The Yemen Social Fund for Development (SFD) was established in 1997 to combat national poverty and reinforce the limited existing social safety net. Since its inception, SFD has been widely viewed as effective in implementing programmes throughout the country and has steadily expanded its activities, despite Yemen's weak state and political unrest. In designing a novel approach to implementing its programmes, SFD provides a model of how to use the Social Fund approach to deliver good aid in hard places. Drawing on first hand experience with SFD and on a review of results from impact evaluations, this article argues that SFD's achievements have been primarily due to four factors: (1) stakeholder ownership over projects due to its close work relationship with local communities following a demand-driven approach; (2) trust based on its perceived political neutrality in allocating resources; (3) flexibility due to its mode of project funding and operations in a rapidly changing context; and (4) relevance of its interventions for beneficiaries who in reciprocity provide strong support and effective protection to its programmes. The article discusses how these factors may be transposed to other hard places using the social fund approach to deliver good aid under difficult conditions.