Building philanthropic equity in the animal protection movement
Ways that can reduce power imbalances and build equity in the sector’s grantmaking
Hannah Murray managed the Open Wing Alliance grants program at The Humane League from 2019 to 2022
June 17 2022
Over the past few years, advocacy on behalf of farmed animals has grown dramatically, fueled by an increase in available funding. During this same period, grant professionals have increasingly centered equity in their grantmaking and identified ways that philanthropy can redistribute power. Supporting intermediary grantmakers, increasing transparency and accessibility of information about funding opportunities, and adopting trust-based philanthropic practices are three ways that the animal protection movement can reduce power imbalances and build equity in the sector’s grantmaking.
Trends in the animal protection movement and broader philanthropic sector
1. Increased funding for farmed animals and the rise of intermediary grantmakers
While most funding for animal protection is directed towards companion animals (e.g. dogs, cats), the amount of funding directed towards farmed animals has increased significantly since 2016. The number of organizations responsible for disbursing funds to support farmed animal advocates has also grown. Many operate as intermediary grantmakers (also referred to as re-grantors), redistributing funds from donors who entrust them to identify smaller, less established organizations in need of support. Supporting the emergence of groups that have historically had less access to funding is a core first step towards increasing equity. (A critical second step is to facilitate the same groups’ sustainability through continued funding and long-term partnership.)
“Supporting the emergence of groups that have historically had less access to funding is a core first step towards increasing equity.”
By virtue of being actively engaged in animal advocacy through their own programs, intermediary organizations have strong connections to groups on the ground and are well-positioned to understand their needs and identify funding gaps in the movement. PEAK Grantmaking, an association that works to advance equitable and effective grantmaking, notes that intermediaries “aim to more effectively link donors with organizations delivering charitable services (1)” and can have a democratizing effect on the sector by facilitating the distribution of philanthropic dollars to a broader range of organizations. Intermediaries play a key role in advancing equity by directing funds to groups that demonstrate the greatest need, rather than to those that are larger, more well-known and established, or ‘easier’ (from a logistical standpoint) to fund.
2. Increased transparency and accessibility of information about funding opportunities
In February 2020, representatives from a handful of intermediary grantmaking organizations providing financial support to farmed animal advocates met to discuss their respective programs. All of the programs in attendance were relatively young and had been in existence for less than three years. At the time, there was little publicly available information about their initiatives, processes, or grantees. Attendees came together for the purposes of (1) learning about each group’s focus and funding priorities, and (2) strengthening internal communications to streamline the many efforts to serve the growing global animal advocacy movement better.
“Increasing transparency and access to information about funding opportunities increases equity in the movement by reducing barriers to organizations’ long-term financial security”
In the months that followed, new funding programs continued to emerge at a rapid pace. Initiatives varied in duration, focus, and scope and prioritized different species, geographies, and strategies. Staying up-to-date on the growing number of funding programs has proven challenging in such a dynamic environment, even to those working full-time in grants administration in the movement. To map the funding landscape and make relevant information more centralized and accessible to those whom the initiatives are designed to benefit, I created a public spreadsheet to succinctly outline farmed animal and food systems funding opportunities. The list is revised as new opportunities arise and fully reviewed and updated twice annually. The relevance of the list relies on continued input from actors in the movement. I encourage individuals to contact the list managers (indicated on the spreadsheet) with suggestions, corrections, and updates.
The modern animal welfare movement is young and in the early stages of professionalization, with many organizations operating with few, if any, dedicated fundraising staff. Securing funding is an ongoing concern and impacts an organization’s ability to adequately support and retain staff and, in turn, sustain its work. Increasing transparency and access to information about funding opportunities increases equity in the movement by reducing barriers to organizations’ long-term financial security. Making it easier and more efficient for all applicants to identify funders aligned with their mission benefits all parties and has the potential to accelerate the flow of funding to the organizations in greatest need of support.
”By redistributing power, the adoption of trust-based practices can strengthen relationships between funders and grantees, ultimately providing more robust support that positions both parties for long-term success in pursuit of their goals”
3. Recent cultural and philosophical shifts in philanthropy
Over the past 2.5 years, the world of progressive philanthropy has undergone significant philosophical and cultural shifts as well. Foremost among these is the Trust-Based Philanthropy (TBP) movement, launched in January 2020 as a five-year learning initiative to address power and build equity in the sector. By centering equity, transparency, and relationships throughout all steps of its recommended grantmaking practices,TBP works to reduce the inevitable power imbalance that exists between funders and grantees.
TBP recommends that grantmakers adopt six core practices to increase equity: provide multi-year, unrestricted funding; do the homework (be proactive in learning about a prospective grantee); simplify and streamline paperwork; be transparent and responsive; solicit and act on feedback; and offer (non-monetary) support beyond the grant check. More detail on these recommendations can be found on the TBP website. By redistributing power, the adoption of trust-based practices can strengthen relationships between funders and grantees, ultimately providing more robust support that positions both parties for long-term success in pursuit of their goals.
Equity recommendations for funders
Consideration of the three trends discussed above offers ideas on how to increase equity in the philanthropic sector.
Invest in intermediary organizations. Trust their knowledge and experience, which is rooted in years of partnership with groups on the frontlines of the movement. Support their authority and respect where your role as a donor ends and their role as a grantmaker begins.
Equity in the philanthropic sector
For intermediary grantmakers:
Stay engaged with groups on the ground. Taking time to listen and understand what groups need can increase the chance that your funding decisions are informed, timely, relevant and rooted in equity.
Share your findings with the donors that support your grantmaking program. As the bridge between donors and grantees, you are in a unique position to help each party progress towards their respective goals. Use the knowledge gained from your relationships with grantees to increase donors’ understanding of sectoral funding needs and draw attention to under-resourced areas of the movement.
“Stay engaged and inspired. Working in service of justice, equity, and inclusion is a long-term commitment”
Ensure that information about your funding priorities is transparent, easily accessible and updated. This is especially important if your scope, application guidelines, or deadlines change.
Reflect on your potential bias. If your grantmaking program is ‘by invitation only’, are there groups that might be inadvertently excluded? Diversifying who receives financial support to work (and stay) in the movement is essential to increasing equity.
Be aware of language or cultural barriers that potentially exclude applicants from your program. Invest in resources (e.g. translation or cultural interpretation) that enable you to communicate with organizations with whom you might not otherwise cross paths.
Stay informed of developments in the Trust-Based Philanthropy movement. Identify any TBP practices that you can adopt right now, and implement them. If any recommendations make you unsure or uncomfortable, explore the reasons why, and work to understand (and potentially overcome) your resistance.
Stay engaged and inspired. Working in service of justice, equity, and inclusion is a long-term commitment, and we need you to stay in the movement. Celebrate the gains in equity (no matter the size), and join a community of practitioners committed to advancing equity. Supportive communities include PEAK Grantmaking, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and Trust-Based Philanthropy, all of which have newsletters.
Managed the Open Wing Alliance grants program at The Humane League from 2019 to 2022. During this time, the grants program tripled in size and succeeded in adopting the six core practices of Trust-Based Philanthropy.
Hannah currently serves as a fundraising consultant to a wildlife rehabilitation center in California and to farmed animal welfare advocates globally. She is based in Maine, United States.
1. An Introduction to Intermediaries, published in the October 2017 PEAK Grantmaking Journal, Issue 12: https://www.peakgrantmaking.org/insights/an-introduction-to-intermediaries/
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