Christine Innamorato
Manager of Knowledge Services Communications
Foundation Center
(212) 807-2575

Sarah Tansey
Program Manager, Research & Policy
Human Rights Funders Network
(646) 381-7582

New York, NY — January 17, 2018. The human rights movement faces increased restrictions and backlash as it undertakes critical work across the globe. Against this context, it’s crucial that funders and advocates working in the fields of human rights and social justice reflect on past efforts and align their funding strategies with current needs.

To this end, Foundation Center and Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN) are pleased to announce new trends data on the Advancing Human Rights research hub, revealing a 44% increase in human rights funding worldwide between 2011-2015, from $1.4 billion to over $2 billion.

Advancing Human Rights overall chart

The two organizations began mapping the landscape of human rights grantmaking in 2010, leading to this new analysis. “This is a prime example of our data doing what it’s designed to do,” said Bradford K. Smith, President of Foundation Center, “helping social sector leaders track changes in the funding landscape, identify gaps and needs, and collaborate more effectively in meeting the most pressing challenges facing global society.”

An article series will accompany the new data with perspectives from funders detailing the stories behind key trends. Read the first story and follow the series at

Notable findings from the trends analysis include:

  • 1193 funders made at least one grant in 2011-2015 that met the research’s definition of human rightsHowever, not all of those funders shared data each year. The trend figures therefore draw from a subset of 561 funders who shared grants data for each of the five years.
  • Funding for health and well-being rights grew by 77%, from $145 million to $257 million. US-based funders who don’t self-identify as human rights funders increasingly incorporate rights language when describing their health-related grants. In 2011, funding from this group of donors accounted for 37% of health rights funding. By 2015, this cohort accounted for 51%.
  • Funding for disability rights dropped by 23%. Persons with disabilities were the only population tracked in the research to see a decrease. While the relatively small amount of funding makes this area particularly susceptible to year-to-year shifts, this decrease also reflects the reality that the disability community must often make the case that it is a full member of the human rights family.
  • Funding for strategies such as advocacy and systems reform, grassroots organizing, and litigation and legal aid more than doubledwhile support for research and documentation dropped by 19%. Of the strategies included in the analysis, the latter is closest to a traditional understanding of human rights work: fact-finding and documenting abuses.  
  • Human rights funding grew year by year, with the exception of a decrease from $2.3 billion in 2014 to $2 billion in 2015. Some of the decrease can be attributed to a large foundation having spent down its endowment and funders providing less detail about grants due to concerns surrounding closing civic space and digital security.

“Our field is characterized by long-term struggle,” said Mona Chun, Executive Director of HRFN. “A multi-year analysis lets us look past year-to-year fluctuations and identify trends in funding. We hope the human rights community will use this research to assess where the field is headed, where it has work to do, and where they can contribute.”


About the Advancing Human Rights Initiative
Advancing Human Rights: The State of Global Foundation Grantmaking is a collaborative effort to collect, analyze, and publish data on global human rights funding, led by Foundation Center and Human Rights Funders Network, in partnership with Ariadne – European Funders for Social Change and Human Rights and Prospera – International Network of Women’s Funds. Like each of the partners, the research aims to develop and share knowledge about human rights funding, build connections among human rights and social justice funders, encourage strategic decision-making, and increase the effectiveness of their work. For more information, please visit

About Foundation Center
Established in 1956, Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Foundation Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit Foundation Center's website each day and are served in its five regional hubs and its network of more than 400 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and around the world. For more information, please visit, call (212) 620-4230, or tweet us at @fdncenter.

About Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN)
HRFN (formerly known as the International Human Rights Funders Group–IHRFG) is a global network of approximately 1,500 individual grantmakers and philanthropists committed to advancing human rights through effective philanthropy. HRFN serves as a space for funders across the broad spectrum of human rights and social justice to come together under one umbrella to share strategies, break down silos, and transform grantmaking practice. For more information, please visit, call (646) 381-7580, or tweet us @hrfunders.