Funding

Mobilizing resources for human rights worldwide

Transformative human rights ideas need an organizational infrastructure and 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?

 

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New Business Models

Local Funding

 

What Kind of Support Do Human Rights Activists Need During COVID-19?

By: David Mattingly
Français

Funders should trust and imitate their frontline partners’ ability to assess their communities’ greatest needs and offer the flexibility to pivot amid a crisis.

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.

Being BOLD in difficult times: Bulgarians organizing for liberal democracy

By: Dimitrina Petrova
Español | Русский

A new initiative in Bulgaria aims to reinvigorate support for democratic values and human rights by directly engaging citizens in a bottom-up process of deliberative ...

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 ...

Technology and gaming innovations bring new life to Russian NGOs

By: Tatiana Tolsteneva
Español | Русский

Russia’s non-profit sector has been playing a constant game of catch-up—can new media technologies break this pattern and appeal to younger audiences?

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.

Using a business mindset to fund advocacy NGOs in Kyrgyzstan

By: Fatima Iakupbaeva
Español | Русский

Shifting to a business mindset is hard for non-profit organizations, but with limited opportunities for funding in Central Asia, it is a change worth making.

New strategies help investors hold corporations accountable on human rights

By: Gabe Rissman
Español

A sustainable business model could help human rights groups apply shareholder pressure to improve corporate human rights behavior.

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 ...

Hybrid entities can bring for-profit strategies to NGO funding

By: Louis Bickford
Español

Hybrid entities that mix for-profit and not-for-profit strategies have the potential to free NGOs from constantly seeking foundation funding.

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.

Politics and pragmatism in human rights advocacy

By: Dustin Sharp
Español | Français

Critics of human rights legalism are right to call for more “pragmatism,” but this must be contextual, looking for advocacy hooks grounded in moral, political, ...

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
Español

In Bulgaria, women’s rights, feminism, and LGBTQ rights are inflammatory topics, and one women’s fund is fighting back with controversial campaigns.

Reimagining justice: human rights through legal empowerment

By: Sukti Dhital
Español

Legal empowerment offers promising new methods to improve access to justice and build legal systems that work for everyone.

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 ...

Making progress in human rights requires big risks and new allies

By: Maria Bobenrieth
Français | Español

In these turbulent times, business as usual is no longer an option for women’s rights organizations, and we must branch into new methods of operating.

Mapping trends to understand shifts in human rights funding

By: Anna Koob & Sarah Tansey
Français | Español

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
Español | Français

Young feminists are pushing back and forging new paths in global resistance, but they need financial support and personal security to achieve real gains.

Court judgements are shaking political foundations—and upholding rights

By: James A. Goldston
Español

In Kenya, Guatemala and Brazil, courts have defied presidents and shaken up politics—is court-centric advocacy one of the few remaining avenues to legitimately ...

How to confront restrictive legislation in Nigeria

By: Victoria Ohaeri
Français

Linking online campaigns to offline action has become critical in challenging closing spaces in Nigeria.

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.

Public interest lawyers need new tools to protect the vulnerable

By: Garth Meintjes
Español | Русский | 简体中文 | العربية

The paradigmatic wall that separates lawyers into two camps—private and public—is a barrier to the possibilities and a threat to the health and resilience of our ...

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.

Crowdfunding to bypass Russia’s civil society crackdown

By: Grigory Okhotin
Русский

With heightened restrictions on foreign funding, reporting on the Russian government’s repression requires creative social media projects.

Could volunteer-based CSOs be a model for practicing human rights in China?

By: Hou Ping
Español | 简体中文

In China, new laws make fundraising even harder, but the LGBTQ community is getting creative.

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.

Social enterprises in India carve out new space for civil society

By: Gulika Reddy

Is social entrepreneurship in India a way for civil society to break open closing spaces?

State-owned enterprises in China could be an entry point for human rights

By: Qian Cheng
简体中文

To make headway on human rights in China, advocates need to get creative by partnering with state-owned enterprises.

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?

How to pay for legal empowerment: alternative structures and sources

By: Lotta Teale
Español | Français

Taking a hybrid approach to legal funding recognizes that different issues require different types of funding.

The old world of civic participation is being replaced

By: Burkhard Gnärig 
Español

Traditional politicians and traditional CSOs are part of an old world that is being replaced by very different forms of civic participation.

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

By: Laura Piazza

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.

Migrants are driving innovative campaigns for female refugees in Germany

By: Claudia Bollwinkel
Deutsch

Activists are using a multi-van in Germany to help female refugees cope with violence and harassment.

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.

Crushing dissent: NGOs under threat in India

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

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 picture.”

Government repression and bureaucratic hoops spell gloom for rights groups in Bangladesh

By: Mubin S. Khan
বাংলা

Amidst tighter donor budgets for human rights, NGOs in Bangladesh are also grappling with increasingly intrusive governments.

Do-It-Yourself-Aid: alternative funding sources for rights work?

By: Anne Meike Fetcher
Español

Is “Do-It-Yourself-Aid” the answer to funding rights work? Anne-Meike Fechter describes this model, its funding and related implications

Human rights and results-based management: adopting from a different world

By: Vincent Ploton
Español | Français

Human rights groups are understandably reluctant to use “results-based management”, but embracing this approach can boost their impact.

Disputes over foreign funding in Israel mask much deeper issues

By: Dimi Reider
العربية | עברית

If Israeli human rights groups are labeled fronts for foreign interests due to their funding, what does that make Israel itself?

Modi government cracks down on green NGOs

By: Prafu Bidwai

India’s new Modi government trains its guns on environmental activists.

Beyond foreign funding – selling human rights in Africa

By: Charles Kojo Vandyck 
Español | Français

Human rights groups can survive in the current funding climate if they shift their focus towards locally driven funding resources.

Focusing on women and transgenders in LGBT rights

By: Nicola Desouza

Nepal is the most open country in South Asia for LGBT rights, but even here, patriarchal biases exclude women and transgenders. Can foreign funding change this?

A tax on texting? Getting creative with funding human rights in Africa

By: Selemani Kinyunyu
Français

For too long, the African Union and its human rights bodies have depended on foreign aid. If the Union implements a radical new financing tax on airline tickets, ...

American Jews, money and the Israel-Palestine conflict

By: Benjy Cannon
العربية | עברית

Although the American Jewish community spends relatively little on human rights work in Israel/Palestine, they are getting serious about promoting a lasting peace ...

Pure hypocrisy: India’s fear of foreign funding for NGOs

By: Medha Patkar

The Indian state aggressively promotes foreign investment in all sectors but civil society.

In India, a pervasive paranoia blocks progress on human rights

By: Lenin Raghuvanshi

NGOs working with untouchables and bonded labour face hostility from upper castes. For these groups, it’s nearly impossible to raise local funds. Without foreign ...

As the world’s eyes turn to Brazil, local rights groups must seize the day

By: Patricia Mendoca
Português

The world is watching as Brazil prepares for the World Cup and Olympics. As Northern funding for Brazilian human rights groups declines, local groups must take ...

Turkey, the EU, and civil society: An incomplete revolution

By: H. Selen Akçali Uzunhasan
Türkçe

Turkey’s campaign for EU membership has revolutionized funding for its civil society, but there is still a long way to go.

Funding for human rights: the BRAC experience

By: Ian Smillie

Over four decades, BRAC has become one of the largest and most effective NGOs in the world, with outstanding success in incorporating human rights into its programs ...

In for a bumpy ride: international aid and the closing space for domestic NGOs

By: Saskia Brechenmacher & Thomas Carothers
Español | Français | العربية

The global pushback against domestic NGOs has arrived. International donors must learn to cope, but it won’t be easy.

Kenyan rights groups under fire: are officials abusing the “Beijing Consensus”?

By: Melaku Mulualem

Kenyan officials under International Criminal Court indictment seek caps for foreign funding to local NGOs, raising the spectre of a “Beijing Consesus” for African ...

An alternative to international aid

By: Nora Lester Murad
Español | עברית | العربية

Nora Lester Murad describes a new alternative to international aid and domestic charity for Palestine; community directed funds

Exploring local possibilities for local rights

By: Okeoma Ibe
Français

Designing and planning solutions to human rights problems from thousands of miles away often produces unsustainable results. The time has come for Southern human ...

Brazil needs new public mechanisms and laws to fund human rights domestically

By: Eduardo Pannunzio
Português

Human rights groups in the global South are dependent on international funds, but those monies are dwindling for NGOs in emerging economies such as Brazil. To survive, ...

Local funds for local issues: raising the bar

By: Osai Ojigho
Français

International aid is not ethically wrong, and local rights groups will use it for years to come. We must also mobilize domestic funds, however, by gaining a better ...

To raise funds, Indian rights groups must emulate the country’s newest political party

By: Ajaz Ashraf

Donations by ordinary citizens to India’s newest political party, the AAP, prove that Indians can and will donate to important causes. Indian rights groups can ...

What's a funder to do?

By: Rachel Wahl

If international funding compromises the work of domestic human rights groups, what should international donors do? It is admirable for local groups to refuse international ...

In defense of 'professional' human rights organizations

By: Fateh Azzam
العربية

Human rights NGOs do not necessarily need to be grassroots social movements. But issues of dependence on foreign funding and corruption that accompany 'professionalization' ...

No shortage of international complicity with Israeli occupation

By: Nora Lester Murad

Aid to Palestine is essentially palliative, intended to maintain a status quo. From that vantage point, aid seems to be remarkably complicit with continued Israeli ...

Funds and civil liberties

By: V. Suresh
हिन्दी

Dependence on institutional funding has depoliticized, monetized and corrupted much of the human rights work in India. While state-control of human rights funds ...

Building a domestic human rights constituency in India

By: Rita Jalali

To fight the chilling effect created by new laws on foreign funding, Indian human rights NGOs need to develop support for funding among citizens. Though difficult, ...

Can corporate campaigners tap corporate largesse? Unlocking millions for human rights advocates

By: Chris Jochnick

Human rights advocates are loathe to accept corporate funding, even in pursuit of worthy initiatives. But companies facing human rights challenges are eager for ...

Human rights in Brazil: international funders must empower David against Goliath

By: Helle Abelvik-Lawson

Brazil’s recent economic growth – driven by multinational corporations and supported by the government – is a source of human rights violations and perpetuates ...

Anti-ngo legislation in Israel: a first step toward silencing dissent

By: Daniel Sokatch

Ultra-nationalist political parties are yet again trying to crack down on dissenting Israeli NGOs. This is the latest in a longer series of efforts to fundamentally ...

In Kenya, averting a move to strangle civil society with the financial noose

By: Maina Kiai
Français

In October Kenya introduced legislation capping foreign funding to NGOs and requiring that money be channeled through a government body. Though narrowly defeated, ...

Turkey’s human rights groups in a funding squeeze

By: Murat Çelikkan 
Türkçe

The government often accuses Turkey’s human rights groups of doing the work of “foreign powers,” which scares off local donors. But when rights groups seek foreign ...

From aid to investment: funding women's rights groups

By: Angelika Artyunova

A paradigm shift in funding from human rights toward 'investments' and 'business solutions' is threatening women’s rights organizing and the rights-based approach ...

Rights-based approaches to development: from rights ‘talk’ to joint action

By: Hans Peter Schmitz

The rights based approach to development is increasingly popular, but more rights-based money isn’t the answer to the world’s ills. Rights-based practitioners will ...

Going local

By: G. Ananthapadmanabhan

The Indian government uses the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to block global support to NGOs that question the state. The FCRA must go, but meanwhile, civil ...

The state of global human rights philanthropy

By: Christen Dobson & Lucía Carrasco Scherer & Emilienne de León
Español | Français | العربية | Português

Using the first-ever data-driven effort to track global human rights funding, representatives from two major global funding networks based in the U.S. and Mexico ...

Now is the time to invest in China’s nascent rights groups

By: William Nee
简体中文

Even as China grows in wealth, it has yet to fully develop a culture of philanthropy – one that is free and clear of government influence and able to effect real ...

Mismatch: why are human rights NGOs in emerging powers not emerging?

By: Lucia Nader
Español | Français | Português

There is a perverse see-saw effect in place within the BRICS countries. In Brazil, as the government grows in prominence and companies become more global and voracious, ...

Will foreign funding last for those inside Israel who defend the Palestinians?

By: Noam Sheizaf
العربية | עברית

Israel’s human rights organisations depend on foreign funding to defend the rights of the Palestinians. But as the Middle East is increasingly torn by new conflicts, ...

In the Arab region, barriers abound to giving locally

By: Elie Abouaoun
Español | Français | العربية

It’s time for a paradigm shift in the Arab region, where local human rights groups are negatively perceived and donors still resist supporting right based initiatives.

Universal values, foreign money: local human rights organizations in the Global South

By: James Ron & Archana Pandya
Türkçe | Español | Français | Português | العربية | עברית

Despite enjoying a fair bit of local support, local human rights organizations (LHROs) in the Global South are still largely dependent on foreign funds. To better ...

The challenge of finding funding for gay rights in Cameroon

By: Alice Nkom
Español | Français | العربية

When the EU awarded a large grant to Alice Nkom for her work defending gay people in Cameroon it was attacked for encouraging illegal activity. Here Nkom describes ...

Human rights funding in Brazil

By: Ana Valéria Araújo
Español | العربية | Português

Brazil’s economic success has led to foreign funders pulling the plug on human rights groups but a major education campaign is needed before Brazilian donors will ...

Time to challenge India for its stranglehold on funding for rights organizations

By: Ravi Nair
हिन्दी | العربية | Español

One of the country’s most informed human rights experts explains how India blocks foreign funding for rights work it doesn’t like. Philanthropists avoid supporting ...

Funding cannot stop rights abuses

By: Lori Allen
Español | العربية | עברית | Türkçe

The work of human rights organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories can never end abuses. Only a political solution that ends the Israeli occupation ...

Human rights, democracy, and development: partners at last

By: J. Brian Atwood
Español | Français | العربية

The human rights movement, the democracy-promotion community, and development donors have common goals, but they have not always seen themselves as allies. It is ...

Introducing this week's theme: Funding for human rights

By: James Ron

Human rights work depends on the voluntary efforts of activists, concerned citizens, and government personnel. Big transformative ideas, however, also require organizational ...

 
 
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