What We Are Reading: June 2022

Shreya Gupta, designer and illustrator

Written by Hilary Clauson

This month’s three recommendations look at funding for feminist, LGBTI, and climate justice movements – bringing to light why to fund, how to fund, and how much funding is available for these powerhouse gender justice players.

Shreya Gupta, designer and illustrator

Lighting the Way is a new report that uplifts tried-and-true ideas, based on 43 conversations with philanthropists and feminist leaders (including the Equality Fund’s co-CEOs Jess Houssein and Jess Tomlin) and informed by an advisory council of 32 movement leaders and funders. In feminist fashion, the report give credit to “those who have preceded us in researching the impact of these movements, exposing the extent of their under-resourcing, and crafting theories of what it means to be a feminist funder.”

The report’s starting point of humility is refreshing. For example, authors note that Bridgespan’s past approach (with its focus on measurement, scalability, and “what works”) may have led it to overlook feminist movements. 

The report outlines why “feminist movements are uniquely poised to address the rules, norms, and stories that reinforce gender inequality.” In brief, they are committed to challenging the common roots of injustice with holistic solutions and are informed by lived experience navigating and resisting multiple forms of oppression. It provides a number of examples, from international advocacy for gender equality in international agreements and norms, to advancing reproductive rights in Argentina and Mexico, Indigenous rights in Ecuador, domestic workers rights in America, Mali, and Mexico, and ending gender-based violence in Nigeria. 

Lighting the Way includes broad recommendations for funders: Understand power structures; Re-examine risk; Fund feminist funds; Shift your practices; and Measure what matters. Two recommendations feature helpful questions donors should ask themselves: 

Not only does this report present compelling evidence on the power of feminist movements and concrete recommendations, it includes an enthusiastic call for philanthropists to invest an additional $6 billion in feminist movements, specifically unrestricted, multiyear funding for feminist movements in the Global South and those led by women, girls, and nonbinary people from Black, Indigenous, and communities of colour worldwide.

Report: 2019-20 Global Resources Report. Global Philanthropy Project (2022)

The Global Philanthropy Project’s 2019-20 Global Resources Report (the fourth editionof a biennial report) is the most comprehensive report on the state of government and philanthropic funding for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues. A hefty 161 pages, it is complemented by quick-glance infographics and slide decks. This report is a valuable tool for identifying trends, gaps, and opportunities in the rapidly changing landscape of LGBTI funding. 

The report analyzed 15,800 LGBTI grants totalling $576 million awarded to 6,000 grantees over a two-year period (2019 and 2020). These grants came from 499 foundations, intermediary NGOs, and corporations and 17 donor government and multilateral agencies. 

While more than a half-a-billion dollars may seem substantial, it represents just 35 cents of every philanthropic donor and 4 cents of every government dollar. To put it into perspective, the report compares it to the $622 million biennial expenditure of a single anti-LGBTI organization– the Christian Broadcast Network. 

On a positive note, the report celebrates a 38% increase from 2017 and 2018 in the number of grantees, an indication that “The movement is strong, it is growing. LGBTI communities are meeting their own needs and their neighbors’ needs when state structures and humanitarian systems fail to value LGBTI lives.” 

The report breaks down the funding in a number of interesting ways– for example by geography, issue, strategy, and population. Of particular note to us at the Equality Fund is funding type. 62% of funding went to program support, 35% to general operating expenses, and 1% to capacity building. For the movements we support, we call for flexible and long-term funding, like general operating expenses or flexible program support. Movements know best how to allocate funding to meet their communities’ needs.

Not only does this report hold invaluable data and insights on LGBTI funding, it may serve as a model for other movements to determine how much funding they receive and to inform their own advocacy for abundant and quality funding. 

The Clima Fund asserts that “Frontline communities are moving forward some of the boldest solutions to the climate crisis, with an overarching goal of system change.” It explains how in two 2022 briefs, Grassroots Movements and Policy Change and Grassroots Movements and Systemic Change. Clima used outcome harvesting to track the 2015-2019 impact of 19 grassroots partners on climate-related policy, law, and governance practices. 

The outcome harvesting revealed that grassroots groups are: carving out political space; holding governments accountable; winning legal protections against extractive industries; and ensuring Indigenous peoples’ sovereign right to their lands and regenerative ways of living with the earth. For example, in Guatemala, following a provision filed by Bufete de Pueblos Indigenas, the Constitutional Court reestablished the rights to 28,500 hectares of land for the Cho’rti’ people. The Justice of Peace also granted a provisional injunction for the right of ancestral ownership of land, suspending an eviction threat against the Plan Grande community. In Nigeria, the Minister of State for the Federal Ministry of the Environment agreed to collaborate with the Health of Mother Earth Foundation to create freshwater and marine protected areas.

The Clima Fund found that many of these outcomes were not predicted in advance, pointing to the need for flexible, long-term support to grassroots groups to nimbly respond to emergent opportunities for social action. 

The briefs explain that systemic change occurs by influencing key structures, institutions, cultural norms, value systems, narratives, and/or power dynamics, toward equity, justice, and right relationship with Earth and communities. Unfortunately, philanthropic dollars traditionally flow to top-down campaigning and lobbying firms, “without addressing the root causes of the crisis nor supporting those most impacted by it.” 

The briefs highlight that “not only are grassroots movements effective in changing policy, but grassroots-driven changes will ensure policies are not reinforcing business-as-usual practices that are incremental, unfair, and/or ineffective.” Together with reports like Shaking the Table and the Global Resources Report (above), they join others in lifting up the compelling case for more and flexible, long-term support to under-funded progressive movements.

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