Step Up Fund for NGO capacity building

The Step Up Fund supports local and national NGOs to improve refugee protection and inclusion at the borders of Europe. As part of our international solidarity, the Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR) set up this fund for capacity building and to build new partnerships.

The Step Up Fund launched in 2020. Since then, we have supported 16 European NGOs with:

  • Developing projects for sheltering boat refugees in Sicily;
  • Advocating against border detention in Italy;
  • Setting up a network of asylum lawyers in Croatia;
  • Expanding an innovative host family project in Catalonia (Spain);
  • Developing a fundraising campaign focus on refugee women;
  • Developing a handbook for mental wellbeing of volunteers working for refugees;
  • and more.

Step Up: Call for proposals

The Step Up Fund 2022-2023 is now open for proposals.

Find out more

These partners were selected for Step Up 2021-2022

The Step Up Fund currently supports projects from these eight partners:

  • A Buon Diritto Onlus (Italy): Creating structured and effective information storage software to strengthen the organisation’s legal desk and communication with its donors.


  • Asocación Kudwa (Spain): Learning to raise the voices of migrants and refugees in Catalonia through an intensive twinning and training programme with a refugee-led organisation in the Netherlands.


  • Congolese Community of Greece: To develop a communication and fundraising strategy through training and expert input, involving not only the Congolese Community, but other migrant communities in Greece as well. 


  • ENGIM (Italy): Trough the development of MOOC video’s, ENGIM aims to improve the quality of its in-house training programme for volunteers.


  • Mundo en Movimiento (Spain): The development of a horizontal peer-to-peer programme in which refugees provide qualitative and warm support to refugees after the government-led support programme is ended.


  • Programma Integra (Italy): Practical inquiry into the pros and cons of attracting private investors through impact investing in refugees integration programs.


  • Velos Youth (Greece): Designing a theory of change to create a stronger rationale that links the organisation’s activities with the change that Velos Youth aims after.


  • SYMBIOSIS (Greece): Building an online learning platform to facilitate coalition building with other NGOs, thereby enabling joined advocacy and networking strategies and share learning initiatives.

These partners were selected for Step Up 2020-2021

  • Are You Syrious (Croatia): Training employees and volunteers to better serve the target group, from data collection to strategic litigation at national, European and UN level.


  • ASGI (Italy): Training association members for effective communication of their work.


  • Center for Peace Studies (CPS): Strengthening volunteer management, from recruitment and training to practical support for asylum seekers and refugees.



  • Porco Rosso (Italy): Developing a broader foundation for fundraising, building relationships with institutional funds, and identifying potential grant applications.


  • Progestion (Spain): Developing a training program for employees in the field of international asylum law, migration, gender, intercultural and psychosocial issues.


  • Refugee Welcome Spain: Project management and fundraising to scale up an online platform for local residents who would like to share housing with refugees.



NGO capacty building: how does it work?

The Step Up Fund’s annual call for proposals accepts applications for up to EUR 10.000. In addition to financial support, applicants can request DCR for (in kind) capacity-strengthening support through knowledge exchange, twinning or training as part of the project.

Furthermore meetings, networking, and knowledge exchange between selected organisations are organised. Through this fund, 5-8 projects are selected annually to be supported.


Through the Step Up Fund, DCR aims to support projects of NGOs in selected countries. In the last rounds these were Spain, Greece, Italy and Croatia. The support is for projects that are aimed at strengthening the capacity of the NGO to step up their work for the protection and inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees.

Projects that will be considered, have a maximum duration of 10 months. Projects should aim for organizational, knowledge and strategic development, development of new projects and programs or testing new working methods. For example, projects can be about improving: 

  • Working with volunteers;
  • Legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees;
  • Counselling of refugees;
  • Stepping up lobby and advocacy;
  • Fundraising strategies;
  • Building coalitions with other NGOs.

Another objective for DCR is to develop new partnerships and networks with NGOs across Europe.

Who can apply?

You are eligible to apply for the Step Up Fund, if:

  • You are a registered non-profit organization based in the selected countries (for 2022 this will be confirmed soon);
  • You are a non-profit organization active at national or local levels;
  • You are already working on the assistance of refugees and asylum seekers;
  • You address the objectives outlined above: only projects that focus on capacity-development will be accepted;
  • Your organization is a locally or nationally rooted organization;
  • Your application is submitted in English.

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