UNHCR is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, with 93 percent coming from governments. A further 4 percent comes from inter-governmental organizations and pooled funding mechanisms, while the remaining 3 percent is from the private sector, including foundations, corporations and the general public. In addition, the agency receives a limited subsidy from the UN regular budget for administrative costs, and accepts so called "in-kind" contributions, including relief items such as tents, medicines, trucks and air transport.
UNHCR was launched on a shoestring annual budget of US$300,000 in 1950. As its work and size have grown, UNHCR's expenditure has soared. Its annual budget rose to more than US$l billion in the early 1990s and reached a record US$3 billion in 2010, compared to US$1.8 billion in 2008.
UNHCR's yearly budget includes annual programmes - supporting continuing, regular operations - and supplementary programmes to cover emergencies or large-scale repatriation operations. The 2009 budget included US$1.3 billion for the annual budget and US$765 million for supplementary appeals.
The top five donors in 2008 were the United States (US$510 million), the European Commission (US$130 million), Japan (US$110 million), Sweden (US$105 million) and the Netherlands (US$85 million).