Enabling important conversations and potential coordination or cooperation between funders is a huge challenge. I love that Human Rights Funders Network exists and creates such a space. Its programming is thoughtful and smart.
Human Rights Funders Network (formerly known as the International Human Rights Funders Group–IHRFG) was founded in 1994 by a small group of human rights grantmakers who wanted to share their strategies and what they were learning, discuss field-wide trends, and collaborate. Since those early days, our community has grown into a global network of approximately 1,800 individual grantmakers and philanthropists across 70 countries committed to advancing human rights through effective philanthropy. Our membership includes 95 dues-paying institutions, while more than 350 additional institutions engage in our activities.
We take great pride in being a network for human rights grantmakers by human rights grantmakers.
This peer-led structure ensures that Human Rights Funders Network’s pursuits are powered by and relevant to our members. Our New York-based staff team works closely with a steering committee, made up of volunteers from our membership, that provides guidance on all programs and initiatives. Member-led advisory committees design our gatherings, lead our working groups and guide our research.
Here are just a few examples of the value of our network:
- Fostering new initiatives: In 2003, a small group of members came together to strategize around ways to increase human rights funding to local grassroots organizations. What began as a working group led to the launch of the Fund for Global Human Rights, which has awarded over $60 million in grants to more than 400 on-the-ground human rights groups since its founding.
- Increasing attention to key human rights issues: The Disability Rights Working Group has utilized Human Rights Funders Network convenings to elevate the concerns of people with disabilities and encourage donors to mainstream disability rights into their funding strategies. The working group also gathered critical feedback from members on the draft framework for the Disability Rights Fund. Established in 2008, the fund has since granted over $17 million to support people with disabilities in 32 countries.
- Mapping the field: Recognizing that human rights funders and advocates need to understand funding flows and gaps to act as strategically as possible, Human Rights Funders Network undertook the first-ever research and mapping of the field of human rights philanthropy. Developed in partnership with Foundation Center, our Advancing Human Rights initiative offers interactive tools to help funders make more informed decisions in their work.
- Strengthening solidarity in the face of threats: The trends of closing civic space and restrictions on foreign funding continue to create urgent challenges for our members and their grantees. Over the past several years, Human Rights Funders Network has led a coordinated donor response to build connections between funders in different sectors, support civil society organizations under threat, and push back against these growing constraints, through both our own programming and our leadership in the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society.