Global human rights philanthropy topped $1.2 billion in 2010

News release

A partnership between the Foundation Center and the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) has produced the first data-driven portrait of how foundations are advancing human rights around the world. According to new research released today by the two organizations, more than 12,000 human rights grants supported more than 6,800 organizations worldwide, amounting to $1.2 billion in 2010. Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking confirms that human rights philanthropy is a global phenomenon: the 703 funders included in the analysis represent 29 countries across seven major world regions.

The Ford Foundation is ranked as the largest human rights funder in 2010 by grant dollars ($159.5 million), while the Open Society Foundations ranked second and reported the largest number of grants (1,248). The research, based on data analysis and interviews with funders, shows that human rights grantmaking seeks long-term change and has a special focus on supporting the efforts and livelihood of marginalized populations. The findings highlight human rights grantmaking in 10 overarching areas of activity, including access to justice and equality before the law, sexual and reproductive rights, and freedom from violence.

“The landscape of human rights funding is exceedingly complex, but initiatives like this bring into sharp relief just how vibrant and diverse the field is,” said Michael Hirschhorn, executive director of IHRFG. “The lasting value of this research – the hing that will take us beyond ‘painting landscapes’ to propelling greater engagement – comes when grantmakers are moved to contribute data, provide feedback, share findings with peers, and use this information in support of their work.”

Better data on the state of human rights funding can help grantmakers identify gaps, improve coordination between donors, facilitate more strategic grantmaking, and encourage new funders to enter the field.

“Some may be surprised to learn that many foundations who do not call themselves human rights funders are nevertheless engaged in supporting human rights work,” said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center. “Not only does this finding help us understand the true scope of the human rights funding community, it also opens up new possibilities for foundations that want to leverage their investment through collaboration with others.”

The first research report of its kind, Advancing Human Rights provides crucial baseline numbers against which to track future trends, including the impact of new grantmakers entering the field. This multi-year partnership between the Foundation Center and IHRFG is enriched by collaboration with Ariadne (European Human Rights Funders Network) and the International Network of Women’s Funds. Such efforts align with the Foundation Center’s stated priorities to empower donors with the knowledge tools they need to be strategic and to communicate philanthropy’s contribution to making a better world.

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