Budgeting in International Humanitarian Organizations

Milad KeshvariFard, Ivana Ljubic, Felix Papier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)
168 Downloads (Pure)


Problem definition: International humanitarian organizations (IHOs) prepare a detailed annual allocation plan for operations that are conducted in the countries they serve. The annual plan is strongly affected by the available financial budget. The budget of IHOs is derived from donations, which are typically limited, uncertain, and to a large extent earmarked for specific countries or programs. These factors, together with the specific utility function of IHOs, render budgeting for IHOs a challenging managerial problem. In this paper, we develop an approach to optimize budget allocation plans for each country of operations. Academic/practical relevance: The current research provides a better understanding of the budgeting problem in IHOs given the increasing interest of the operations management community for nonprofit operations. Methodology: We model the problem as a two-stage stochastic optimization model with a concave utility function and identify a number of analytical properties for the problem. We develop an efficient generalized Benders decomposition algorithm as well as a fast heuristic. Results: Using data from the International Committee of the Red Cross, our results indicate 21.3% improvement in the IHO’s utility by adopting stochastic programming instead of the expected value solution. Moreover, our solution approach is computationally more efficient than other approaches. Managerial implications: Our analysis highlights the importance of nonearmarked donations for the overall performance of IHOs. We also find that putting pressure on IHOs to fulfill the targeted missions (e.g., by donors or media) results in lower beneficiaries’ welfare. Moreover, the IHOs benefit from negative correlation among donations. Finally, our findings indicate that, if donors allow the IHO to allocate unused earmarked donations to other delegations, the performance of the IHO improves significantly.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManufacturing and Service Operations Management
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2021


  • Humanitarian operations
  • Donations
  • Budgeting
  • Stochastic programming
  • Benders decomposition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Decision Sciences(all)


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