Call to Action: Spreading Awareness of Changes to Foreign Funding Law in India (FCRA)

By Brian Kastner, Manager, Global Philanthropy at Council on Foundations and Natalie Ross, Vice President, Resource Development & Strategic Opportunities at Council on Foundations.

New laws can significantly impact entire grantmaking portfolios overnight. That’s what happened on September 20, when the Indian parliament introduced new legislation amending the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the law that regulates foreign funding flows to Indian nonprofits. The bill amending FCRA became law on September 28, 2020.

The changes to FCRA will significantly reshape the civil sector in India and likely cut off funding to important work on issues like democracy, human rights, and the environment. For foundations around the world that support Indian non-profits, the law will make it more cumbersome, expensive, and time- consuming to make grants.

To learn more about the impacts of the law, please read these resources from leading voices in India:

India is the fourth largest recipient of direct grantmaking from U.S. foundations. As a membership organization supporting grantmakers in the U.S., we know that our members will be directly impacted by this new legislation. In fact, we first became aware of the rapidly moving legislation because a member flagged concerns about its potential impact.

Given the significance of this new law, we call on our peer philanthropy networks globally to understand the impact on your membership and spread awareness of the new law. We hope you can:

  • Understand the FCRA amendments and their impact on your membership. Start with local experts and use their analysis and guidance to inform your thinking on the impacts of the law. Connect with and learn from other WINGS members in India, like CAF India, the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy, and Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace and share resources from trusted Indian sources.
  • Understand who in your membership makes grants to India and raise awareness about the FCRA amendments with your network. Given the speed with which the law was proposed and passed in India, many funders supporting non-profit partners in India may be unaware of the new law. Communicate the impacts of this law to your membership broadly, but also to members most likely to be impacted given their grantmaking, to raise awareness globally about this example of the closing space for civil society.
  • Provide space for peer sharing. Consider hosting a private call or starting a thread on an online forum where members can start discussing the FCRA amendments, how it will impact them, and how they are considering responding, to build up a network of peer support within your membership.
  • Engage with fellow WINGS members. Connecting your members with each other is important, but so is learning and sharing with your own peers. Through the Enabling Environment Affinity Group, WINGS members can learn more about how different networks are supporting foundations and civil society in response to the closing space for civil society in India, and around the world.

By Brian Kastner, Manager, Global Philanthropy at Council on Foundations and Natalie Ross, Vice President, Resource Development & Strategic Opportunities at Council on Foundations

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