Fundher Brief: Money Watch For Women’s Rights
AWID presents a sneak preview of the 2008 research findings on funding for women’s rights, scheduled to be officially launched at AWID’s 11th International Forum in Cape Town, South Africa.
By Rochelle Jones
The ‘Funders Forum’ is a key event at AWID’s International Forum, bringing together women’s rights activists and donors to discuss foremost issues around resource mobilisation. This year the Forum will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, November 14-17 2008. The Funders Forum will take place on the evening of Saturday November 15[i].
The adopted theme for the Forum is “The power of movements”. So with much of movement building benefiting from resource mobilisation, the Funders Forum discussions will be related to how funders can most effectively support movement building within the women’s movement - trying to identify what this would look like, why it is important and what shifts in the relationships between donors and women’s rights organisations would be needed. During the Funders Forum, AWID will present the 2008 research findings on funding trends for women’s rights organisations, followed by a moderated debate with representatives from different funding sectors.
In May and June 2008, AWID launched a global survey in English, Spanish, French and Arabic, that was answered by 1035 women’s rights organisations from all over the world. Additionally, 20 interviews were conducted with both donors and women’s rights activists from different regions and sectors, as well as a document review. The result is the 2008 “Fundher Brief: /Money Watch for Women's Rights Organisations and Movements” by Fernanda Hopenhaym in collaboration with Lucía Carrasco Scherer and Natalie Raaber. Below is a preview of some selected findings from the report that will be available at the Funders Forum (in English, Spanish and French).
What do women’s organisations look like?
Building on previous research conducted by AWID, the 2008 research results indicate that women’s organisations are young (82% of respondents to the survey were founded after 1990), and relatively small, both in budget size and in human resources (25% working without any full time staff). Most organisations work at a local and national level, and with differing levels of funding. For example, 22% of respondents have only limited start-up funding and 34% have done some fundraising but are looking for different sources. Many organisations have limited capacity for the implementation of more sophisticated fundraising strategies.
What is the current funding landscape?
According to AWID’s 2008 data, there are some continuing trends in the funding landscape as well as some new developments. The bilateral and multilateral agencies are the main donors in terms of funding and grants. Some agencies are giving fewer but larger grants, and a number of agencies are “significantly escalating their contributions to civil society organisations doing women’s rights work”. In terms of women’s rights organisations, there are numerous and often political challenges to their access to funding. For example, “patriarchal societies, sexism and authoritarian, restrictive governments are some of the most common challenges that women’s groups indicated they have to overcome in order to mobilize more resources that could support their work.” However, women’s organisations “have found new ways of organizing and standing together by building alliances, transforming leaderships, questioning its own structures, and re-shaping the way in which they relate to money.”
Some new funding opportunities have emerged for NGOs working on the Aid Effectiveness Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals, and of course through women’s funds – which are gaining strength and are pivotal to continuing women’s rights work. According to AWID’s research, women’s funds “have been implementing some innovative strategies, both for leveraging more funds and for supporting the organisational development of their grantees.” Bilateral and multilateral agencies are providing the most funds, but trends indicate that women’s funds are also disbursing a large amount of funding in the form of small grants – most suitable for the small size of women’s organisations - and that these funds are evenly distributed across regions of the Global South.
The duration of funding remains an issue, with 56% of grants in 2007 received for a one-year project only. A flow-on effect of this is that these grants “tend to sustain organisations rather then allowing for investments in long range planning, realizing ambitions and building and growing for the future. As a consequence, many organisations are still in a survival logic and they have difficulties in providing stable jobs and adequate working conditions to women’s rights advocates.” Additionally it was found that “most of the funding accessed by these organisations is for projects and not core-funding, which means that in many instances organisations are not able to set their own priorities”.
Windows of opportunity in the funding sector
A positive development is the number of bilateral agencies that are significantly escalating their contributions to civil society organisations doing women’s rights work. An example worthy of note is the Dutch government’s “MDG3 Fund: Investing in Equality”. Progressive development agencies like the Dutch lead by example and promote the funding of women’s organisations.
AWID’s second Fundher report was not optimistic about large private foundations, but recently some new windows of opportunity have been identified. Large private foundations are giving big grants to a small number of well established organisations, and recently founded philanthropic institutions are moving towards supporting initiatives for the advancement of women, such as the Novo foundation.
Women’s funds continue to act as the trailblazers in the funding sector – “accompanying their grantees through the implementation of their projects, working on them in fine-tuning their proposals and in monitoring and evaluation processes. They have also granted growth funds and leadership funds, both to allow for organisational development and for capacity building.”
Experiences within the women’s movement
Whilst there are still ways that women’s organisations can improve the way they work together, by “strengthening collective power women’s organisations have gained strategic political spaces, have been able to pressure donors and other development actors to shift the conventional approaches to key issues of their political agendas, and have in many cases revised their own power dynamics and structures to ensure that more comprehensive and democratic processes prevail within their organisations”. In this light – AWID’s recent research focuses on how collective endeavours within the women’s movement have gleaned great rewards in terms of access to funding.
Joint resource mobilisation strategies are challenging. Emerging from four years of research by AWID the general trend is that “mostly, women’s rights organisations establish individual relationships with donors and have their own fundraising strategies or practices.” Despite this, “around 25% of AWID’s survey sample reported to have had experiences of joint resource mobilisation, with good results… Some of the pros mentioned by respondents were the confidence donors had on the possible results when they received a joint project, the possibility of accessing larger amounts of funds, the increased coordination among organisations, and the greater impact and outreach their work had.”
Research and analysis on funding trends, such as the work that AWID has been doing, coupled with “pushing forward concrete proposals to promote an increase in the resource base for the women’s movement… can improve the connection between funders and the reality of women’s movements.” Additionally, increasing collective resource mobilisation strategies and joint advocacy efforts can build the case for funding women’s rights. Both donors and women’s organisations have opportunities for the enhancement of their policies and practices in order to remedy the disconnect that still lingers in the funding landscape.
The findings will be presented and debated in detail at AWID’s Funders Forum – including an analysis of women’s rights movements’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as ideas as to how both donors and women’s organisations can facilitate greater access to funding, and subsequently greater outcomes for women.