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This innovative funding mechanism helped UNICEF procure lifesaving supplies for frontline health workers during the early days of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Catalytic fund that enabled UNICEF to speed lifesaving PPE to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

The Fast Fund was a Guaranty Facility created by UNICEF USA and managed by UNICEF USA's Impact Fund for Children. The money that was put into the Fast Fund — contributions from individual donors, foundations, corporations and other supporters — was used to guarantee prepayment for orders placed by UNICEF with suppliers who require at least a portion of the total cost of the goods upfront. 

UNICEF USA was featured in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies List of 2021 for its work through the Fast Fund. 

Fast Fund for UNICEF facts

With the upfront payments secured, production delays were avoided; UNICEF was able to buy lifesaving supplies at scale and expedite their delivery to countries in need, shortening wait times for these critical items. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fast Fund's focus was to secure orders for personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers.

How did the Fast Fund work?

Once goods were delivered, the funding guarantee provided by the Fast Fund was returned and could then be reapplied to another order. Every $1 invested potentially yielded up to $18 worth of supplies for those who needed them the most.  

UNICEF supporters — individuals and organizations — could contribute to the Fast Fund in one of two ways. The first was to make a charitable donation directly in support of the fund, money to be used for future emergencies when the fund was no longer needed to fight COVID-19. The second way was to provide a recoverable grant, which is a type of interest-free loan that is repaid only if certain conditions are met. If a supplier did not make good on a Fast Fund-secured order, it was the Fast Fund — rather than UNICEF — that took the loss.