Colorful collage featuring geometric shapes and photos from the Freedom Fund

Restricted versus unrestricted funding

Reflections on the utility and limitations of project-restricted grants.

What’s the difference?

Restricted doesn’t have to mean inflexible. If you have to give restricted grants, think about how to incorporate flexibility into every step of the process. It’s essential to always remain open to grantee perspectives, enable them to pivot where needed and not micromanage their budgets.

There are also circumstances when a restricted grant serves a partnership. If you’re a donor who is trying to track particular outcomes tied to your funding, or trying to gather evidence of what is working, you need to know how money is being spent and have some assurance that it won’t be diverted to other priorities. That’s especially true if, like us, you’re spending other donors’ money and have made commitments about its allocation. You may also want to set restrictions if you are just getting to know a partner, if you have questions about their organisational systems, or if the dollar amount is significant.

But unrestricted funding can play an important role in enabling grassroots organisations to become more sustainable, innovate and build accountability with staff and community.  We provide unrestricted grants through our Survivor Leadership Fund, which supports survivor-led organisations that often struggle to access core funding, and our Elevate Grants, which provide unrestricted funding to partners who we have worked with for 3+ years.

Our 2022 grantee survey asked our partners for feedback on the effectiveness of our hybrid approach. 86% of grantees reported that Freedom Fund is flexible and willing to adapt the terms of its support to meet their needs; and 90% reported that Freedom Fund allows grantees to make any needed changes about how they spend funds.

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