Grantees Europe

FundAction – A New Participatory Grantmaking Fund

Rose Longhurst making a workshop during an EDGE Funders Alliance Meeting. Author: Tobias Troll

A year ago, we got together with the Open Society Initiative for Europe, the European Cultural Foundation, and the Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation to scheme up the development of a participatory fund for European activists, and this scheme has finally materialised. FundAction (the name is rather self-evident), is one of our largest grants both in terms of funding and non-financial support, as we ardently believe in its basic tenets.  Luckily FundAction now has a fresh and simple website that lays out these basics:


FundAction is a new participatory fund making grants for social transformation, organised around a community of activists based in Europe to support social movements working towards a transition to a just and equitable world. The goals are to shift decision-making powers about funding, from foundations to those closer to the issue, strengthen collaboration and mutual support among European activists and build the capacity of activists and the social movements they work with.


FundAction is built in a democratic and participatory way. A group of donors and activists came together in 2016 to form the idea for FundAction. In a series of meetings, they outlined the intention and values. Since May 2017, a smaller Facilitation Group has been putting this idea into action.


Normally philanthropic money sits in an institution where staff and board members decide where to spend it. Participatory grantmaking seeks to involve those directly affected by the issues – the people that the money intends to help – in decision-making about where that money goes.


FundAction was born out of conversations between activists and funders at several occasions. At the EDGE Funders Alliance European Retreat in 2016, four foundations (Open Society Initiative for Europe, European Cultural Foundation, Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation and Guerrilla Foundation) decided to pool funding.


Decision-making is a learning tool for FundAction members. By reviewing, discussing and applying for grants, the Assembly members learn from each other, expand their networks and improve their own skills. The Assembly takes daily decisions at FundAction platform.

We’ve already been blogging about the steps taken to get to this point so if you’re interesting in the journey we took you can find out more first here and then here. Also, if you’re interested in finding out more about all things participatory grantmaking, we suggest you follow the FundAction blog that will be showcasing insights and nifty practices that are learnt along the way.

Seville Activists Meeting caption. Author: Gema Valencia (CC-BY-SA)

One key issue that we want to highlights is the grassroots activist belief about the need to involve and mobilise those who are directly affected by an issue, participatory grantmaking aims to involve those ‘affected’ by foundation grants into the decision-making process. In short one could say that:

Participatory grantmaking shifts decision-making power from grantmakers to grantees.

Many foundations still consider this a very exotic idea and seem afraid to give up their power. But there are a couple of great examples and good reasons out there for participatory grantmaking, some of which are reviewed in this Grantcraft report and in a blog post by the EDGE Fund UK on models of power-sharing.

Taking a systems perspective and considering wealth accumulation as the result of an extractive economy that does not account for all of its social and environmental side effects, philanthropic money can be seen as a common good that should be managed for the benefit of all. Such ideas challenge the power concentration in foundations and motivated us to look into this topic. Now the Fund is up and running and we’ll be bringing you updates on how the first funding/decision-making cycle goes. Stay tuned.

Scheming and dreaming all about participatory funding in Seville last year


Grant size  20-40k+ Year  2017

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