Movements can be self-resourcing, generating financial as well as other resources such as labour, services and physical space from their membership. But they may also seek out financial support from external sources, including institutional donors.

In this section you can find out more about good funding practice to support gender equality in movements and activism; how donors have and can help to build gender-just movements.

10 resources - Page 1 of 1
  • Resourcing for resilience: lessons from funding women's rights movements

    Z Moosa, C Stanton
    CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, 2015

    The last few years have seen two related trends: a marked shrinking of civil society space in a number of countries, and a greater recognition of the need for targeted and appropriate resources to support enabling
    environments for civil society to thrive. Shrinking space for civil society has entailed severe attacks on women’s rights activists, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and women’s rights groups and movements. Meanwhile the focus on enabling environments has meant that increased attention is being paid to the funding mechanisms needed to resource civil society, including women’s rights movements, to resist these attacks.

    This article discusses how the kinds of work women’s rights social movements are undertaking exposes them to risks in some predictable ways, why a focus on resourcing resilience is a responsible and effective means of supporting them to handle these risks, and the ways in which Mama Cash and the Urgent Action Fund are collaborating towards a ‘continuum of funding’ approach to do this well.

    (summary taken from source)

  • Watering the leaves, starving the roots: the status of financing for women's rights organizing and gender equality

    A. Arutyunova, C. Clark
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2013

    In the foreword to this report, AWID Executive Director Lydia Alpízar writes that she finds it, “truly surprising… that women’s rights organising and movements have been functioning, often with quite minimal financial support, even as their experience and effectiveness has increased.”

    This publication, the fourth in AWID’s series, Where is the Money for Women’s Rights (WITM), presents research findings and analysis on the financial status of women’s organisations around the world, as well as the funding trends impacting them. Based on a survey of more than 1,100 women’s organisations worldwide, this report describes in detail the rapidly-changing funding landscape, and makes recommendations for mobilising more and better resources for women’s rights organising through a feminist collective resource mobilisation approach. In the context of preparing for the post-2015 development paradigm, this publication is designed to help women’s rights organisations and their funder allies to improve their resource mobilisation and distribution strategies.

    The authors describe an unprecedented "spotlight" on women and girls, who are recognised as key agents in development as never before. However, this seems to have had relatively little impact on improving the funding circumstances of the large majority of women’s organisations. The meaning of the metaphor used by the authors is that the ‘leaves’ — individual women and girls — are receiving growing attention without support for ‘the roots’ — sustained, collective action by feminists, women’s rights organisations and activists.

    Other key funding trends include:

    • Vast resources are becoming available under the broad umbrella of ‘development’; and there is significant interest in ‘investing’ in women and girls.
    • Mechanisms and sources of development financing and philanthropy are becoming increasingly diversified; nevertheless, economic growth and return on investment are the priority, rather than human rights and well-being.
    • Private sector interest in, and approaches to, development, philanthropy and women and girls is permeating traditional development and funding sectors; this raises questions regarding how women’s organisations can critically engage with this trend.

    Among the recommendations for women's organisations are: 

    • Assess the ways in which diverse funders are playing a role in your context, researching relevant actors and initiatives to inform strong collective responses to manoeuvre in this new reality; take stock of who is informing funding agendas in the context within which you work, orwho is partnering with the development organisations you know; and identify converging areas of interest and areas of conflict. 
    • Determine criteria and opportunities for critical engagement as a means for women’s organisations and movements to build political agency and capacity to ‘be at the table’, without becoming “co-opted” in the process. This requires willingness to step into spaces that are unfamiliar, making a genuine effort to understand the perspectives of groups at the table, and challenging our own assumptions before determining the potential that a particular actor or space holds for advancing women’s rights agendas. This engagement may require a different style of working or different language, without compromising core principles, and is likely to be a long-term undertaking. 
    • Using classic distinctions in gender analysis, such as “practical needs” and “strategic interests”, can be useful for women’s rights activists to educate actors regarding why technical fixes to the practical challenges that women face are rarely enough to significantly improve their quality of life, and change cycles of discrimination and violence. Monitoring and evaluation systems that effectively address women’s rights achievements and contributions are essential.

    Recommendations for funders include identifying national strategic partners; developing effective funding strategies that look at quantity, quality and shared values; and accountability mechanisms must be considered crucial for learning and improvement.

    To download PDF’s of the different sections of this publication, or to read them separately online, visit this AWID webpage:

    A visual representation of the financial situation of women's rights organisations globally in 2010 can be accessed online:

    For more information about AWID’s Where is the Money for Women's Rights? initiative, visit:

  • New actors, new money, new conversations: a mapping of recent initiatives for women and girls

    J. Miller, A. Arutyunova, C. Clark
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2013

    Over the past several years, investing in women and girls as ‘smart economics’ has become a favored strategy in development and philanthropy. This has precipitated a host of campaigns and initiatives, including new private-sector involvement, dedicated to supporting women and girls. This publication presents the results of AWID’s mapping of new donors making major commitments to work with women and girls, in order to better understand this trend and its impact on women’s organizations.

    Part of AWID’s initiative, Where is the Money for Women's Rights?, and building on the report, ‘Watering the leaves, starving the roots: the status of financing for women's rights organizing and gender equality,’ this report depicts the current landscape of the corporate sector and other actors that are new to supporting girls and women, and the role they currently play in shaping related funding discourse and practice. It also unpacks some of the most visible trends impacting women and girls, and offers considerations for women’s rights organisations interested in influencing and engaging with them.

    This publication is the product of a collaborative research effort by AWID and Mama Cash, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Following an initial mapping in early 2013, researchers undertook 24 interviews with leading grant-makers, philanthropists, leaders of women’s rights organisations and women’s funds about new initiatives, players and spaces that have recently begun to support women and girls. In April 2013, the project convened 25 strategic thinkers in this field to exchange and strategise new forms of engagement and collaborative actions to leverage resources to advance women’s rights globally. Among the action items identified at the meeting was a mandate to further expand the mapping research, which has led to the present report.

    The contents of this document include the results of mapping 170 initiatives, of which close to 150 had public data available. From this mapping, the researchers found a total of USD 14.6 billion in commitments pledged between 2005-2020 to support women and girls.

    Before moving to the findings of this mapping, which focus on the new actors involved in funding women and girls, the following trends are highlighted:

    • Members of the public are directly funding initiatives via crowdfunding websites, which presents opportunities to broaden the resource base and democratise philanthropy. This fundraising method is particularly effective for specific projects.
    • Impact investing, which is aimed at generating positive social and environmental impacts in addition to financial returns, is predicted to grow up to USD 500 billion in assets by the end of the decade. Impact investors (companies and individuals) are increasingly partnering with development and philanthropic institutions.
    • New platforms of convergence and agenda setting (e.g. World Economic Forum, Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, Clinton Global Initiative, Women Deliver Conferences, etc.) are increasingly influencing discussions about funding for women and girls.
    • Women are increasingly attaining positions at the highest levels in business and the professions, becoming successful entrepreneurs, and are inheriting significant wealth. These women are increasingly becoming more involved and regarded as significant players in philanthropic and development agendas, including the advancement of women and girls.
    • Young women are playing diverse leadership roles. Young female leaders are creating new spaces for activism and organising, including engagement with digital information and communication technology.
    • Celebrities are increasingly involved: (Angelina Jolie, etc.) helping raising awareness about the importance of women's issues.

    The need for cross-sectoral collaboration is also emphasised. Women’s rights organisations are encouraged to engage with new actors to improve and grow financial capacity; while the resource base of long-term allies is relatively static, huge funds are being mobilised and deployed by new actors. Stronger corporate sector involvement in development is likely to be a lasting trend.

    Finally, the current wave of interest in women and girls presents an opportunity for women’s rights organisations to impact the agendas of these new actors. A number of suggestions are made for women’s rights organisations to assess opportunities to engage and potentially partner with new actors.


    Also available to read online at: For more information about AWID’s Where is the Money for Women's Rights? initiative, visit:

  • Women moving mountains: collective impact of the Dutch MDG3 fund

    S. Batliwala, S. Rosenhek, J. Miller
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2013

    Through decades of collective and individual struggle, and determined, conscious design, the women’s rights movement has achieved unprecedented shifts in global perception to the notion of gender equality as a desirable goal. Yet between vicious fightback from traditionalist perspectives and quite minimal financial support, it is surprising that women’s rights organising has resolutely remained functioning. Additionally, many strategies originally advanced have become disconnected and isolated, cast as ‘magic-wands’ such as quotas or micro-financing, to the detriment of the study of wider, more gradual cultural shifts that make-up the core elements of sustainable change. Resources for such analysis of aggregate institutional and organisational efforts within a movement has been lacking to date, and it is only recently that such work has began.

    This document, entitled Women Moving Mountains, is the third and final installment of AWID’s initiative, Where is the Money for Women's Rights?. Using survey data to analyse the aggregate impacts of organisations that received the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs “MDG3 Fund” grants, the paper demonstrates the kind of large reach and transformative change that is possible when women- and gender-focused organisations receive substantial resources for a decent length of time. The Dutch MDG3 Fund dedicated EUR 70 million in 2008 to 45 organisations around the world, chosen through a rigorous and open competition, for a total of three years, later extended with additional funds committed; the largest single fund created for gender equality. AWID, together with the Fund and fund recipients, recognised the opportunity to co-ordinate monitoring and evaluation in order to analyse the aggregate difference such financial support could make.

    Following a profile of the survey participants (mostly women’s rights organisations, as well as organisations with a gender focus), the paper examines the ‘big mountains that have moved’ through fund-supported initiatives reaching 165 countries in seven continents: over 200 million people gaining new awareness of women’s rights, including over 65 million grassroots women; around a quarter of a million women empowered through training and provided with tools, knowledge, and skills; the capacity of over 100,000 women’s organisations strengthened, with 3,662 provided with financial resources; influence in policy decisions of 46 countries, and 14 international norms, policies, and instruments.


    Key achievements are presented next, in the form of a top-ten list. The top three achievements reported by fund recipients were: expanding the reach to a larger number of women (97%); launching new programmes and strategies (91%); and increased geographical coverage (86%). Following this is a section on transforming gender power, analysed in this study using an adapted version of the Gender at Work Institutional Change Framework. Significant numbers of respondents reported personal shifts in consciousness, attitudes, and self-esteem (94%), in having contributed to more gender-equal laws, policies, and resource allocations (76%), and increased access for women to resources, rights, and services (85%). Finally, the concluding section explains why the fund was successful, namely the exceptional size and timescale of the grant freeing up organisations from the challenges of existing on piecemeal and intermittent grants, and allowing them to concentrate on their work.

  • 2011 AWID global survey 'Where is the money for women’s rights?': preliminary research results

    A Pittman, A Arutyunova
    Association for Women's Rights in Development , 2012

    The 2011 AWID Global Survey was completed by 1,119 women’s organisations from more than140 countries. These preliminary research results were presented at the 12th AWID International Forum. They paint a varied picture for women’s organisations’ incomes and financial sustainability. The following are examples of the findings presented in this report.

    Most of the women’s organisations in the sample were founded during the past decade, and have received external funding. Although women’s organisations’ incomes in the sample have been growing since 2005, their 2010 incomes tended to be quite small (similar to what was found in previous surveys). A new trend was identified: the increasing importance and commonality of individual donors, membership fees, and income-generating activities as the top three most mentioned sources of women’s organisations’ funding. However, an analysis of how much funding women’s organisations received from various donor sectors revealed the top three to be: bilateral agencies, foundations and national governments.

    There is an apparent alignment between women’s organisations’ priority issues and what they receive specific funding for in the following areas: gender-based violence/violence against women, women’s leadership and empowerment, women’s economic empowerment, reproductive health and rights, sexual health (including HIV and AIDS), peace-building and violence against women in contexts of conflict/post-conflict, and access to education. Also, there is alignment between women’s organisations’ priority strategies and what they receive specific funding for in these areas: training/capacity building, women’s empowerment programmes, awareness raising, and advocacy/campaigning/lobbying.

    The final section of this report is on the financial sustainability of women’s organisations. It is divided into the following three sub-headings:

    A. Funding shifts since 2008 – Among the findings are that a larger percentage of survey respondents have gained or kept the same donors since the beginning of the 2008 financial and economic crisis. The loss of donors since 2008 had a significant impact on 223 of the organisations in the sample. For example, fourteen percent of all organisations had to cut activities, and one fifth of them reported experiencing the threat of potential closure.

    B. Financial security - Nearly half of women’s groups met their ideal budgets for 2010 or reported budget surpluses. However, women’s organisations across the sample were essentially living month to month; only a very small set of organisations in the survey had fully secured all of their income for 2011 and 2012. Most organisations (59%) have reserves that would allow them to operate for between one to six months.

    C. Financial sustainability - The financial sustainability of women’s organisations is compromised by low assets, savings, and safety nets. The majority of women’s organisations (52%) had never received multi-year funding. and only 28% of them received core funding in 2010.

    This publication is available online in French and Spanish at

  • Funding community organising

    C McGarvey, A Mackinnon
    European Foundation Centre, 2012

    In this guide, grantmakers talk about why community organising works, while experienced funders offer a grounding in basic organising, explaining how the funding environment is changing and how they support and manage relationships with grantees. Research is drawn from dozens of interviews with stakeholders and consultants, and a small group of experienced funders who participated in an in-depth meeting.

    The guide is split into five sections:

    - Foundations and community organising - by way of introduction, this section explains why community organising is regarded as important by stakeholders. Primarily, this involves the actualisation of the democratic process, particularly through the participation of traditionally marginalised groups.
    - What community organising can accomplish, and how it works - when grantmakers fund community organising, it is because they believe the work itself will strengthen community change through: public engagement; cohesion on important topics; pragmatic, bottom-up solutions; greater accountability of public officials; and attention to how policies are implemented.
    - Getting acquainted and other early steps - the cultures of organising and of philanthropy can be somewhat different, with grantmakers often acting as translator, clarifying expectations and opening up avenues of communication. 
    -  Managing grants and relationships over time - this section include information on the building of capacity, handling differences of opinion, and dealing with setbacks.
    - Evaluating the effectiveness of organising grants - Funders should be clear about the need for measurable goals and the outcomes they are after, e.g. policy change or community change.

    Boxes throughout the guide hold special features, like a glossary guide. They also explain such topics as the different structural and geographical characteristics of different types of community organising; advice for grantmakers on how to handle an incident of scandal or controversy involving a grantee; the visible impacts of organising; and multiple case studies and reflections, including four accounts of funders making their first organising grants.

  • Rights and resources: the effects of external financing on organising for women’s rights

    M Mukhopadhyay, R Eyben
    Institute of Development Studies UK, 2011

    This synthesis report of a study concerns the historical trajectory of women’s rights organisations (WROs) in Bangladesh and Ghana within their changing national contexts as well as the shifting international aid landscape in the last two decades. It explores the conditions under which external financial support to WROs has a positive impact on women’s empowerment, as well as the conditions in which successful women’s organising is achievable without such support. The report also includes reflections and on comments and debates from an international conference held in Amsterdam in March 2011 which brought together representatives from case study and donor organisations, as well as international activists and researchers, to discuss the research findings and implications.

    The research was undertaken from 2009 to 2010 by the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment international research consortium in collaboration with the Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands. It involved participatory methods of critical reflection with both donor staff and representatives of national and global women’s rights organisations and networks. Five case study WROs were chosen in Bangladesh and six in Ghana. The report offers a model for how to study the topic in other contexts; it can be used by WROs in other countries to reflect upon the relevance of the findings in their own context and to respond accordingly. This study complements existing survey data through qualitative research undertaken by independent national research institutes in Bangladesh and Ghana, where rights-based civil society organisations have generally been heavily dependent on external financing. It is also distinctive in that it had no a priori assumption that successful women’s organising requires external funding.

    Among the main findings are that the influence of international aid in the 1990s and the early part of the last decade was particularly beneficial for organisational effectiveness. Recently, the funding landscape has become more hostile with funders’ interest in rights and social transformation declining. Maintaining the legitimacy of the discourse of women’s rights as integral to gender and development policies has not been easy either for gender officers in aid organisations or for the WROs; although the organisations have managed to keep their identity, a sense of autonomy and a continued commitment, they are struggling. International funders are missing an important opportunity to support WROs in a manner that would optimise their capacity to mobilise women to formulate and voice their demands for gender justice. The authors suggest the following actions be taken by WROs and donors.

    Women’s rights organisations need to ‘play the game but also seek to change the game’ by:

    • Setting agendas not running behind the donors’ agendas
    • Ensuring they are transparent, have integrity and are operating within the law
    • Sustaining their solidarity, rejecting the donor incitement to competition but rather helping each other, pooling resources and skills to amplify their voices
    • Reaffirming and making claims on government budgets, including donor’s budget support
    • Thinking of themselves as big, powerful actors and positioning themselves accordingly, including with intermediary organisations such as women’s funds and INGOs
    • Creating or taking space to engage donors including at high level countries of consultation, in campaigns and at national and international forums
    • Investing in cross-country relationships and actively engage with international women’s alliances, such as the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
    • Setting their own results frameworks by determining the differences they want to make, reflecting on and recording their own progress and identifying indicators accordingly, including those for social transformation
    • Strengthening their links with other social justice organisations and movements
    • Being more innovative about other ways of raising resources in their own countries

    Donors need to:

    • Recognise the importance of women mobilising for their rights as the main driver for gender justice and that failure to support WRO agendas will mean donors failing to secure their gender equality objectives
    • Understand and treat WROs as innovators not contractors
      Realise that social change can be slow and difficult and continue to support actions that might take a long time to bear fruit
    • Appreciate that social change comes through solidarity and avoid using funding to destroy the relationships between women activists in a country
    • Support the links between service delivery and advocacy rather than just fund one or the other
    • Ensure greater coherence and continuity in their support to WROs including with their own donor agendas and when these change communicate and consult 
    • Provide institutional support related to indicators for enhanced organisational performance
    • De-mystify and simplify funding applications
    • Undermining WROs when recruiting their staff
    • Encourage women’s funds to take a higher profile in campaigning on women’s rights including innovative but rigorous approaches to evaluating actions for social transformation

    (excerpt from Mukhopadhyay and Eyben, 2011:10-11)  

    This research and conference were supported by the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and UN Women, and funded by the Netherlands International Development Directorate. 

  • Emerging models of participatory philanthropy: FRIDA - the young feminist fund

    A Pittman
    Harvard Institute for International Development, Cambridge Mass., 2011
    This article explains the innovative process being implemented in the foundation of a new fund for young feminist organisations around the world, FRIDA, which aims to cultivate and support a global community of young feminists. Born from a collective call by feminists at the 2008 AWID Forum, the fund seeks to close the significant gap in funding available for feminist organisations, particularly those led by young feminists. FRIDA also aims to work toward a future where women and girls are free from violence and poverty; emphasising that for such a vision to succeed effectively, efforts must include young women.

    The model of FRIDA is that of a participatory “donor +” fund, strengthening organisational capacity and facilitating networking, on top of the core flexible funding. The fund respects the analysis, strategies, and actions as defined by the grassroots groups themselves. Additionally, FRIDA uses the collective resource mobilisation model, moving beyond the traditional model of seeking donors for their own project; they are more interested in working to raise money invested in young feminist activities and gender equality sector overall.

    An innovative approach to the selection of funding is a central feature of the fund. Applicants are invited from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific, the Middle-East, and Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States. Young feminist groups that apply for funding also play the dual role of voting for whom they believe should receive funding, with each group voting for and commenting on their top ten choices located in their own region. The top two groups from each region will receive funding in a process that democratises the funding process and blurs the distinction between 'grantee' and 'grantor'. In this way, FRIDA aims to break down power and expertise barriers common in grantmaking, and empower groups in a process of collective decision making that can enhance their own capacities.
  • Legal framework for global philanthropy: barriers and opportunities

    International Center for Not for Profit Law, 2010

    In recent years, there has been a growth in philanthropy worldwide, which has corresponded with a rise in private wealth in Brazil, India, Russia, China and other countries. Philanthropy is increasingly cross-border; however, this paper describes how the legal environment and other factors have limited global philanthropy from reaching its full potential.Legal barriers that donor countries place on the outflow of philanthropy include:

    1) Significant limitations on cross-border philanthropy by tax-exempt entities; 2) advance governmental approval to make foreign grants; 3) the limited availability of tax incentives for donations to foreign recipients; 4) burdensome procedural requirements to engage in global philanthropy; 5) counter-terrorism measures; and 6) restrictions on financial transactions with sanctioned countries.

    The most common legal barriers that recipient countries place on the inflow of philanthropy include:

    1) The requirement of advance government approval to receive funding from abroad; 2) restricted purposes and activities that can be supported through foreign funding; 3) mandatory routing and funding through government channels; 4) post-receipt procedural burdens, such as burdensome notification and reporting requirements; 5) onerous tax treatment of foreign funding received; and 6) foreign exchange requirements.

    Legal barriers to the nonprofit beneficiaries of philanthropy which are covered in this paper include constraints on their formation and operational activity, as well as international contact and communication with these organisations. Finally, two issues of particular concern to global philanthropists are highlighted: disaster relief and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

  • Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women: the critical role of autonomous women's funds in strengthening women's movements

    B. Adeleye-Fayemi
    United Nations [UN] Division for the Advancement of Women , 2007

    This 2007 report to the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) Expert Group Meeting on Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (Oslo, Norway) explores financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. It discusses the critical role of autonomous women’s funds in strengthening women’s movements; and efforts to promote gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment in Africa. Among other topics, it addresses the challenges facing African women’s organisations and the women’s movement (lack of institutional capacity, unstable financial resource base, etc.) and includes commentary on the African women’s movement.

    A number of women’s funds have recently been established in the Global South due to the need to provide ongoing support to women’s movements in their respective communities. Women’s funds are local philanthropic institutions with a core mission to provide funding for women’s rights work. They are usually autonomous and established by passionately committed women. Women’s funds typically bring networks, experience, clarity, credibility and sustainability to the grant-making experience; can play a key role in promoting links and good will between governments, the private sector, NGOs and community-based initiatives; and offer external funders valuable insights into complex contexts. The author highlights how these connections can add value to grant-making - maximising returns on investments by providing opportunities to address structural and systemic inequality, poor governance, uneven distribution of resources, and abuses of fundamental human rights.

    The following key challenges facing women’s funds are identified:

    1. Women’s funds cannot afford to fund all of the worthy proposals they receive.

    2. They have difficulty competing with comparatively large and well-known international NGOs/donors.

    3. The grants that local women’s funds are able to give are quite small, compared with what larger international funders can give, which inhibits growth of both the women’s funds and their grantees.

    4. In order to be sustainable, women’s funds require unrestricted income to cover programmatic and administrative costs of running a grantmaking organisation; however, this is not usually the kind of funding traditional donors provide. Additionally, few donors are willing to commit resources to the building of endowments, which can make grantmaking institutions truly sustainable.

    5. Women’s funds have to work hard to gain and keep the trust of local people. It is often difficult to mobilise resources locally due to deep cynicism and ambivalence towards the role of non-profits.

    The recommendations for future action are too many to list here in their entirety. The following are a few, which are more elaborated in the original:

    - Donors supporting women’s rights work and gender equality need to do more to support the architecture and infrastructure of the women’s movement at all levels.

    - There should be a mapping of women’s funds located in the Global South and Central and Eastern Europe.

    - It is strongly recommended that donors not begin creating women’s funds themselves, and advised that they take their lead from the women’s movements concerned.