May 30 2024 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

Conversations Around Funding

What is Glitter Meetup?

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the digital rights and Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and project updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.


One pressing question these days is about funding
  • OTF is a good one for open source tools. However, part of the battle is knowing how to write for "funders" There is a real cultural and language gap that a lot of folks struggle to overcome. What I always tell them, READ their descriptions, use the words they put in the application, and make sure that you focus on their remit or goals. Most funding is global north based, and they are linear in thinking, where many projects that are based in Global Majority/South, the thinking is more circular or multi-dimensional. SO when you write an application, write like you are writing code
How can people with the key technical and funding skills come together to collaborate on more socio-technical projects and funding for their work?
  • One participant says: Finding a coalition or "prime" funder who actually cares about integrating global + local knowledge is useful, especially until you get the hang of funder cycles / budgets / requirements, from my experience
  • Another adds: Part of the issue, which we need to just address head on, is that most of the funding in digital rights is also political, meaning a lot comes from governments. This means that from the getco, the collaborative, kinda creative space needed (where diversity of experience and opinions) are recognized for their value, are not really focused on from the getco. SO, most projects that are well funded, miss key intelligence and skills, because they dont know how to really operate a diverse team. This is a detriment because digital rights issues are transnational and require a transnational solution. So what i always tell young projects, particularly from the Global Majority/South, is key is collaborations when you are first starting. Make sure you are clear on what your value is at And be upfront about it. This will allow you to secure key collaborations that hopefully can help you gain trust, exposure of your amazing work. Also, take a free class online about grant writing. I know its MORE work, but it will help you
  • And a third shares: I remember several years ago that the State Department DRL held in-person and also videotaped a whole day of workshops where they talked people through how to apply for funding. Being able to see them express themselves and show their personalities and priorities and sense of humor and explain the reason for their priorities was super helpful in applying. I just watched the recordings but they were very helpful. Much, much better than just the paperwork instructions.
How do people find some of these coalitions that are dedicated to supporting people who may not know the politics and dynamics of funding?
  • Honestly my actual experience with "coalitions" was not great, as DRL proposals in particular are complicated to get across the finish line, and you need an org really committed to driving it to get it across the finish line (and be the financially/legally responsible party)
  • Also noting coalitions and collaborations not the same. A coalition is when multiple organizations apply to a grant together (and your mileage might vary!)
  • Also, one thing I noticed is that culturally, a lot of places have a hard time talking about themselves or clearly stating why they rock. (ie, focus on humility) this is in direct opposition to how grant applying works. You need to be a little confident and clear about why you rock
  • We helped one participant for example apply for a fellowship and kept on using "we" I was like I KNOW you are thinking as a group (because you want to give them credit) but this is about YOU
My other question relates to strategy on how funding and sustainability go hand in hand; A lot of work in Digital Rights seems unstable because when funding dries up, it means your job or project also goes with it. It feels exhausting for most people. How does our work as a community or group of communities seek to ensure that the industry doesn't die out in the next decade?
  • One participant says: It is exhausting Mardiya. and unfortunately this is the name of the game for many nonprofit spaces, but particularly the digital rights field, because its still emerging and there hasn't been enough funding. The good news, I see a lot more funders starting to invest. Historically, they were scared to because they didn't understand technology, but now that disinformation, AI, and all these surveillance and censorship threats. aren ow more front and center, we are seeing more interest from the non-typical IF funders. So I would say, especially when you are starting off, don't put all your eggs in a basket. Apply for both Digital Rights AND AI funding. (which seems to be everywhere)
  • Another shares their thoughts: I would add tho that it's not just funders, and honestly in my experience the funders are the least problem. Organizations - particularly larger ones - need leadership level commitment to building people and long-standing programs with a vision of actual change, instead of treating all grant/aid money as one-off contracts. It is absolutely possible to build a team with overlapping projects that keeps everyone employed and focused on thematic issues, gives a chance to grow professionally (still limited, but not nothing), and does impactful work through working closely with / getting led by local partners. But it's really hard to keep that going - not due to funders, but due to intra-organizational politics
  • The first one builds: It is hard to do longterm strategy if you don't know how long you will live as a project. And its important to have emphatetic leaders that know how to focus on employee wellbeing, and have a co-design approach, to make sure REAL needs are being met. I honestly feel that to work in human rights mandatory for folks should be a) good collaborative management skills b) cultural training, particularly in equity, cross-cultural communication, to make sure you know how to truly work (and or manage) within a diverse team.
  • A community member adds: I sometimes wish that there were fundraising doulas for small, worthy nonprofits that need money. This could be its own nonprofit type--helping important nonprofits get funding is a worthy thing on its own. Fundraising expertise obviously doesn't always = excellence. These folks are fundraising doulas for collectives: Shout out to Ford Foundation too.
What follow up mechanisms should exist for members who realise they want to work together bases on complementary skills and interests?
  • With having the stubborness of a bull and unhealthy commitment to working on these issues, and then making sure that everything we do truly has impact in the people we serve. I'll be honest with you - many people that survive the challenges of this space is because they have skin in the game. But also, its very hard - and NOW a days, I tell people, if this is effecting you badly, leave to do something else. No work, no matter how altruistic, is worth your health and mental stability.
  • A new participant adds: In addition to financing, organizational culture, strategic planning, administration, taxes, etc. are very important. It has been very difficult for us as a cooperative because we do not have hierarchies. Sometimes it becomes a disadvantage in making decisions that has affected us economically and emotionally. For navigating this, there are people in charge (rotating) who carry much of the burden in decisions but we also have provisional leaders. The problem is disagreements, it is difficult to have consensus and solutions that satisfy us all.
When it comes to coordinating digital rights communities and work, what are some of the best practices you have seen and implemented?
  • ALWAYS talk to the truly the most vulnerable people in your community, and design everything aroudn them. When their needs are met, everyone's needs are met. This is not theory - this is literally practical advice. For example - the reason we invest so much into security is because person x, y, z, is like I CANNOT participate if you don't do this
  • Same also goes with accessibility - designing for the most extreme use cases, be they security, accessibility, or other - makes it better for /everyone/