Friday, January 24, 2014

Answers From Russia Freedom Fund & HRC's $100,000 Donation

Over at the QueeRussia Google group this afternoon, Julie Dorf of the Council for Global Equality has shared these details on behalf of the Russia Freedom Fund. This is in response to questions I've been raising in the past few weeks with the Human Rights Campaign, after they announced the formation of the fund and a $100,000 contribution to it. HRC quoted Anastasia Smirnova, who also received my questions this week, and no one from the group or Anastasia have replied to me.

That said, I'm pleased to pass along these details and appreciate this requested transparency and accountability. However, I also advocate for regular disclosure about funds raised, from whom and amounts given, and general info about how the money is being used in Russia.

There is also still a very legitimate need for HRC to answer my questions, and those from other bloggers and reporters, regarding their international and Russian-specific advocacy and fundraising. I see Julie's note as the first of many steps necessary in this transparency process.

Julie has much more info for Russian groups who want to apply for grants and additional details about making donations. Please contact her for that info:

Excerpts from her post to the QueeRussia group:

Dear Michael and all, 

Below is more information that was just finalized about the Russia Freedom Fund. As one of the people on the committee working to get this fund off the ground and who will make recommendations to the Arcus Operating Fund's Board of Directors for funding along with Anastasia, I thought I'd try to answer a few of the questions you aimed at her. [...]

We are hoping that these funds will reach a broad range of organizing endeavors throughout the country. As someone who was behind pushing for this fund, I can tell you that the impetus was to find a safe mechanism to support the groups on the ground that could capture some of the explosion of interest in Russia that began last summer here in the United States. Arcus Operating Foundation is donating all of their administrative expenses and their staff time so that 100% of the money raised will go out in grants to Russia. 

The grant committee consists of a handful of people such as myself with experience in philanthropy and with the Russian groups like ILGA-Europe and Open Society Foundations, together with three movement Russian representatives who were selected at a meeting of over 25 Russian activists and groups in St. Petersburg last fall. 

The specifics of how money will be disseminated will not be made public for the safety of the recipients, as should be quite obvious given the current status of the law in Russia -- but it has been thoroughly thought through and discussed extensively with the groups on the ground. [...]

I was also someone who lobbied HRC to give the proceeds of their T-shirt campaign (not their Paul Singer money) to the groups via this fund as opposed to doing it themselves. The fact that groups like to put out press releases to tout their achievements is part of what we all know occurs from groups that raise money from individuals in our community. 

But HRC does not control how the money will be given out -- the committee will recommend to the board of Arcus operating Foundation. [...]

There is no deadline because they will be considered every month, and we hope more money will be in the pot to give away, because there is currently not that much more than the HRC money to date. I hope that answers some of the questions raised on this list.


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