Funding for human rights

How do human rights groups worldwide mobilize the resources they need?

Human rights work depends on the voluntary efforts and goodwill of activists, concerned citizens, and government personnel. Big transformative ideas, however, also need an organizational infrastructure, and that infrastructure requires resources to thrive. How do human rights groups around the world mobilize the money and other inputs they need? What impacts do these methods have on the work of human rights organizations, and on their relations with governments, the general public, and others?

Read our related articles on:

New business models for human rights & Local funding for Human Rights

 

Is China the future for hybrid CSO funding models?

By: Shawn Shih-hung Shieh
Español | 简体中文

As foreign funding dries up, Chinese CSOs have quickly adapted and reinvented themselves to mobilize local funding.

For new narratives, human rights needs new forms of economic power

By: Alejandro Bautista
Español | Français

If compelling human rights narratives are not grounded in sustainable, replicable and scalable projects, it will be hard to outweigh the political and economic ...

Sustaining civil society: learning from legacies of long-term funding

By: Merrill Sovner & Barry Gaberman & William Moody
Español

The project of developing civil society organizations that keep the government in check and nurture democratic practices and values is a multi-generational effort.

Why do high-income Brazilians distrust human rights?

By: Alexandre Abdal & Andréa Pineda & Fernando do Amaral Nogueira & Juana Kweitel
Español | Português

The existing rejection and distrust of human rights among high-income Brazilians result mostly from lack of knowledge and reflection, rather than populist or radical ...

Giving with trust: how philanthropy can transform power relations

By: Ise Bosch & Claudia Bollwinkel
Español | Deutsch

Philanthropy can repeat oppressive patterns, or it can transform donor-recipient relations by giving decision-making power and trust along with money.

NGOs start thinking like businesses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

By: Rostislav Valvoda

NGOs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have shown resilience under pressure by inventing new ways to generate funds, including hybrid for-profit and non-profit ...

Funding changes in the Caucasus—will NGOs adapt?

By: Almut Rochowanski
Русский

Many NGOs in the North Caucasus have survived the panic of Russia’s “foreign agent” law, but not all activists raised in the comfort zone of grant-funded NGOs can ...

What we can learn from feminists who fund themselves

By: Tenzin Dolker
Español | Français

Now more than ever, feminist organizations need to deepen the search for autonomous resourcing models that work for our movements, on our own terms.

Trust is essential in donor strategies with grassroots groups

By: Rona Peligal
Español

Grassroots activism through social movements offers the best hope for meaningful change in the fight for equality and dignity, and donors need to build trust and ...

Despite closing space, innovative branches of Russian civil society thrive

By: Almut Rochowanski
Русский

After years of coverage about how the “foreign agent law” would spell the end of freedom of association in Russia, parallel universes of Russian civil society are ...

Local community funding: what’s possible in Latin America?

By: Gastón Chillier
Español

Shifting to local community funding is possible in Latin America, as a case in Argentina clearly shows. Can more organizations make such similar shifts in a sustainable ...

Human rights NGOs should learn funding lessons from service providers

By: Dimitrina Petrova
Русский

Human rights NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe are facing increased hostility from governments and declining legitimacy in public opinion, while social service ...

Why countries should welcome, not fear, foreign funding of NGOs

By: Ronald R. Krebs & James Ron

A new law in Israel seeks to stigmatize NGOs that receive foreign funding—but evidence suggests that countries should welcome rather than fear the foreign funding ...

Being flexible while staying true: the balance of engaging corporations in human rights

By: Rajshri Sen
Español

Getting traction and funding for women’s rights in India can be difficult, but partnering with innovative corporations is one way to push the boundaries of change.

Fighting the backlash against feminism in Bulgaria

By: Nadejda Dermendjieva & Gergana Kutseva
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In Bulgaria, women’s rights, feminism, and LGBTQ rights are inflammatory topics, and one women’s fund is fighting back with controversial campaigns.

Collaborating across movements to fill funding gaps for women in Nepal

By: Pratima Gurung
Español

Groups in Nepal working at the intersections of different issues such as indigenous women with disabilities, are largely invisible to funders—but cross-movement ...

Mapping trends to understand shifts in human rights funding

By: Anna Koob & Sarah Tansey
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Trends analysis allows human rights activists to see where human rights funding is going, and where it’s not. But what further questions do these findings spark ...

Participatory grantmaking helps to shift power relations in Mexico

By: Jenny Barry
Español

Powerful results surfaced when a Mexican women’s rights funder began to give decision-making power to local activists.

NGOs are adapting to closing space when they must push back

By: Julian Oram & Deborah Doane

Most development and funding organizations are adapting to shrinking space rather than challenging it, but is this trend inevitable?

Addressing systemic inequality in human rights funding

By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow
Español

Human rights funding is systemically inequitable, and this will only change when funders provide core support that allows grantee organizations to make their own ...

To strengthen global resistance, resource young feminists

By: Felogene Anumo & Ruby Johnson
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Young feminists are pushing back and forging new paths in global resistance, but they need financial support and personal security to achieve real gains.

Building communities to boost local fundraising

By: Sadhana Shrestha
Español | नेपाली | Français

Fundraising should never just be about money—it must also be about raising awareness of human rights and social justice.

A levy in the African Union could be a step towards independence

By: Amandine Rushenguziminega
Français

A new levy in the African Union could lead to more financial independence—but who is funding human rights?

Exploring new possibilities beyond foreign funding in Brazil

By: Amanda Fazano
Español | Français | Português

Brazil has a potentially large philanthropy market, and social media may be key to tapping into this resource.

Monetizing the human rights “brand”

By: David Crow & José Kaire & James Ron
Español

Marketing research can help Mexican rights groups monetize their “brand” and boost public donations.

Ordinary people will pay for rights. We asked them

By: James Ron & José Kaire & David Crow
Español

New research suggests that if human rights organizations use evidence-based fundraising strategies, the public will donate.

From funding projects to funding struggles: Reimagining the role of donors

By: Maina Kiai
Español

While donors partner with civil society to counter shrinking civic space, their rigid funding systems can undermine progress.

Should funding agencies also share in the sacrifice of social change?

By: Michael Edwards
Español | Français | Português

What standards of behavior should we expect from the leaders of foundations, NGOs and aid agencies?

To preserve human rights, organizational models must change

By: Edwin Rekosh
Español | Français

The current human rights business model is not keeping up with trends in technology, philanthropy, business and society.

Fast and flexible support: ingredients to enrich LGBTI campaigning

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There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to campaigning for today’s LGBTI activists, but providing support on short notice allows organisations to be reactive and ...

Small grants can make big impacts

By: Maria Amália Souza 
Português

Building a culture of philanthropy in the global South is a herculean task, but small grants can still make big changes.

Fighting misconceptions and logistics to raise funds in Brazil

By: Ana Valéria Araújo & Maíra Junqueira 
Português | Español

Logistical issues and lack of awareness among Brazilians have created significant—but not insurmountable—obstacles to fundraising for human rights.

The end of the grant era

By: Ellen Sprenger
Español

Asking donors for money and then implementing programs is an old model from which civil society must break free.

New approach to refugee protection must prioritize self-sufficiency

By: Mallory Mroz

A new approach to refugee protection needs to draw on the principles of self-sufficiency to prevent aid dependency and let refugees work so that they contribute ...

Local funding is not always the answer

By: Hussein Baoumi
Français | العربية

In some countries, relying on local funding gives human rights defenders even less freedom.

Cross-movement organizing in Mexico leads to new resources

By: Jenny Barry
Español

Feminists and environmentalists are coming together in Mexico to form new partnerships with an emphasis on local resource mobilization.

Local funding is not just an option anymore—it’s an imperative

By: Jenny Hodgson

As local rights groups seek alternative funding sources, the closing space for civil society makes this even more imperative.

Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

By: Edwin Rekosh

In this climate of closing space, we have an imperative to rethink the business models for protecting human rights.

For Amnesty’s India office, raising local funds is all about membership

By: Aakar Patel
Español | العربية

Amnesty International’s India hub focuses most of its fundraising efforts on domestic contributions, facing challenges as diverse as the weather to brand recognition

Building community around women’s rights: feminist philanthropy in Serbia

By: Zoe Gudovic
Español

Becoming agents of change for women’s rights in Serbian society requires creativity in building connections and solidarity.

The duty to rescue: a new paradigm for refugee protection

By: Jean-François Durieux
Français | Español

The refugee protection regime needs reform, but this requires new international approaches that go beyond the Refugee Convention.

Rethinking progressive NGO funding in Israel

By: Hillel Ben-Sasson
Español

Marked as traitors by the dominant Right for relying on foreign aid, Israeli liberal NGOs need a wider base of local donors.

Sustainability through direct dialogue: a Latin American success story

By: Mariela Puga & Luz Aquilante & Natalia Eberbach
Español

Building a culture of giving in Latin America takes creativity, persistence and a willingness to invest in people.

Getting creative with local resource mobilization in Hong Kong

By: Linda To
Français

To get funding amidst intense non-profit competition in Hong Kong, human rights groups must get creative.

Insisting and resisting: women’s funds lead the way for local philanthropy

By: Lucía Carrasco Scherer & Christen Dobson
Español | Français

Women’s funds are gaining increasing recognition at the local and international levels as leading agents of social change.

Mongolia’s economic crisis: an end to corporate social responsibility?

By: Bolor Legjeem

Despite an economic crisis, some Mongolian companies still respond to carefully constructed funding requests.

Can celebrities and fashion magazines in Mexico really influence social change?

By: Jenny Barry
Español

Partnering with celebrities and seeking visibility is key to mobilizing resources for the women’s movement in Mexico.

Can rights organizations use low-burden self-reflection for evaluation?

By: Brian Root 
Español | Français | العربية

Human Rights Watch generally avoids burdensome evaluations; instead, we’re looking for “light and agile” reflections on our work.