The Value of Flexible Funding in International Human Rights Grantmaking

Caitlin Stanton and Anasuya Sengupta, The Global Fund for Women

With the Global Fund grant, we were able to invest in increasing staff skills and knowledge, specifically around adapting some of our economic rights programs for fisherwomen to better meet the needs of the mobile “boat people” communities within fishing villages. Due to this, our program design for work with women living on boats in the Lo-Gam River was stronger and more effective.

Center for Water Resources & Development, Vietnam

 The Global Fund for Women is one of the largest providers of flexible general operating support for women’s organizations, networks, and movements worldwide. This implies that our grantee partners can decide how to prioritize their grant use, whether on core costs, advocacy and programmatic support, capacity building, or, in certain cases, emergency human rights defense. So how accountable and how effective is this form of grantmaking? In 2011, we worked with Lyndi Hewitt at Hofstra University to learn more about the impact of flexible funding. We wanted to do more than believe in providing flexible funding as part of a trusting relationship with grantees; we wanted to know if and why it was so effective.

Hewitt’s research suggests that Global Fund’s flexible, general support grants enabled strategic acumen in its grantees: their ability to identify new opportunities and respond to unforeseen threats effectively. Global Fund grantees with a high degree of strategic acumen are nimble in adapting tactics and strategies to better leverage the constantly shifting realities in which they work.

TCC Group, a consulting firm that provides strategy, evaluation, and capacity-building services to funders and nonprofits, has also linked flexible funding with a similar outcome, which they term “adaptive capacity.” Both capacities correlate with qualities that are integral to nonprofit success: nimbleness, innovation, creativity, sustainability, and being a learning organization. In addition, Global Fund’s experience has been that this high level of success has been accompanied by a high level of financial integrity: grantee partners are more inclined to be transparent with us because of the control they have over the grant.

However, flexibility is just one attribute of a high-quality grant. High-quality funding is also often long-term. The Center for Global Development has described a 15-20 percent cost to the value of aid dollars awarded to an organization in a one-off manner, compared to multi-year funding. In addition to flexible and predictable, Global Fund adds accessible as a key marker of effective funding. We make our funding accessible to the communities we aim to impact by accepting proposals in any language.

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