International organizations (IOs) are confronted with a twin challenge in areas of limited statehood (ALS). On the one hand, IOs are governmental organizations qua mandate. Their usual approach – providing a range of services to their members and working with or for a given state – may, however, either be blocked or prove unsustainable in ALS. On the other, ALS present numerous challenges to IO governance, ranging from insecurity to a lack of meta-governance. Yet, we know surprisingly little about how IOs operate in these contexts, and, in particular, which modes of governance they choose for which purposes. How can IOs attain the twin objectives of acting in accordance with their mandate, which gives primacy to governments, and responding to ALS-specific challenges in order to effectively provide food security? This paper addresses IOs’ choice of distinct modes of governance, ranging from bargaining to persuasion. It investigates how different types of IOs use and combine these modes in light of varying ALS-challenges. The empirical observations presented in this paper stem from interviews with IOs (ECHO, FAO, IDB, WFP, and the World Bank) at the level of headquarters and country offices (in Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Niger, and Sierra Leone), as well as from organizational documents.