Where does the money go in human rights grantmaking? In 2010, funders invested $1.2 billion dollars in over 6,800 organizations whose activities addressed access to justice and freedom from violence to environmental, labor, sexual and reproductive rights.
That’s according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG). Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking is big on data — you can see which issues got funded, what populations received support, and who the funders are.
“It’s the first clear, condensed portrait of global human rights foundation funding,” says Christen Dobson, program director at IHRFG, who worked on the report since 2009. Dobson says they plan to update the data annually, eventually creating interactive tools that NGOs, member organizations, and the general public can access online.
Dobson says the current report is a key resource for human rights activists and groups. “They can use it to better understand where funding in their issue is, and leverage that information for additional support. It’s very helpful to get a sense of what funders are thinking.”
Women’s and girl’s rights emerged as a chief focus for funders, something that surprised Lucia Scherer, program officer with the International Network of Women’s Funds (INWF), a partner in creating the report.
“We weren’t expecting see women’s funds among the top donors because amounts are so small compared to what funders give to other issues,” she says.
Support for individual liberty and security topped the issues list, while environmental and resource rights got the least amount of funders’ dollars.
How Can We Advance Human Rights?
The importance of messaging is a key take-away from the report.
“It’s not so easy to fundraise for many of these issues and it raises the whole question around packaging messages in a way that gets through,” says Scherer. “How you get to this mass of people who are or aren’t going to be interested in your project depends on how you sell it.”
Advancing Human Rights includes successful case studies as well as input from funders about where human rights is headed.
Negative public perception, making strategic and positive collaborations among organizations, and finding a way to frame human rights in an accessible way were some of the factors funders identified as driving the field.
Scherer believes positive results will come from working together. “The more of us there are, the more powerful we are, and the more individuals become interested in your cause, the more critical mass it will become, and the less these issues will be questioned or looked down upon,” she says. “This is one of the things women’s funds are striving to do.”
Take a look at the key findings and read up on 13 individual issue areas or download the full report at the Foundation Center website.