The Fund is a U.S. tax deductible vehicle for making financial contributions in support of the LGBT movement in Russia and efforts to combat discrimination and violence there based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One hundred percent of all donations will be paid out as grants. This initiative responds to growing concerns about recent state-sponsored discrimination in Russia and expresses solidarity between the international LGBT community and allies, and the Russian LGBT movement.
to immediately and directly support Russian LGBT organizations and their allies to combat violence and discrimination for a life with dignity and safety.
to express solidarity with a courageous movement in a time of growing crisis.
to support frontline LGBT Russians.
one hundred percent of contributions will go directly to Russian organizations engaged in creating a safe, respectful and inclusive society for LGBT Russians. The Arcus Operating Foundation covers all administrative costs.
What is the situation in Russia?
The situation for Russia's LGBT community is critical. Russian authorities have passed laws and taken other steps to make life as an openly gay person untenable: a 2013 law forbids distribution of any information in support of “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, which can result in a ban on public demonstrations like pride marches or any type of public education on LGBT issues; and legislation forbidding gay and lesbian people from raising children, threatening the families of many Russian citizens, has also been proposed. As a result, anti-gay violence in Russia has risen and LGBT activists have been targeted for prosecution. Recent legislation that dramatically restricts the work of NGOs makes it more difficult than ever for Russian activists to stand up for LGBT rights. The response of the Russian LGBT community has been nothing short of inspirational. LGBT leaders, activists and allies have responded with principle, courage and determination, combining public activism, including peaceful demonstrations and LGBT cultural events, with strategic litigation and other actions.
Who can make financial contributions to the Fund?
Any individual, corporation or other organization can contribute. Checks should be made payable to “Arcus Operating Foundation” with memo reference to "Russia Freedom Fund", and mailed to Arcus Operating Foundation, 44 West 28th Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001, United States. Credit card contributions can be made via this website. Financial contributions are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.
What are the Fund's priorities? How can a group apply for a grant?
The Fund’s core objective is to create a safe environment for LGBT people in Russia by supporting local groups that can be effective at combatting discrimination and violence. Financial support will allow these groups to address cases of discrimination and violence, to ensure that victims have access to legal support, and to take these cases to court. The Fund will also provide support to Russian organizations that work for longer term, systemic change in the status and treatment of LGBT people in the country, through public education and advocacy. While initiatives based outside Russia are eligible for funding, those led by Russia-based LGBT groups will be treated with priority. Lobbying, grants to individuals, and capital expenses (such as the purchase of vehicles) are not eligible in accordance with U.S. law.
Russia Freedom Fund generally supports projects that do not exceed USD 50 000 per year and have clear goals and outcomes. Grant decisions take into account the applicant's current and past budgets and financial history to ensure adequate implementation of the grant.
Request for Proposals, deadline: October 1, 2014, grant decisions can be expected in mid-November.
The Russia Freedom Fund has raised approximately $500,000, of which it has so far allocated about $300,000. RFF is launching a final request for proposals to distribute the remaining $200,000.
The Fund’s core objective is to create a safe environment for LGBT people in Russia by supporting local groups that can be effective at combatting discrimination and violence. Financial support will allow these groups to address cases of discrimination and violence by ensuring that victims have access to legal support, and are able to take their cases to court. The Fund will also provide support to Russian organizations that work for longer term, systemic change in the status and treatment of LGBT people in the country, through public education and advocacy. While initiatives based outside Russia are eligible for funding, those led by Russia-based LGBT groups will be treated with priority.
Most costs are eligible for funding, including rent, office expenses, travel, and personnel costs. Lobbying, grants to individuals, and capital expenses (such as computers and vehicles) are not eligible in accordance with U.S. law. Lobbying restrictions are generally understood as including calls to action for or against specific legislation, but they do not include litigation, the education of elected officials and the general public about existing legislation and the estimated impact of proposed legislation or other advocacy activities. RFF will indicate whether any of the proposed activities or expenses is ineligible for funding.
Project support is available for applicants registered outside the US. General operating support and project support are available for US organizations. Current Arcus and Russia Freedom Fund grantees are eligible to apply.
Proposals can be received at email@example.com in any format, as long as they conform to the eligibility criteria, are in English, and include the information below in (ideally) maximum three pages (plus budget):
a) Cover page/identification of the group: : name, country, website, address, contact person, form of registration (e.g. organization or private company with a charity purpose; only registered legal entities can apply), and a list of staff and board members with names and positions in the applicant legal entity (if no staff, then names and roles of volunteers)
b) Short description of the organization, , including accomplishments, capacity to implement the proposed project (e.g. experience on the topic, relevant human resources, or institutional partners)
c) Goal(s) oor what will be achieved in a set period of time (up to two years)
d) Main activities, timeline, and evaluation (how the applicant will measure whether the goals have been achieved). The project timeline can reflect up to two years, beginning January 1, 2015.
e) Total budget (USD) with a breakdown in main categories of expenses, what amount is requested from the Russia Freedom Fund, and what amount is already raised and from whom (if applicable).
All proposals must represent requests for a minimum of $10,000.
Any questions before and after sending an application should be sent to the same email address. After a positive decision on the application, the following documents will be needed to sign a grant agreement: (provide the document in the original language with notes in English specifying which document it is, (e.g. in the file name): articles of incorporation (or similar document), latest financial statements (audited, if available), EEO Policy (can be an internal approval of the sample policy provided below), organization annual budget, board list with affiliations, project staff list, date of fiscal year end.
Confidentiality: grant applicants and grant recipients based in Russia will not be named in any communications that can reach the public. The projects funded will be described to the public to ensure transparency of the work of the RFF.
It is the policy of [org. name] to promote and ensure equal employment opportunity for all persons without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sex, age, gender identity and/or expression, partnership status, pregnancy, national origin, alienage, citizenship status, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, military status, veteran status, political affiliation, arrest or conviction record, or status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking or sex offenses; or any other characteristics protected by law. Equal employment opportunity principles govern all aspects of the (org. name)’s personnel policies, operational and programmatic practices. All phases of employment, including recruitment, hiring, compensation, evaluation, promotion, transfer, assignment, training, tuition assistance, benefits and separation, shall be conducted in compliance with equal employment opportunity laws and regulations.
Decisions are made by a committee comprising representatives from the world of philanthropy, including the Arcus Operating Foundation, the Council for Global Equality, International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe. Also reviewing proposals and offering recommendations are Russian representatives, acting in an individual capacity, who are deeply knowledgeable about the situation in Russia.
Who makes grantmaking decisions?
A committee made up of representatives from the world of philanthropy, including the Arcus Operating Foundation, the Council for Global Equality, International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe, and Russian representatives, acting in an individual capacity, who are deeply knowledgeable about the situation in Russia.
Where is the Russia Freedom Fund housed?
The Fund emerged from a series of convenings of Russian and other organizations hosted by the Arcus Operating Foundation in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles in September 2013. The Fund is housed at the Arcus Operating Foundation, a tax-exempt organization registered in the State of New York, which bears ultimate legal responsibility for this Fund. The AOF will contribute staff and other costs for the operation of the Fund, so that 100 percent of the funds raised are spent as grants.
RFF report on income and spending as of November, 2015
In 2014 the Russia Freedom Fund awarded grants on a rolling basis through an open call for proposals until the end of 2014. The Fund has less funds than before and can no longer accept unsolicited proposals on a rolling basis. The Fund will decide its future strategy by the end of 2015.
As of November 20, 2015, the Fund has awarded 38 grants totaling $1,278,215 of the $1,278,215 raised.
Funding Sources: $600,000 from the Arcus Foundation, $450,000 from two anonymous gifts, $140,000 from Human Rights Campaign T-shirt sales, and $88,215 from nearly 500 individuals, organizations and ad hoc initiatives from the US and more than 20 countries.
The Fund has no expenses and 100% of funds raised go to grants. Arcus Operating Foundation covers administrative costs and RFF Committee members donate their time.
Because of the security threats to Russian people and institutions that are supportive of the human rights of LGBT people, grant amounts, locations, and recipients are not disclosed.
The Fund has received interim and final reports from 15 grants covering activities in 2014 and conducted an internal assessment on this basis. The following is a summary of information describing what was funded and what was achieved.
Outcomes Analysis of Russia Initiative Grants: this analysis examines a group of funded projects, clustered into four main categories: resource centers, policy-legal change, leadership capacity, and culture change. In each category, activities funded are described and outcomes are identified.
Description of the Grants Overview A total of $774,042 was awarded to 13 grantees, 12 based in Russia and one in the US. Six of the Russia-based organizations received more than one grant, either for multiple projects or for renewed funding of the originally supported project.
The 26 grants can be clustered in the above categories, each one comprising a specific change strategy:
1. Resource Centers ($243,442): Ten grants supported a similar range of activities at LGBT resource centers that are spread out over a large geographic area. These resource centers play a similar role to LGBT community centers in the US but, given the situation in Russia, focus on providing legal and psychological services as well as community education. Accordingly, activities supported by these grants included legal consultation and representation by attorneys; supportive services and counseling by psychologists; social events; monitoring and documenting incidents of violence and discrimination; and workshops and seminars on LGBT issues, the recently enacted anti-LGBT laws, family issues, and human rights.
2. Legal-Policy Change ($134,100): In addition to the legal work pursued by the resource centers, four grants focused exclusively on legal issues, including the pursuit of impact litigation in the Russian courts and in the European Court of Human Rights as well as development and submission of reports to United Nations human rights bodies and to international human rights NGOs (ILGA, Amnesty). One grantee filed suit against a well-known former priest for inciting violence against LGBT people through hate speech. Another grantee focused its legal program on the needs of the transgender community, working specifically on issues of legal name changes and obtaining gender-affirming identity documents.
3. Leadership Capacity ($191,500): Most of the supported work in this category was devoted to educating, training and supporting LGBT leaders and activists. One grant enabled an organization to cover fines levied on individuals who engaged in public demonstrations and other activities. Another enabled leaders to participate in a convening of Russian LGBT Christians. And a third funded 36 activists for a crisis intervention and burnout prevention training. Also, a grant was given for Russian LGBT activists to receive digital security training.
4. Culture Change ($205,000): This category includes grants to counteract the pervasive anti-LGBT messages from the public officials who supported the so-called “Propaganda Law” and from anti-LGBT religious leaders and media commentators. Through advocacy, public education and cultural events, these grantees worked to impact public opinion about LGBT community.
Outcomes, key outputs and other noteworthy highlights reported to RFF are as follows:
Resource Centers (reports for 3 of 10 grants)
• The successful creation of two new resource centers with ongoing legal and psychological support programs in place, and the groundwork laid for a third. Each location had served 100 people by the end of the grant period.
• Ongoing services and community education activities in all centers that reported to Arcus.
• Three LGBT activists evacuated out of the country for their safety.
• One grantee reported that during the grant period it was included in the registry of “foreign agents” by the Ministry of Justice. It filed general objections to the state officials’ decision and will be challenging this action in court.
Legal-Policy Change (reports for 3 of 4 grants) • A robust and well-accessed legal program for transgender clients, focused on name changes and identity documents. With six attorneys and two paralegals (four of whom are members of the transgender community), the project handled 384 consultations, filed 29 cases in 13 regions (up from 12 cases in 6 the previous year). They successfully obtained positive outcomes in 15 cases (gender-affirming identity documents without requirement of surgery), had three losses and still had 10 cases pending, including one with the European Court of Human Rights. • Most cases filed that challenged arrests for public demonstrations, acts of employment discrimination or anti-LGBT violence were unsuccessful in the Russian courts. (This is true for these grantees as well as for the resource centers, which also provided legal representation.) Cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights, if successful, can lead to fines imposed on the Russian government, but cannot impact its actions or the status of current anti-LGBT laws. All of these grantees are also submitting reports to relevant UN human rights bodies. • In one case, a grantee brought suit against a public figure who’d advocated violent death for gay people. Its case was based on existing Russian law that prohibits inciting hatred and antagonism. While the suit was unsuccessful, the defendant publicly attempted to change the meaning of his original words, which the grantee viewed as a moral victory.
Leadership Capacity (reports for 5 of 6 grants) • Grantees provided support, training, respite travel, and technical assistance to LGBT Russian activists, including covering the costs of participation for 21 LGBT Christians to attend a faith seminar, paying arrest fines for four activists, and enabling 36 leaders to meet for a crisis intervention and burn-out prevention training. • The LGBT Faith Seminar hosted 53 laypeople and six clergy and distributed its forum resolution to 43 organizations. Although invited journalists did not attend, two articles on the seminar were published.
Culture Change (reports for 4 of 6 grants) • Two grantees produced public events. While both were able to hold these events, they each experienced difficulties retaining venues because of the pervasive anti-LGBT climate in the country. • A film festival drew 1500 attendees, including international observers. Of the more than 200 non-LGBT attendees, 80% surveyed agreed that the Festival increased their level of acceptance. • One grantee was able to host 87% of its planned events, losing some to venue refusals. Sixty people attended these events. • Two online projects—a virtual “museum” of the Russian LGBT movement and an e-magazine—were both set in motion. The e-museum will launch in May 2015. The publication grew its subscriber base by over 200 in the first six months of the grant and is publishing documentation of discrimination cases in order to assist organizations seeking legal redress.