who may need it without any limitations of race, gender, political affiliation, or religion (“Principles,” 2017). The nonprofit prioritizes its services only according to the urgency of the situations – the most underserved populations and crises are the target of the teams’ immediate responses. The mission of MSF is clear and transparent, and it presents a strong focus on medical assistance.

Thus, MSF employs and recruits doctors of all specialties, including surgeons, obstetrics, pediatricians, immunologists, psychologists, and many others. Also, nurses, researchers, administrators, and non-medical personnel constitute a large portion of all members. As a whole, the health of populations is the primary concern of the nonprofit.

Programs and Services

As can be seen in the mission of the organization, MSF was created to provide medical assistance to people. However, it offers a variety of services to populations and also contributes to advocacy and research. First of all, the main activity is health care provision for people who become victims of natural and human-made disasters (“Types of projects,” 2015). These may include hurricanes, floods, famine, tsunamis, and other significant events.

Military activity and armed violence are also considered by the nonprofit. MSF helps victims of war and terrorist activity as well as people who suffer from extreme poverty and restricted access to care. Pandemics and large outbreaks of infections are also a part of MSF’s projects – doctors of the organization work with such diseases as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (“Types of projects,” 2015). The majority of programs deal with emergency responses to catastrophes.

Second, the organization helps communities combat ongoing health-related problems. If a population survived a crisis, its health does not stabilize quickly, and MSF members stay in the location to ensure that a health vacuum will not develop as a response to inadequate treatment (“Types of projects,” 2015). Thus, some projects are rather long, with MSF doctors overseeing some locations for multiple years. Moreover, some zones of military action continue to encounter new issues, thus requiring regular support from medical workers. Countries with pandemics and famine are among the locations of such initiatives. In these cases, MSF also works towards patient education and problem prevention by promoting vaccination.

Apart from on-site medical assistance, MSF also contributes to the health of underserved and remote populations through advocacy and research. MSF members continuously monitor the prices of medications in order to urge the governments to control the pharmacological industry. MSF strongly believes that health care should be affordable for all people (“Principles,” 2017). Thus, their legal workers advocate for reduced prices and care for underserved populations.

MSF members also bring the society’s attention to problems that may develop slowly, affecting people without any apparent signs. For example, they are concerned with the spread of HIV/AIDS to countries that may not possess resources to deal with this disease (“Types of projects,” 2015). MSF also has a large research department that continuously utilizes information gathered during the missions to improve treatment options and medications. The organization focuses on such problems as the need for affordable medicine, the limits of working in extreme situations, the rising level of multidrug resistance, as well as tuberculosis medications and vaccines. The nonprofit needs sufficient financial support for all mentioned projects.


Current Sources of Funding

MSF has a developed system of funding resources, as it does not accept donations from government institutions and companies with unclear moral ethics. One of the reasons for not working with governments is directly connected to MSF’s mission – the nonprofit could have limited access to some communities if it were to be sponsored by governments with a particular agenda. The main donor group that MSF is interested in is represented by individuals who make large and medium annual contributions (MSF, 2017). The accepted type of donor that MSF aims to attract is a multi-year commitment-making individual.

The nonprofit also accepts one-time donations and gifts-in-kind. Corporations can donate to MSF – the nonprofit works with companies that have a transparent and ethical mission. The large size of MSF allows the organization to make such decisions and refuse the assistance of some donors. Nevertheless, it can benefit from accepting and encouraging small donations from the general public.

Currently, MSF also offers other ways for people and organizations to contribute financially. For example, painters, writers, and musicians may donate their royalties towards charity (MSF, 2017). Families can give in the name or legacy of their loved one after passing. The nonprofit has established a legacy society membership for these contributors. MSF states that such contributions do not represent the central part of the funding, outlining annual donations as the basis of its revenue. Thus, donor retention and cultivation are essential for the organization to continue working.

After analyzing the latest financial report that was published by MSF, the comparison of revenues in 2016 and 2017 reveals that the public support did not increase significantly, although the loss of investments was rather substantial in 2017 (MSF, 2017). Moreover, the expenses of the association also rose in the latest year, surpassing its revenue. It means that MSF is in need of acquiring new donors to balance out its future financial operations.

Potential Sources of Funding

While MSF offers a wide range of ways to donate, some sources can still be reviewed as potential funding resources. For example, the organization states that it does not allow its donors to choose specific projects that will receive funding, arguing that the urgency of the programs is more important than other concerns. Although it is a valid point, one may suggest adding an option to allow individuals to select a number of areas of interest. Such one-time or regular contributions could be framed as disaster funding (Ryzhov, Han, & Bradić, 2015).

People who are interested in supporting their community, the population of interest, or an individual cause could request the money to go towards this area of concern. One may note that such a finding effort may limit the company’s revenue for other projects. Thus, this way of donating should stay optional and focus not on specific types of spending such as research or fieldwork. Instead, it should be based on the information about the most urgent crisis, highlighting the need to contribute to communities suffering from problems.

Another strategy would be to broaden the opportunity to make small regular and one-time donations for individuals. Many people cannot make yearly or monthly contributions that are higher than $1.000, but they still want to participate in the nonprofit’s support (Roth, 2003). Thus, new tiers should be established to attract small individual donators with the potential of them raising their contributions with time. Nonetheless, it is critical to point out that small contributors should not feel obligated to donate large sums of money to be acknowledged by the nonprofit (Waters, 2011). With the rise in social media activity, such a financial resource may prove to be a significant part of all funding sources.

Strategies for New Sources

Cultivation Strategies

The cultivation of donors is an initial step in securing a funding base for the organization. In order to attract new contributors, MSF employs a number of tactics. First of all, MSF contacts potential supporters using phones, email, and on-site communication. Thus, donators interact with the workers of the nonprofit directly, establishing a level of trust from the first moment of conversation. However, this type of cultivation does not include a large part of the contemporary media outlets, the majority of which are located on the internet.

For example, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be used by the nonprofit to build a new group of donors who possess unique characteristics and have their interests (Saxton & Wang, 2014). According to Strekalova and Krieger (2017), internet users have concerns and needs that are different from those of offline persons. In this case, the factors of urgency and impulse donation play a crucial role in attracting donors. The use of social media to share information about the most important projects engages users and encourages them to donate.

The majority of internet users constitute a category of small donors who can make small and medium contributions on a regular and one-time basis. Therefore, such online platforms can help MSF to increase the percentage of small donations and broaden its reach. Moreover, such content-sharing sites as Twitter and Facebook operate quickly, spreading the most urgent news in a matter of minutes (Saxton & Wang, 2014).

As a result, social media can also be a suitable platform for disaster donating. Currently, MSF uses its social media to talk about the projects that it has finished or investigated thoroughly, giving the internet users a chance to read about the political and environmental situation in other parts of the world. However, the accounts of MSF do not utilize the opportunity to engage users to participate in crowd-funding initiatives that are targeted at specific projects or single small contributions. Therefore, one can conclude that MSF does not use social media to its full potential.

Another use of the internet leads to the acquisition of small donors interested in specific communities and projects. Social media allows communities to interact with their respective members in order to highlight specific crises in narrowly-focused publications, pages, and blogs. As in the previously discussed funding opportunity, this method will likely yield small donors, but their combined participation may lead to large sums of money being donated in short amounts of time.

Thus, this strategy may be valid, especially if the problem resonates with a large group of people (Strekalova & Krieger, 2017). As a result, social media can become a compelling addition to the practices that MSF currently uses to attract new supporters. In order to establish the base of potential donors, MSF should encourage users to share their information with others.

Education Strategies

The proposed types of sources are new for the nonprofit, and both major and potential donors may be unaware of such practices and the organization’s need for resources. As can be seen in the annual report of MSF, its revenue did not rise significantly in the last year while the expenses increased, which put a strain on the nonprofit’s financial abilities. Therefore, the organization failed to connect with potential donors and establish its urgent need for support.

It is possible that some major projects required more financial support than the association was prepared to spend. Thus, when implementing new donor cultivation strategies, it is vital for MSF to educate its contributors about the most pressing issues.

The connection with new donors can be established and controlled by using social media. MSF already utilized emails as a way of discussing new projects with its contributors. Some new ideas may also include the use of Twitter and Facebook for publications, research, and opinions. These platforms also engage the public more successfully than other ways of communication – they are developed to facilitate discussions and ask for others’ contributions and suggestions (Strekalova & Krieger, 2017). Moreover, their primary function is to share information with other users. A simple request to spread the information may increase the pool of readers and potential donors substantially.

It is vital for MSF to focus on ongoing reports of the current crises in order to present a full picture of the ongoing missions. This can be done by posting the latest pictures and asking whether the users have any information about the investigated locations. Twitter may connect relatives and families, and some communities may get news about their loved ones with the help of social media. Thus, MSF may connect with people who have some knowledge about the crisis to ask for insight, critique, or assistance. The education of small donors does not need substantial resources as their spontaneity may rely on a correctly written post (Waters, 2008). However, it is necessary to explain how the organization works to ensure that the contributors see the value of MSF’s activity.

The education of potential donors about the organization’s mission using social media can be perceived as intuitive. Internet users will most likely read some information about the organization before contributing. Furthermore, if other users also leave their comments on a public page, the interaction with the opinions of others can serve as another source of knowledge for the future investor (Pressgrove & McKeever, 2016).

The trusting relationship with the donor can be established through communication and open reporting, and MSF has a transparent system of discussing projects that contribute to the successful use of social media.

MSF’s base of social posts that discuss the latest crises can be used to educate interested individuals, but the nonprofit should also offer some brief introductions to the donors who may be uninterested in reading long reports and articles. As Saxton and Wang (2014) point out, social media giving is highly dependent on the users’ interest and the readiness to donate immediately. Thus, they should be able to gather all the necessary information about the project and the organization from a series of short posts and calls to action.

Solicitation Strategies

The process of donating large contributions is often initiated by individuals and organizations that have considered the cause of the organization and took their time to review its mission. Online, however, the call to action has to encourage donors rather quickly, appealing to the sense of urgency. While this strategy facilitates small one-time donors in the majority of cases, many of them may become regular supporters if the nonprofit succeeds in establishing a meaningful connection with them. In the case of disaster donors, the set of actions is clear – the information about the crisis as well as the plan of the organization serves as the main arguments for a donation.

Thus, it is vital for the nonprofit to show why MSF should receive financial support. Furthermore, all donors are interested in how their money is going to be spent. The organization should explain its procedures and activities before requesting support. For example, if the situation involves a community that suffered from a hurricane, MSF should state that such expenses as medications, equipment, water, and volunteer transportation need to be covered by the nonprofit.

In order to turn one-time donors into regular ones, the nonprofit should continuously update all supporters about the situation that interests them. On the other hand, some related projects may be mentioned as well to educate contributors who were aware of one problem or were focused on it during its main phase. By engaging the persons who are interested in assisting communities, MSF will encourage them to continue their philanthropic activity.

Continuous communication with donors increases the possibility of their engagement remaining high (Tempel, Seiler, & Aldrich, 2010). Moreover, it also may encourage them to introduce the existing problems to other people, thus bringing new potential contributors to the nonprofit.

Nonetheless, it is vital not to ask too much from the donors, especially if they contribute only small amounts. Online users may be deterred from donating money if they think that the organization will value only large sums. On the internet, users may not feel obliged to donate because they are not engaged in a conversation with a nonprofit volunteer. In comparison, people speaking to a member may feel a connection and donate as a result of an interaction. Therefore, it is easier for online users to ignore calls to action in situations where they feel pressured or insecure (Strekalova & Krieger, 2017). It is essential for MSF’s social media posts to show that people do not have to donate large amounts of money and that their smallest gift may contribute to the work of the nonprofit.

Solicitation posts should always contain links with directions that are easy to follow. People using social media usually do not engage with articles and other media formats for a long period. Therefore, they should have an opportunity to donate quickly, and the post should appeal to the factor of impulse giving (Saxton & Wang, 2014). Another aspect of online donation is “slacktivism” – the desire of users to perform a minimal amount of actions in order to participate in philanthropy (Saxton & Wang, 2014). This is both a tool and a barrier for donating procedures. MSF should strive to find a balance between making the experience simple and encouraging the donors to return.

Appreciation Strategies

Small donors and disaster donors may not expect any gifts or significant gestures that acknowledge their contribution. Moreover, many large donors also do not view material objects as necessary parts of gratitude (Dooley, 2012). Therefore, there is no need for MSF to create a separate way of thanking such investors. A simple email or a direct message that expresses gratitude may be enough for the donor who decided to contribute based on posts. Emails are easy to distribute – donor often give their email address when they fill out forms for the payment. The personalization can also be increased by using the donor’s provided name and honorific.

It should be noted that highly personalized messages are not required as well – large donors may be interested in such a letter, but small donors appreciate the feedback that gives all pertinent information and does not include unnecessary information.

After collecting the required information from donors, it can be used to keep them updated about the nonprofit’s activity. This approach can also be considered a type of appreciative gesture. For instance, MSF can create newsletters that cover specific topics in which the new donor may be interested. Such emails may be viewed as a way of providing contributors with personalized information that may encourage them to follow the organization’s missions.

As a result, this interaction can solicit more donations and increase the level of participation from one-time donors (Williams, 2013). People who contributed to specific disasters or answered an urgent call to action might be especially interested in the latest updates about MSF’s activity. Therefore, while social media posts constitute a large part of all information-sharing procedures, newsletters should also be implemented to bring people selected articles and facts.

As for physical rewards such as hand-written letters and items, small donors may not respond positively to such gestures. People who cannot afford to make large donations are likely to hope that their money will be used effectively (Dooley, 2012; Saxton & Wang, 2014). The cost of a physical object or a letter can make them concerned about the nonprofit’s spending approach (Enright & Seiler, 2010). Nonetheless, some level of recognition is still necessary to make sure that contributors feel acknowledged. Digital rewards (emails, newsletters, reports, photos, stories) that do not require significant expenditures are a preferred method of thanking small donors. For example, people who have donated to support a recent crisis may receive an article that covers the stories of people in the region.

Role of Board and Staff

Both the board of directors and the staff of MSF have a significant role in establishing and maintaining funding sources, First of all, it is vital for the board to recognize the necessity to find new types of contributors in order to start the implementation of new approaches. Here, this first step is vital to the growth of the donor base. After acknowledging the possibility of attracting small donors through social media, the board may start developing a strategy that will utilize the existing resources effectively.

Second, the role of the staff is crucial in the donor cultivation process. The nonprofit’s members are responsible for sharing information with the existing and potential supporters – workers and volunteers of the nonprofit oversee social media posts and personal messages. Second, the board may participate in this process as well by allocating funds towards social media management, including necessary technology, software, and staff. The work of photographers and journalists of MSF can have a significant impact on the success of people’s interest in the organization.

The staff is also responsible for educating the donors about the organization. The use of information, as well as the simplification of processes, requires time and effort, and MSF members should plan which workers will participate in the management of information-sharing platforms. Similarly, the board and the staff should collaborate in order to design the most effective calls to action and ways of showing appreciation to small donors.

These tasks concern the departments that work in such spheres as programming and advertisement. If the accounts of the nonprofit are difficult to navigate, the users will leave. While the majority of social platforms have a stable and easy-to-understand interface, programmers may participate in the creation of interactive newsletters and personalized messages. Overall, the staff’s activity is crucial in attracting small donors with the help of social media.


The organization MSF (Doctors Without Borders) is large and well-developed, turning the search for new donors into a challenge. The analysis reveals that it does not pay enough attention to small contributors. Moreover, the nonprofit does not utilize the full potential of social media platforms. Therefore, its existing donor solicitation strategies may be complemented with ways of attracting small supporters, disaster donations, and people interested in specific regions. These types of contributors can be connected through such platforms as Facebook and Twitter, which allow for the information to spread quickly with minimal effort.

The simplification of donating processes and the use of interactive media will help MSF not to lose small donors, as they tend to make impulsive payments. Such supporters do not require physical gifts and want their donations to be used efficiently. Thus, MSF should consider implementing simple emails and newsletters that cover the latest events and reports. The role of the staff in these processes is substantial as MSF members are responsible for sharing the information.


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