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Grantmaking FAQs

Grantmaking Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • How much funding does Humanity United award in grants?

    HU typically dedicates between $18M and $20M annually to grants. Last year’s average grant size was approximately $150,000. Our funding supports a wide range of institutions, networks, and activities across our portfolios.

  • What does Humanity United focus its grantmaking on?

    Humanity United is a philanthropic organization dedicated to cultivating the conditions for enduring peace and freedom. We support organizations and networks in the areas of Forced Labor & Human Trafficking, Peacebuilding, Racial Justice & Equity, and through a cross-cutting portfolio focused on Public Engagement. In our partnerships with grantees, we prioritize accompaniment – a long-term, multi-year commitment to walking alongside partners in a way that reinforces their approaches and capacities. This means we engage as deeply with our partners as they want us to. Accompaniment isn’t directive and requires a willingness to trust and follow adaptation.

  • How does the foundation determine which organizations to support?

    HU seeks to fund and collaborate with organizations and networks committed to systemic change, making decisions based on strategies that have been co-created with actors and partners closest to the issues. Grantee partners are identified through networks and relationships, and grant proposals are by invitation only.

  • Why are Humanity United’s grant proposals by invitation only?

    While we recognize the imperfections of this approach and the challenges it presents to our goals of driving equity and diversity in grantmaking, we prioritize building relationships through our networks and partnerships. Our program teams are critically aware of the need to identify potential biases and to keep an open aperture in their search for partners. We do not have the staff capacity to review a high volume of unsolicited requests and therefore do not currently accept unsolicited proposals. This is a transparent effort to minimize time spent on proposals that will not be supported.

    Our Seafood Supply Chains team is accepting inquiries on a limited basis. If, after reading the Seafood team’s strategy and narrow priorities, you feel that your work is closely aligned, please feel free to reach out to them at

  • In what geographic areas does HU make grants?

    Humanity United funds activities globally, including regions such as Asia-Pacific, Colombia, Nepal, South Sudan, and the United States.

  • How does Humanity United know if its investments are making a difference?

    Our relationships with grantees hinge on forms of mutual learning. We are actively working to shift away from extractive models of learning in philanthropy and towards an approach of cross-pollinating and facilitating shared knowledge. A systems lens helps us better understand the complexity of the environments in which we operate, and informs and affects decisions about how to adapt effectively.


    Our program strategies must be emergent, responsive, and inclusive of the communities we serve – those who experience first-hand the exploitation and violent conflict we seek to address. HU is dedicated to continual learning. We learn from grantee partners and proximate communities through regular site visits, check-in calls, and annual reporting. We remain open to learning and adapting from what emerges from dynamically evolving contexts.

  • What is a private foundation? How does it work?

    A private foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable tax-exempt organization that is typically funded by one or a few donors. Humanity United (HU), a private foundation, is a member of the Omidyar Group. The Omidyar Group is a diverse collection of independent organizations and initiatives that pursue different ways to improve the lives of people and societies. a diverse collection of companies, organizations, and initiatives, each guided by its own approach, but all united by a common desire to catalyze social impact. Humanity United also has a 501(c)(4) sister organization, Humanity United Action (HUA), that makes grants in support of lobbying activities aligned with HU and HUA’s shared mission to transform human exploitation and violent conflict into enduring peace and freedom. HU’s work is also supported by an affiliated 501(c)(3) Public Charity, Humanity United Charitable Fund, that collaborates with public, private, and philanthropic partners to support its shared mission with HU and HUA.

  • How does Humanity United honor its value of equity, inclusivity, and diversity in grantmaking?

    Our Portfolios have significantly evolved their strategy development and grantmaking process in an effort to drive equity in grantmaking. For example, HU has supported participatory strategy development and decision-making over the use of funds, the creation of a language justice fund for translation services that ensure partners can communicate in their preferred languages, significant improvements to our grantmaking process to foster streamlined, fit-for-purpose experiences, and initiatives that drive equity in our grantmaking practice, such as HU aiming to pay true overhead costs and support to partners in pursuit of Equivalency Determination that can help catalyze their fundraising efforts.


    We recognize that diversity is a core strength of humanity. We seek out and value a diversity of perspectives and partners, and we try to elevate the contributions of individuals and communities that aspire to a world free of human exploitation and violent conflict. We seek to bring marginalized groups to the table internationally to ensure that their voices and perspectives direct the design and implementation of solutions to address the issues they face. In 2020, HU announced our intention to support organizations working directly on racial equity and justice. This work strives to heed the calls from the racial justice movement to help address conditions and systems that have long harmed BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) lives. Our work will be guided by Humanity United’s focus on supporting everyone’s basic dignity and human rights and our locally-led approach, which prioritizes local agency and community expertise.

  • Where does the money for Humanity United come from?

    HU is supported financially by Pam and Pierre Omidyar. This organization is part of The Omidyar Group, which represents the philanthropic, personal, and professional interests of our founders.

Glossary for Grantee Partners

  • General operating support and project support, what is the difference?

    General operating support (GOS), also known as core support funding or core operating support, provides unrestricted funds to charities to support the organization’s general operations. In contrast, project support grants are restricted to a specific charitable project or program to be carried out by the grantee organization.


    The decision to provide GOS or project support takes into account many factors, such as the entity type and structure of the grantee partner; the type of work being funded, the length of the relationship with Humanity United, and other strategy-related considerations. Private foundations like HU cannot provide GOS to an organization that is not classified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) Public Charity or foreign equivalent; a government agency or instrumentality; or an international organization designated by executive order.


    When partners provide proposals and reports for GOS grants, HU expects the narrative proposal to provide an overarching description of the partner organization’s mission and activities. We accept organizational budgets for the projected grant period and wish to see both revenues and expenditures.


    Partners receiving project support provide details on the activities HU is funding in the proposal and report documents, and will often provide information on other funding sources and project expenses not funded by HU. HU is committed to paying partners’ “true costs” to run a successful project. Please see HU’s philosophy and policy on indirect costs below.

  • What is a “multi-year” grant?

    When the grant’s duration is more than 12 months, the grant is typically referred to as a multi-year grant.

  • What is fiscal sponsorship?

    Fiscal sponsorship is a mechanism that allows a 501(c)(3) public charity (the “sponsor”) to support and provide legal and fiduciary responsibility for another person, group, or entity (the “project”). In a fiscal sponsorship arrangement, the sponsor accepts tax-deductible donations and grants on behalf of the sponsored project, in accordance with the charitable purposes of the sponsor. The sponsor typically provides fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services to the sponsored project.  Generally, we expect the sponsor-project relationship to be documented in a written agreement.


    When providing support for a fiscally sponsored project, the sponsor is HU’s official grant recipient and HU requires someone from the fiscal sponsor to be a primary contact and authorized signatory for the grant. Per relevant regulations, the fiscal sponsor must exercise discretion and control over the funds and is legally responsible for ensuring that the grant funds are used to further the charitable purposes of the grant. HU requires all fiscal sponsors to sign and complete a letter acknowledging and accepting the above responsibilities before a grant is made.

  • What is Expenditure Responsibility?

    In order to make a grant to an organization that is not registered as 501(c)(3) public charity or equivalent, such as a for-profit entity, a foreign charitable entity without Equivalency Determination, or a private operating foundation, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires private foundations like HU to exercise Expenditure Responsibility (ER). ER is an IRS-defined process to help ensure grant funds will be used for the intended charitable purposes.


    When exercising ER, Humanity United:

    • Conducts a pre-grant inquiry (PGI) to determine that grant funding will only support the relevant charitable activity or project, and that the grantee can perform the proposed activity and fulfill the terms of the ER grant agreement
    • Executes a written agreement requiring the grantee to:
      • Utilize all grant funds exclusively for the charitable purposes of the grant
      • Repay any funds that are not used for grant purposes
      • Maintain certain financial records
      • Not use funds for certain non-charitable purposes
      • Provide timely annual and final narrative and financial reports on the use of the grant funds
    • Requires the grantee to maintain separate dedicated accounts for the grant (i.e. fund accounting) so that funds may be separately tracked
    • Includes a report on our annual tax filing about the grant, including a brief description of the grant, the amount, the charitable purpose, and the current status of the grant
    • Investigates any potential diversions in the use of the funds.

  • What is Equivalency Determination?

    Equivalency determination (ED) is a process by which we can determine if a prospective non-U.S. charitable organization is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity. An ED certification allows U.S. private foundations like HU to treat international organizations as if they had a 501(c)(3) public charity designation, which means we can make grants without exercising Expenditure Responsibility and, if desired, provide General Operating Support.

    Once certified, our grantee partners have also found value in leveraging the ED certificate for U.S. fundraising efforts. Humanity United engages and pays NGOsource to conduct the analysis and determination on our behalf. Once an organization receives an ED with NGOsource, the ED remains on file and can be requested at any time by other NGOsource grantmaker members. Once an initial ED is complete, the process of renewing the ED is faster for the grantee partner, and less expensive for the funder. Once an ED is certified, NGOsource will share a badge with our grantee partner that can be displayed on their website.

    For more information about the equivalency determination process, including key terms and requirements, please visit NGOsource’s learning center here.

FAQs for New & Existing Grantee Partners

  • Do I have to be a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) charity organization to receive funding from Humanity United?

    You do not have to be a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) charity to receive a grant from Humanity United. However, if you are not a public charity we will need to collect additional documentation as part of the due diligence process. We may utilize one of the following tools: Fiscal Sponsorship, Equivalency Determination, or Expenditure Responsibility. Our grantees are typically charitable organizations in the U.S. or overseas. However, our grantee partners also include for-profits, government instrumentalities, fiscally sponsored projects, or developing initiatives. We do not make grants to individuals.

  • What types of grants does Humanity United make?

    At HU, we devote our resources – both our people and our funds – to catalyzing and developing promising ideas. Our goal is to demonstrate potential solutions and support the implementation of those ideas through effective strategies.


    Grantmaking is the primary way we support these goals, alongside direct programmatic activities, strategic communications, and targeted advocacy. We seek to collaborate with impactful organizations and individuals committed to systemic change, but we do not accept unsolicited proposals at this time.

    To review descriptions of funding portfolios, please click here. To see a list of partners that we have recently funded, please visit our Partners page.

  • What is the average size and duration of Humanity United grants?

    In 2022, the average grant size was $148,694, with an average duration of 16 months.

  • Is there a deadline for submitting my grant application?

    Your HU grantmakers are your primary source of information for details about the grantmaking process, including due dates. Once you have been invited to submit your final proposal via the grantee portal in SmartSimple, you will be able to see the proposal due date listed in the portal. If you need additional time to submit your application please do not hesitate to ask your grantmakers.

    In certain limited instances, grantee partners may receive a small sponsorship grant without submitting a formal proposal in our grants management system. Please reach out to your grantmakers with any questions.

  • What is the foundation’s policy on indirect costs for grantees?

    Humanity United is committed to working with its partners in a trust-based and collaborative fashion, seeking to facilitate rather than dictate what partners do. As part of that commitment, we do not employ a fixed minimum or maximum rate for indirect costs. When proposals require partners to submit budgets with indirect cost estimates, we want the proposals to reflect the actual indirect costs of the project in question. We intend for partners to take the lead in determining how best to allocate grant dollars to direct and indirect costs. The one exception to this is grants to universities, where Humanity United has a predefined maximum indirect cost rate. Please ask your grantmakers what the cap is, if you are requesting a grant to a university.

  • Are there specific forms I need, and where do I get them?

    Nearly all of our grant applications are submitted via our SmartSimple grantee portal by invitation only. If you need to be added to our system to submit documents via the portal, please contact your grantmakers.

    In some limited cases, grantee partners are not required to submit a formal proposal in our grants management system. Instead, back-and-forth about the proposal and grant is handled via email. Please reach out to your grantmaker with any questions.

  • Do I need to submit any legal or financial documents along with my application?

    If you are a new grantee partner, your grantmakers first seek to determine what kind of organization you are. If you are a U.S.-based organization, your grantmakers will need your employer ID number (EIN). If you do not have a U.S. EIN, we will ask for your entity’s organizing and tax documents (e.g., certification from your country’s tax authority, Articles of Incorporation) to document your entity type. If you have received grants from HU before, you will only need to submit legal documents about your organizational status if something has changed or updated documents are available.


    Requesting financial information is a basic element in the review process of every funder. We keep our requests for financial data to a minimum and only ask for what we need to make an informed funding decision. If you are receiving a General Operating Support grant, we will request an organization-wide budget that includes anticipated income and expenses for the time period of your grant. If you are receiving a Project Support grant, you will be asked to complete a project budget that describes your other funding sources for the project, as well as the expected expenses for the grant period.

  • How long does it typically take and when will I know whether our proposal has been funded?

    HU’s grantmaking occurs on a rolling basis, except for one final deadline at the end of the year. Once you have been invited to submit a proposal, your grantmaker will keep you apprised of the timing and is available to answer any questions you may have. The grant approval process can take up to 8 weeks from final proposal submission to grant award.

  • How and when does Humanity United issue grant payments?

    Grants may be paid in one payment up front or in installment payments. If you received a grant with one payment upfront, your payment will be issued within a week or two of the grant award. Payments are typically made on Fridays but may be received by banks the week after payments are made, depending on whether wires must go through intermediary banks or the like.


    If you received an installment grant with multiple payments, your payment schedule is included in your Grant Agreement and accessible at any time via your SmartSimple grantee portal. Future payments will be issued throughout the grant period based on the payment schedule and the submission of scheduled progress reports.


    Humanity United makes grant payments via wire transfer only. When your grant offer is shared via the grantee portal, the authorized signatory of your grant is asked to complete and upload a wire transfer form in SmartSimple. If you have received a type of grant that does not require a proposal, your organization will be asked to submit the wire form via email. If you have further questions about payments, please contact your grantmakers.

  • What if I have additional questions about Humanity United’s grantmaking process?

    Please email all inquiries to your grantmaker(s). If you are having difficulty contacting your grantmaker, please email .

  • Can partners provide feedback to the foundation?

    Humanity United participates in the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Grantee Perception Report as a primary way to obtain ongoing partner feedback on our staff, foundation practices, and processes. As we lean into our philosophy of accompaniment, and our principles of a trust-based approach, we hope you will also feel comfortable providing feedback directly to grantmakers. If you would like to provide anonymous feedback outside of the Grantee Perception Report survey, you might consider

FAQs for Existing Grantees

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