LGBTI Funding Gaps: Responding Together

Open Society Foundations (OSF) is in the process of a strategic shift which has significantly impacted their LGBTI grantmaking. Global Philanthropy Project is coordinating a unique project with the support of OSF, to analyze, address, and mitigate the specific gaps in LGBTI funding resulting from the foundation’s shift.

  • Between 2013-2022, OSF’s grantmaking made up 8% of the total funding to LGBTI movements outside of the U.S.
  • Indeed, OSF has consistently ranked as the top foundation funder at the global level and in funding focused on many world regions.

In 2021, OSF launched a “fundamental transformation.” This shift yielded significant initial changes, including the closure of the Human Rights Initiative (HRI) and the Public Health Program (PHP), two programs with large portfolios of grants supporting LGBTI communities. A number of LGBTI grantees received “tie-off” grants in this process, indicating that they should not expect future funding renewal.  “Tie-off grants” (those being closed out), and other active grants awarded in 2021-2022 were relocated to a new Reassigned Grants Unit (RGU), whose staff was tasked with continuing to administer grants across a range of program areas, providing capacity assistance, and concluding relationships with grantees whose funding was ending.

Given the size and scope of OSF’s global LGBTI funding, and the potential impact on LGBTI communities and movements were it to be discontinued, GPP initiated a program with the RGU to analyze the gaps in support that would likely result from these changes in order to estimate the impact of a potential decrease in OSF’s LGBTI funding on the broader LGBTI philanthropic ecosystem. Working with colleagues throughout OSF, RGU staff identified LGBTI grants awarded in 2021-mid 2023– almost all in the Global South and East. In June 2023, GPP provided to OSF a detailed gap analysis examining the world regions, sub-regions and populations that could be most impacted. GPP’s biennial Global Resources Report, which has tracked global LGBTI funding flows since 2013, served as the key data comparison source to enable this analysis, with additional data on U.S.-focused OSF grants since 2013 provided by Funders for LGBTQ Issues.

In September 2023, Global Philanthropy Project, in coordination with members of the OSF RGU, hosted four meetings with grantmakers who fund initiatives in world regions where OSF has played a consequential role in advancing LGBTI human rights movements, and those who are positioned to maintain and increase funding in these areas as OSF orients to new strategic directions. The four areas of emphasis for these sessions were: Eastern Europe and Central AsiaSub-Saharan AfricaAsia and the Pacific, and International/Multi-regional LGBTI organizations. Following these meetings, GPP and the RGU shared a memo to OSF LGBTI grantees/former grantees sharing the donor organizing activities and participating organizations. GPP and the RGU team also presented relevant findings at donor convenings and meetings throughout 2023.

In 2024, GPP held a series of individual follow-up meetings with a select group of top LGBTI donors for geographies most impacted by the OSF shifts. The meetings focused on each institution’s specific opportunities to mitigate the impact of the OSF transition on impacted grantees, to identify tangible next steps to mobilize specific funding solutions, and to discuss the overall lessons learned about an “ecosystem response” to shifts among major LGBTI donors. GPP will continue these conversations among members and partners. 

Charts: 2021-2022 Global Resources Report (p39)
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