HIV-related philanthropy to Western and Central Europe in 2021:
As a complement to Philanthropic Support to Address HIV and AIDS in 2021, the following snapshot highlights the philanthropic response to HIV in Western and Central Europe. To help demonstrate the leadership and reach of donors and intermediaries in the region, FCAA invited a best practice perspective from the Robert Carr Fund (RCF)—the world’s leading international fund focused on regional and global networks led by and serving inadequately served populations.
Robert Carr Fund
As a cooperative effort of donors and civil society, RCF is structured to maximize participation, equity, transparency, and accountability in their fundraising and grantmaking. RCF’s secretariat is based in the Netherlands, and the organization is a recipient of funding from the governments of the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, and Norway, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. RCF has raised and committed $120,000,000 since inception (including the current 2022-2024 funding cycle).
PARTICIPATORY GRANTMAKING—THE ROBERT CARR FUND APPROACH
— Maria Phelan, RCF Director
WHAT IS PARTICIPATORY GRANTMAKING?
Participatory grantmaking is about placing the power of grantmaking decisions in the hands of the communities most affected by the HIV epidemic. RCF, the unique pooled funding mechanism, ensures a democratic, transparent, and accountable process when it comes to grantmaking.
Participatory grantmaking has always been a part of RCF’s DNA because the need for sustainable long-term funding for global and regional community-led networks was placed in the foundation of RCF during its inception back in 2012.
But RCF takes participation beyond grantmaking. The fund uses a people-centered approach, which could be called “co-creation.” Civil society and funders come together in a joint equal space to understand the communities’ needs and to make funding decisions. This participatory approach is embedded into all processes and governance structures.
WHAT MAKES RCF A PARTICIPATORY FUND?
The key governance body of RCF is the International Steering Committee (ISC), which consists of equal numbers of donors and civil society members. The ISC members discuss the fund’s strategic priorities and decide where funds should be directed. In addition, there is the Program Advisory Panel, where independent community experts review grant applications and give their advice to the ISC. There are four elements of the RCF funding model approach: participation, flexible core funding, long-term funding, and shifting the power to the communities. RCF’s rigorous grantee data shows that these four fundamental principles lead to stronger civil society advocacy work, network resilience and sustainability, better organizational capacity, and HIV-related programs of higher quality.
WHAT MAKES RCF’S PARTICIPATORY GRANTMAKING MODEL SO EFFECTIVE?
RCF’s model supports sustainability at two levels: by direct funding of networks, and indirectly by supporting grantees’ advocacy for sustainable financing of the HIV response for inadequately served populations. RCF core funding complements other funders’ investments by increasing grantees’ capacity to implement better quality programs.
RCF broke new ground with participatory grantmaking. RCF’s funders, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, civil society members, and grantees speak very highly of the approach; they see the value and believe it should be used more widely.
HOW CAN FUNDERS BECOME MORE PARTICIPATORY?
There are 10 tips for funders who may be considering participatory grantmaking:
- Simplify processes.
- Listen to grantees.
- Define success in grantmaking.
- Learn from others about the benefits and challenges of participatory grantmaking.
- Engage senior leadership and the board in the discussion.
- Decide how willing and able you are to change your rules and procedures.
- Include more representation from grantees and the people they serve.
- Establish and strengthen systems for managing conflict of interest.
- Commit staff time.
- Celebrate, document, and share your progress.