National Society Development

The IFRC supports our 192 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world to fulfil their full potential as effective local humanitarian actors. We are committed to supporting their long-term development and programmes. And we tailor our support to each National Society's contexts, needs and priorities.




Our 192 National Societies are trusted, locally-led and principled humanitarian organizations. Thanks to their networks of local branches, they are present in virtually every community on earth and can reach people others cannot.

National Societies work in a diverse range of contexts and cultures and face many and differing challenges. Each one of them varies in its capability. 

One of the IFRC's biggest priorities is to improve the ability of all National Societies to support vulnerable communities, no matter the context in which they work. This is clearly outlined in our Global Plan 2021.

What does National Society Development involve?

A shelter officer from the Nigerian Red Cross holds a brick made by trained community members in north east Nigeria

Getting the foundations right

We support National Societies to improve their governance and leadership. This in turn helps them improve their organizational culture and integrity.

The IFRC and Indonesian Red Cross are helping to prepare for and prevent the spread of diseases through our community epidemic and pandemic preparedness programme

Building core capacities

We provide support to all the core functions National Societies need to work in an effective and accountable way.

Zambia Red Cross volunteers deliver mielie meal bags to remote communities near Mongu, Western Zambia to tackle food insecurity

Programmes and services

We support National Societies to design and deliver long-term programmes that help the most vulnerable people in their communities.

Watch: What is National Society Development?

National Society Development in emergencies

Mattresses, blankets and non-food items are loaded on to a truck in Erbil by Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers to be transported to Mosul.

Mattresses, blankets and non-food items are loaded on to a truck in Erbil by Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers to be transported to Mosul.

Photo: Finnish Red Cross/Heli Pekkonen

Emergency response can be a challenging and hectic time for National Societies. Their first priority is to quickly assist communities in need. But emergencies also present an opportunity to help National Societies build their capacity in real-time and support their longer term institutional development.

The IFRC has therefore developed an approach to support National Society development in emergencies. We can offer remote advice during ongoing operations. And if requested by National Societies, we can also provide rapid response capacity in the form of:

  • National Society Development in Emergencies Coordinators
  • Volunteer Management in Emergencies Officers

Find out more

Beyond resilience

As a network, we know that responding to crises is no longer enough. And so a growing focus of our support to National Societies involves helping them move beyond resilience. This means supporting them to address the underlying causes of crises and understand the changing vulnerabilities in the communities they serve. 

In doing so, National Societies can reduce the impacts of crises and even prevent them from occurring. You can find out more about this work in Strategy 2030.

If you are from a National Society and would like to know more about National Society Development, in emergency and non-emergency contexts, contact [email protected] for further information and resources.

Financial sustainability

Mexican Red Cross and American Red Cross volunteers stand in a circle and discuss their joint response to the Puebla earthquake in 2018

Mexican Red Cross and American Red Cross volunteers stand in a circle and discuss their joint response to the Puebla earthquake in 2018

Photo: Mexican Red Cross

The IFRC is supporting National Societies to be financially sustainable so they can continue to provide effective local humanitarian action long into the future.

For a National Society to be financially sustainable, it needs:

  • To attract and manage the financial resources needed, particularly long-term funding, in a transparent and accountable way
  • To effectively manage financial risks and opportunities and include this knowledge in decision making
  • A strong mission, strategy and core services, as well as a flexible organizational structure

This work should be supported by high quality leadership engagement at all levels.

If you are from a National Society and are looking for more information on this topic, visit the financial sustainability page on Fednet or contact [email protected]

Key documents on National Society Development


pdf (459 KB)

National Society Development Info Brochure

16/07/2021 | pdf (459 KB)

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pdf (2.61 MB)

National Society Development Framework

01/01/2013 | pdf (2.61 MB)

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pdf (1.13 MB)

National Society Development Compact

01/01/2019 | pdf (1.13 MB)

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pdf (540.33 KB)

Guidance for National Society Statutes

13/08/2019 | pdf (540.33 KB)

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Watch: National Society Development case studies

Watch: COVID-19 response case studies

Available partnerships for National Societies

The IFRC is currently partnering with the World Institute for Action Learning (WIAL) to help National Societies address important COVID-19 related issues, such as financial sustainability and governance. WIAL coaches can help your National Society come up with solutions. Their ‘action learning’ approach involves leading teams through a process of:

  • Asking questions to clarify the exact nature of the problem
  • Reflecting and identifying possible solutions
  • Defining actions National Societies can take to overcome challenges

You can discover more about action learning by watching this video. And you can find more information about the partnership and how to get involved in the following brochure or by emailing [email protected]