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


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

November 20, 2019
By: Merrill Sovner & Barry Gaberman & William Moody

The project of developing civil society organizations that keep the government in check and nurture ...

Why do high-income Brazilians distrust human rights?

October 2, 2019
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 ...

Giving with trust: how philanthropy can transform power relations

June 20, 2019
By: Ise Bosch & Claudia Bollwinkel
Español | Deutsch

Philanthropy can repeat oppressive patterns, or it can transform donor-recipient relations by giving ...

NGOs start thinking like businesses in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

April 3, 2019
By: Rostislav Valvoda

NGOs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have shown resilience under pressure by inventing new ways to ...

Funding changes in the Caucasus—will NGOs adapt?

February 20, 2019
By: Almut Rochowanski

Many NGOs in the North Caucasus have survived the panic of Russia’s “foreign agent” law, but not all ...

What we can learn from feminists who fund themselves

January 15, 2019
By: Tenzin Dolker
Español | Français

Now more than ever, feminist organizations need to deepen the search for autonomous resourcing models ...

Trust is essential in donor strategies with grassroots groups

October 25, 2018
By: Rona Peligal

Grassroots activism through social movements offers the best hope for meaningful change in the fight ...

Despite closing space, innovative branches of Russian civil society thrive

September 18, 2018
By: Almut Rochowanski

After years of coverage about how the “foreign agent law” would spell the end of freedom of association ...

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

August 21, 2018
By: Gastón Chillier

Shifting to local community funding is possible in Latin America, as a case in Argentina clearly shows. ...

Human rights NGOs should learn funding lessons from service providers

August 7, 2018
By: Dimitrina Petrova

Human rights NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe are facing increased hostility from governments and ...

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

June 6, 2018
By: Ronald R. Krebs & James Ron

A new law in Israel seeks to stigmatize NGOs that receive foreign funding—but evidence suggests that ...

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

May 3, 2018
By: Rajshri Sen

Getting traction and funding for women’s rights in India can be difficult, but partnering with innovative ...

Fighting the backlash against feminism in Bulgaria

May 2, 2018
By: Nadejda Dermendjieva & Gergana Kutseva

In Bulgaria, women’s rights, feminism, and LGBTQ rights are inflammatory topics, and one women’s fund ...

Collaborating across movements to fill funding gaps for women in Nepal

March 27, 2018
By: Pratima Gurung

Groups in Nepal working at the intersections of different issues such as indigenous women with disabilities, ...

Mapping trends to understand shifts in human rights funding

February 13, 2018
By: Anna Koob & Sarah Tansey
Français | Español

Trends analysis allows human rights activists to see where human rights funding is going, and where ...

Participatory grantmaking helps to shift power relations in Mexico

January 18, 2018
By: Jenny Barry

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

NGOs are adapting to closing space when they must push back

December 19, 2017
By: Julian Oram & Deborah Doane

Most development and funding organizations are adapting to shrinking space rather than challenging it, ...

Addressing systemic inequality in human rights funding

December 4, 2017
By: Barbara Klugman & Ravindran Daniel & Denise Dora & Maimouna Jallow

Human rights funding is systemically inequitable, and this will only change when funders provide core ...

To strengthen global resistance, resource young feminists

November 22, 2017
By: Felogene Anumo & Ruby Johnson
Español | Français

Young feminists are pushing back and forging new paths in global resistance, but they need financial ...

Building communities to boost local fundraising

July 27, 2017
By: Sadhana Shrestha
Español | नेपाली | Français

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

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

June 14, 2017
By: Amandine Rushenguziminega

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

May 30, 2017
By: Amanda Fazano
Español | Français | Português

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

Monetizing the human rights “brand”

May 4, 2017
By: David Crow & José Kaire & James Ron

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

Ordinary people will pay for rights. We asked them

February 15, 2017
By: James Ron & José Kaire & David Crow

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

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

January 17, 2017
By: Maina Kiai

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

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

December 5, 2016
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

November 28, 2016
By: Edwin Rekosh
Español | Français

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

Fast and flexible support: ingredients to enrich LGBTI campaigning

November 4, 2016
By: Laura Piazza

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to campaigning for today’s LGBTI activists, but providing support ...

Small grants can make big impacts

October 4, 2016
By: Maria Amália Souza 

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

Fighting misconceptions and logistics to raise funds in Brazil

August 31, 2016
By: Ana Valéria Araújo & Maíra Junqueira 
Português | Español

Logistical issues and lack of awareness among Brazilians have created significant—but not insurmountable—obstacles ...

The end of the grant era

August 24, 2016
By: Ellen Sprenger

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

New approach to refugee protection must prioritize self-sufficiency

August 15, 2016
By: Mallory Mroz

A new approach to refugee protection needs to draw on the principles of self-sufficiency to prevent ...

Local funding is not always the answer

June 27, 2016
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

June 21, 2016
By: Jenny Barry

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

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

May 10, 2016
By: Jenny Hodgson

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

Old dogs and new tricks: rethinking human rights business models

May 3, 2016
By: Edwin Rekosh

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

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

April 28, 2016
By: Aakar Patel
Español | العربية

Amnesty International’s India hub focuses most of its fundraising efforts on domestic contributions, ...

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

March 11, 2016
By: Zoe Gudovic

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

The duty to rescue: a new paradigm for refugee protection

March 7, 2016
By: Jean-François Durieux
Français | Español

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

Rethinking progressive NGO funding in Israel

February 5, 2016
By: Hillel Ben-Sasson

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

Sustainability through direct dialogue: a Latin American success story

February 3, 2016
By: Mariela Puga & Luz Aquilante & Natalia Eberbach

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

Getting creative with local resource mobilization in Hong Kong

January 20, 2016
By: Linda To

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

January 7, 2016
By: Lucía Carrasco Scherer & Christen Dobson
Español | Français

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

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

December 3, 2015
By: Bolor Legjeem

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

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

November 25, 2015
By: Jenny Barry

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

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

July 22, 2015
By: Brian Root 
Español | Français | العربية

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

Crushing dissent: NGOs under threat in India

July 15, 2015
By: Seema Guha

Can NGOs and India’s political opposition stop Modi’s civil society clampdown?

When evaluating human rights progress, focus also on the journey

June 3, 2015
By: Emma Naughton & Kevin Kelpin
Español | Français | العربية

Yes, human rights work must be measured, but we need to focus on the small steps as well as the “big ...