Most human rights funding earmarked for programs in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean was not given to organizations based in those regions, the report found. Experts with the Council on Foundations, an association of grantmakers, say administrative hurdles — and restrictive foreign funding laws in some countries — make it difficult for U.S. foundations to directly donate to charities in other countries. But critics suggest the small amount of direct funding also points to a “trust gap” between donors and organizations in developing regions.
It’s unclear how much money went to organizations that re-granted the contributions to local charities, or Western nonprofits that run their own programs in these regions. Many have long criticized donations to the latter, and called for more localized aid.
“Trust remains an issue,” said Degan Ali, the executive director of the Kenyan-based humanitarian and development organization Adeso, and a critic of foreign aid that prioritizes Western nonprofits.
“How would Americans feel if a bunch of Ghanian NGOs came to California responding to the wildfires, and they ignored the American Red Cross.. ignored all the organizations domestically in California?” said Ali. “They would feel angry. And, they will not accept it. That’s exactly what happens to us every single day.”
Flexible funding - gifts that organizations can use on whatever they want - is low across the board. The report found it represents 29% of human rights-related funding in North America and even less in other regions. Only 2% of gifts earmarked for the Caribbean, for example, was given as flexible support.
Proponents note this type of funding makes an organization’s infrastructure more durable by supporting overhead costs, and also corrects donor blindspots. Researchers said in the report that the findings point to “a need for honest reflection on when, how, and where trust informs funding for long-term" social change.
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