What Is The Red Umbrella Fund? 5 Big Questions, Answered

For those of you that haven’t heard of the Red Umbrella Fund, they’re an international organization that has, since 2012, championed the rights of all sex workers. By gathering and facilitating the allocation of unrestricted funding, they empower sex worker advocacy groups to further their own self-determined mandates. 

In this post, we’ll not only draw attention to the amazing work the Fund is supporting, but we’ll also give you an overview of what the Red Umbrella Fund is all about, how you can get involved, and how you can receive funding for your own sex worker advocacy projects! 

The 5 questions regarding the Red Umbrella Fund we will answer in this post are:

  1. What is the Red Umbrella Fund?
  2. Why is the red umbrella such an important symbol, and the name of their organization?
  3. Why does the Red Umbrella Fund offer unrestricted funds?
  4. How does the Red Umbrella choose the organizations they fund?
  5. How can you support and be supported by the Red Umbrella Fund?

#1 – What is the Red Umbrella Fund?

The Red Umbrella Fund is the first international fund committed to supporting sex workers’ rights, through generation and disbursement of grants to sex-worker led advocacy organizations. 

In 2012, the Fund was established due to an extreme lack of funding for sex workers’ advocacy work. In line with their core values of autonomy and ownership, the Red Umbrella Fund is sex-worker-led, and highly accountable to the community they fund. 

Their mandates are to reinforce sex workers’ rights and initiatives, along with their own sustainability efforts towards:

  1. Grantmaking and grant-focussed activities
  2. Funder advocacy
  3. Sex workers’ involvement in their Fund and grants

Through the Red Umbrella, grant funding is provided to sex-worker-led organizations doing rights-based work. The fund doesn’t dictate what the grants must be used for, as long as they enable sex worker rights groups to continue their work. 

#2 – Why is the red umbrella such an important symbol, and the name of their organization?

The red umbrella has been a symbol of sex worker activism and advocacy since 2001 – when marchers in Italy carried them to highlight the precarious work conditions and significant abuses that sex workers face daily.

Shortly thereafter, the red umbrella was adopted by sex worker activists and activist organizations, as a symbol of sex workers needs for human rights protection. 

An undeniable symbol of commitment to sex worker rights, the red umbrella has been a huge presence at sex worker movements around the globe.

#3 – Why does the Red Umbrella offer unrestricted funds?

The Red Umbrella’s mandate is to put sex workers experiencing oppression in control of their individual organizations and funding. This is why the funding they distribute to individual organizations can be used for any operating costs necessary to the health of the organization. 

Because sex worker advocacy organizations are generally grass roots, with less than $50,000 in annual operating funds, a large majority of their (regular) funding often goes to HIV-prevention strategies, such as condom distribution. 

The Red Umbrella Fund aims to increase these organizations’ one-time and regular funding, so they can turn their attention to independent long-term planning, and program development. This, in turn, allows them to build their capacity around their individual values, year-on-year.

#4 – How does the Red Umbrella choose the organizations they fund?

Though the applications are pre-screened and organized by the Fund’s internal staff, the applications are either approved or denied by a committee of over 80% current or former sex workers. The selection committe is also inclusive of all types of sex workers, ensuring complete diversity. 

Granting bodies (like governments) generally require their recipients to be accountable to them, but the Red Umbrella Fund is unique in that it also mandates an accountability of the Fund to their grant recipients.

They also encourage open and ongoing dialogue with community members regarding their processes and priorities.

#5 How do I get involved or apply for funding for the Red Umbrella Fund?

The Red Umbrella Fund has a page on their website that outlines the process for applying for their grant funding. 

In order to apply for funding with the Red Umbrella Fund, the applying organization must be: 

  1. Sex-worker led
  2. Focused on benefiting sex workers.
  3. Working towards strengthening and empowering the sex workers’ rights movement.
  4. Aligned with all the principles and values of the Fund

Their awarded funding can be used to cover operating costs over a two-year funding period, and averages 20,000 Euros. The funding is also flexible, and can be reallocated over the two year period, should the needs of the organization shift.

Ways You Can Support the Red Umbrella Fund

Support of organizations like the Red Umbrella Fund and their recipients is important to encourage and continue dialogue toward the establishment of sex-worker led policy protections, worldwide. 

A few ways you can help today are:

  • Contact them directly to volunteer for their organization
  • Submit a donation through their website

Wrapping it Up

The Red Umbrella Fund, an international grant development organization, allocates 70% of their annual funding directly to grants- making them an important resource for sex-worker led advocacy organizations. 

By empowering sex workers worldwide with unrestricted financial support for important movements, they’re a clear leader in community-led activism, policy, and funding allocation.

The Red Umbrella Fund is doing important work in, and for, our sex worker community!

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