The challenge of granting

Each year Free Rivers Fund receives more grant applications than the previous year. This year we received 34 applications! The applications are very diverse and come from all over the world. Some come from large NGOs that have existed for decades and some are individuals who, have just decided a week ago, to take action for rivers. Some do very important political or educational work, and other people care for rivers through making a film or doing artwork. Some contribute through research, and others organise demonstrations or block construction sites.

We are so grateful, happy and excited to see that the river conservation community is so large, diverse and still growing! We need to tackle the problem from all possible sides and this is the best way!

For us–a small association with limited funds–the question is always whom to help out. So, we focus on those projects to which the funding makes the biggest difference and which we think will have the biggest immediate impact for free flowing rivers. These three points explain our selection philosophy:

1) A small FRF grant (we really mean small, normally we give between 500€ and 2000€ per project), should make a big difference to the granted group. This means we would rather give funding to those who struggle raising money otherwise. This could be because they can't rely on a network yet, like young organisations for instance. Or because the network they have struggles to provide funds; this could be communities where most people just have enough money to cover their own needs (this is often connected to a very strong dependence on the local river). Or it could be that the community has some language barrier that keeps them from reaching out to the world to ask for support.

2) The biggest immediate impact is sometimes hard to pin down. Obviously, when a group is preventing a dam from being built, or taking away an existing weir, that's an immediate impact. We always give such projects priority. But then, we also need people to tell the stories of free rivers, to draw connections between people and the ecosystem and our responsibility to protect rivers–for our own good. A film, an exhibition, an awareness campaign or an educational program alone will not protect a river from being dammed. But it reaches people and draws their attention to rivers, which could be the first step or the last kick to make them conservationist.

3) We are a fund for free flowing rivers and were formed because the three founding organisations had directly experienced how hard it is to get funding for anti-dam projects. We do understand how important it is to care about other aspects of river conservation, too. The most obvious probably being to keep rivers clean and to work towards a good ecological state. At the moment, it is out of our scope to fund actions for these aspects. Luckily there are many grants that fund garbage clean-ups and river conservation. If this changes in the future, and we are able to support these kind of projects, we'll celebrate that and make a massive announcement!

Now, please take a look at our "Grantees 2020" blog post to read which projects will get funding in 2020!