A Model Ethical Funding Policy for NGOs

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 2nd September 2019

How do NGOs accept funding from the corporate sector? What are the best practices with unsolicited donations? How should NGOs handle funds arriving from foundations or unknown sources?

These were the first questions raised when the Digital Freedom Fund and Civil Liberties Union for Europe (“Liberties”) in 2018 first started to think about a model policy for NGOs on ethical funding. While many civil society organisations are challenged in their daily work to find answers to the questions above, a comprehensive, easy-to-use model policy had been missing from the toolbox of the not-for-profit sector.

DFF and Liberties were soon joined by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Ben Wagner. The group received excellent pro bono help from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.

The Model Ethical Funding Policy is now available on the DFF website and covers all possible problematic questions related to NGO funding, allowing NGOs who use it to make a well-considered decision on what type of funding they want to receive, what activities they’ll use it for, and what rules of transparency apply. The model policy is published under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license (attribution and share alike) and organisations can modify it to prepare a funding policy that meets their specific needs.

The groups involved in the development of the Model Ethical Funding Policy are pleased to see the final product of their work, and truly appreciate the help of their pro bono partners. Since ethical issues around funding often raise questions in the daily work of NGOs, the model policy can serve as a helpful tool for a range of civil society organisations across the globe.