Frequently asked questions about our grantmaking window

In 2014, Mama Cash moved from having a rolling application system when groups could apply at any time of the year, to having a time-limited application window.

Why did you do this?

  • To be able to responder faster, and within a reasonable time

Before the change, you could send an application to Mama Cash whenever you wanted. But -much as we tried – we could never guarantee by when you were going to hear back from us. It could take anything, from weeks to months, depending on how many applications came at the same time as yours, the other work we had to do, and sometimes issues like travel or illness of the person in-charge of responding. Some of you were lucky and sent your application at a time when we could respond fast, while others were not and had to wait sometimes for too long. It should not be left to chance: all of you deserve to know exactly by when you will know if Mama Cash will fund your organisation or not, so you can make your plans. Now you will.

  • To be more open about our processes and decisions

Sometimes it is hard from outside to know how funders work, and you might think we have unlimited resources available. Sadly, we don’t.

We want to share more with you about the realities of our work, so you can understand our decisions better. The table below shows you how our money was distributed in 2014 and what it means for new applicants:

Total budget for grants-2014 Already committed for grants to be renewed Left for new grants
€3,504,858 € 2.952.358 € 552.500
  84% 16%


New applications received-2014 New grants made – 2014 Average amount
779* 30                 € 18,417


*779 includes all the new applications received in 2014 before the grantmaking window, those received during the grantmaking window and those received during the targeted application window for the Money portfolio (this targeted call was for women's rights groups that focus on land rights, environmental issues and natural resources).

This means that if you sent us an application in 2014, you had less than a 4% chance of being successful!

It is hard to see these figures, but we think that if you know this in advance, you can evaluate if you really want to invest the time and effort it takes to apply to Mama Cash. Reading our criteria very carefully will also help you to decide if it is worth the effort.

  • So applications will have a fairer chance to be selected on the basis of their merit

Up to now, we decided on applications as they were coming. In practice this meant that if a group applied to Mama Cash in March it was more likely to be successful than another that applied in October, simply because of the date. Why? Keep reading.

Suppose it’s March and you send us a great application that we will be very happy to fund. Because we still have a good amount of money in our budget, you will get your grant most probably in about 4 months.

Now suppose that instead of having sent it in March, you send it in October. By then, we have practically no money left so we will have to ask you to wait until the next year before we can even begin discussing it. We don’t feel this is entirely fair.

Now, we will be evaluating all the applications that come during a certain period of time together. This means all will have the same chance, and we will be able to make decisions on the basis of how good the applications are.

Won’t it take more time now? For instance, in 2014 we sent an application in January and you only answer in April…

This was true for 2014- the first time we tried the application window, because we had applications that we received in January and to which we hadn’t been able to respond yet.

From now on, there will be a shorter period within which you will be able to send in an application to Mama Cash. We have not yet decided when the next application window will be (see our answer to Question 10), but we know generally how the mechanism will work: every year we will announce when we will be open to receive applications – usually for 2 months – and then we will communicate our decisions on the applications we receive within one month of the end of this 2 month application window.

And what if we need money urgently, for an emergency, for travel or to organise a conference?

Since 2009, Mama Cash has never been a good option for this. We don’t give emergency grants, nor do we support travel – unless the request comes from a group that is already a grantee of ours.

For emergency grants, please contact one of the Urgent Action Funds (Urgent Action Fund, Urgent Action Fund – Africa and Urgent Action Fund – Latin America): they are the ones that can respond to you very fast.

Mama Cash is working on new criteria for supporting meetings and conferences and we will share them as soon as they are ready.

Why do you make so few new grants? Aren’t you creating disparities in the movement by concentrating all your money on just a few groups?

Something that we have heard over and over from groups is that they need multi-year and core support. This means resources for a number of years to sustain the basic structure they need (salaries, an office, equipment) to be able to do their work. However, not many funders provide this kind of funding to groups. Mama Cash does provide core support grants, as well as much multi-year funding to several of our grantees, as we believe that no group can be expected to fulfil its mission in one project or one year. Social change takes time. Also, we believe that for doing girls, women’s and trans* rights work, staff needs salaries as well as an office and costs to cover their operations. Social change work is not done by itself.

When we make a grant to a group for the first time, the first year serves for us (and the group) as time to see how well we can work together (or not). If all goes well, we plan and evaluate how long the group will need our support , and how we can help it to keep strengthening. Usually in about 4-5 years (or less, in some cases) groups have already been able to find new resources (via other funders or their own initiatives), and Mama Cash can stop supporting them financially.

We are always painfully aware of the need to create a balance in our desire to be there for our grantees in the long run, and the fact that our resources are limited, and we also want to have space for new groups. Being clear about for how long – and under which conditions – a group will continue to be supported, and improving our selection of the new groups we want to support are the ways we have found to address this very difficult challenge.

We see this as a wheel, or a river, that is always moving – some groups coming in, some going out, but most of them staying long enough for our support to have been meaningful.

Wouldn’t it be fairer to give less money to more groups?

It all depends on what one’s goal, as a funder, is. We want to support what we call “movement building” and we believe that stronger groups or organisations are important for that.

We support what we call “marginalised groups”, that is, those that historically have not had the opportunity to have their voices heard (i.e. sex workers, trans* people, young women and girls, disabled women, domestic workers, lesbians and bisexual women, etc.). We believe that if those groups can have enough money to pay people for the work they do, to rent a safe space to function, to further develop their skills, and to plan their activities in the way they consider most likely for them to be effective (and not just cheaper), the balance of power will shift – for the best (in their societies and in the movements of which they are part). And you can’t do this with little money!

Who decided this? Were groups consulted?

This was decided by those of us who are working directly with applicants and grantees – our Programme Associates, Programme Officers and the Director of Programmes, with the agreement and support of our colleagues from Grants Administration and our Executive Director.

While it is true that we did not specifically consult our grantees at this time, we have been discussing alternatives to make our grant-making process more open, timely and fairer with them for years. In the Mid-Term Review for our current Strategic Plan (2011), as well as in grantee convenings we organised by region (Latin America), population (Indigenous women) or portfolio/topic (Voice, violence against women), we heard similar requests and complaints. Groups want us to respond fast, they want to know what “the rules of the game are”, and why we make the decisions we do. We are now shifting to what we honestly believe is a good way to respond to this.

Right now we can just be browsing the Internet to see what resources exist, find the Mama Cash webpage and apply. How will we know that we can apply to you outside the period when you are open to receive applications?

You will always be able to find Mama Cash just by browsing the Internet – and also through Facebook or Twitter, and face to face in a variety of conferences, meetings, demonstrations and other events throughout the year.

The only change will be that when you now find us, you will have to write down in your calendar when you will be able to apply to us so you can make good use of that opportunity.

We will also increase our efforts to communicate the exact dates when we will receive applications, through all our usual media channels and as many new ones as we can get.

Many funders already have Calls for Proposals or Grant Cycles limited to certain periods in the year. Mama Cash was one of the few funders left who were open to receiving applications all year round. Will this not hugely affect groups’ access to funding?

We are aware that the introduction of this new system will have an effect on groups looking for funding. We recognise that this a huge change, compared to how we always used to work. We also know, however, that a group’s access to our funding might actually increase since they will now be applying when they know we have funds available rather than applying and hoping that we still have some funding left.

When seeking funding for your group, something you typically do is to identify who are the funders dedicated to fund women, girls and/or trans* people. One way to do is to look at their websites or meet them at conferences, and carefully note down on which dates they open their Calls for Proposals or Grant Cycle. You can then create your fundraising plan accordingly, so you will not miss out on any funding opportunity. The big change is that now Mama Cash will also need to be included in this planning.

An important notice: We have not changed the amount of money we distribute. It is only that from now on we will be making decisions about all the new grants together, once a year.

Does this affect groups whose grants are to be renewed?

No, the time-limited application window will only apply to groups that we are not currently funding. So if you are already receiving funding from Mama Cash and are discussing the renewal with your Programme Associate or Officer, you will not be affected by this application window.

If I miss an application window, when can I next apply to Mama Cash?

We will always announce when we will be having application windows for new groups on our website. We will also increase our efforts to communicate the exact dates when we will receive applications through all our usual media channels and as many new ones as we can get.