New $1m fund for frontline groups fighting modern slavery

Freedom Fund to give grants to survivors of exploitation in plan to drive localised solutions to a global problem.

A new philanthropy-backed fund aims to place survivors at the heart of efforts to combat slavery by giving unrestricted grants to local organisations led by those directly affected by exploitation. 

The Survivor Leadership Fund will award grants of up to $15,000 to small nonprofits that often struggle to secure funding, to be used in any way the organisation sees fit.

An initiative of the Freedom Fund, a collaborative donor fund dedicated to eradicating slavery, the aim is to build the capacity of survivor-led frontline NGOs and drive ground-up solutions.

The scheme will be piloted in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda before expanding to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and South America, awarding more than $1m in total over a five-year period.

“We hope that this fund can be a game-changer for small, survivor-led organisations, paving the way for a new generation of survivor leaders and groups who can really make a difference,” said Meseret Bayou, deputy country representative for the Freedom Fund in Ethiopia.

“Flexible funding empowers survivor-led organisations to make quick choices about how best to help, choices those on the frontlines and as survivors themselves are best placed to make,” he added.


“We trust them to use their grant in the ways they think best to achieve the aims of their organisation.”

Amy Rahe, managing director, Freedom Fund North America.

Amy Rahe, the Freedom Fund’s North America managing director, said smaller survivor-led organisations were often “locked out” by the demands of traditional donors and denied the funds they need to build and grow.

She explained the idea behind the Survivor Leadership Fund was to give local groups the freedom to choose how best to scale their internal capacity.

“We aren’t setting rules, conditions, outcomes or objectives,” she said. “We trust them to use their grant in the ways they think best to achieve the aims of their organisation.”

The Freedom Fund was in June one of more than 250 organisations to receive a share of $2.7bn donated by US philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, in the form of unrestricted grants to nonprofits.

The scale and the unrestricted nature of Scott’s donations – exceeding $8bn in just three rounds – were warmly welcomed by nonprofits who often grapple with the amount of paperwork required by large donors and the conditions placed on how money is spent.

Freedom Fund received $35m, which it said would be used to deepen its engagement with frontline partners and develop survivor-led organisations and movements at a grassroots level.

“This is one way for us to pass forward a similar level of trust that has been placed in us,” the organisation said in a statement on its website. - PA

The Impact Room

Hear Nick Grono, CEO of the Freedom Fund, unpacking the role philanthropy can play in tackling modern slavery in a dedicated episode of The Impact Room, a new podcast produced by Philanthropy Age.