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MHR Student Works to Improve Fundraising for Local Human Rights Organizations

December 14, 2017

Over this past summer Master of Human Rights Student, Andrea Martinez, was able to apply her knowledge of both human rights and Mexico to help Mexican NGOs improve their fundraising.  Andrea is a native of Mexico city and a second-year Master of Human Rights student.  Andrea and José Kaire, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota, assisted Professor James Ron of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in his Human Rights Organizations Project (HROP). This project was focused on improving  the funding strategies of Local Human Rights Organizations (LHROs).

Over a year in the making, the project worked with thirteen different LHROs, each with a unique focus area.  Two of the LHROs that andrea worked with were Sin Fronteras and Semillas.  Sin Fronteras is dedicated to advancing migrants’ rights in the Mexico-Central American region through advocacy and litigation.  Semillas works to empower Mexican women through access to health services, decent jobs, justice, and happiness  Other organizations focused on victims of enforced disappearance and their family members, gender equality, and freedom of speech.

Although the original objective of HROP was to help LHROs improve fundraising, as the project progressed the team expanded their scope of work.  The collaborative process and exchange of ideas between the project and their partner organizations lead them to also work on reducing the gap between civil society and LHROs by improving communication between the general public and the organizations.  Another outcome from this collaboration was the development of workshops for the LHROs’ members. During these workshops, members discovered why it was important to donate and fundraise locally.  In Mexico, there it is generally thought that people do not want to give to LHROs, however, Andrea and her team found that civil society is in fact willing to donate under certain circumstances.  They learned that people are hesitant to donate because of a lack of trust between themselves and the NGOs. This finding highlighted the importance of the team’s work on bridging the gap between civil society and these organizations through improved communication and reporting strategies. Data from an earlier survey showed that Mexicans are more willing to donate and fundraise if LHROs are more transparent about how the money is being used and if raw data, facts, and numbers are accessible.  Before, LHROs were focused on using narrative stories as their main outreach mechanism;  but the team’s research showed that civil society was more interested in the quantitative outcomes. The team hopes that their work will help LHROs diversify their funding sources.

Headshot of young woman in a peach jacket
Andrea Martinez

Andrea’s course work  on organizational perspectives and theories of NGOs became a key tool for working with LHROs.  In the classroom she learned about the theory, internal structure, and strategies of NGOs attempting to connect with their communities.  Andrea was then able to apply what she learned in the course to her field work with the research project.

Being from Mexico City, Andrea enjoyed being home for the summer and living with her mom.  Prior to attending the University of Minnesota Human Rights Program, Andrea worked for the Mexican Government as the Head of the Department of Special Studies in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Andrea has noticed many differences between working in the public sector and with NGOs.  While she was able to influence public policy in her government work, the job did not allow her to engage in applied research.  Graduate school has allowed Andrea to expand her knowledge base and participate in  exciting and innovative research projects.  Andrea will graduate with her Master of Human Rights  in the Spring of 2018 and hopes to work with an NGO focused on applied research.  Her main areas of interests are women’s rights, women’s empowerment, program evaluation, and migration.  Eventually, she hopes to return to Mexico to work on these issues.

Andrea would like to thank the Minnesota Human Rights Lab at the Human Rights Center for granting her the Grand Challenges Research Scholarship.  The Minnesota Human Rights Lab is committed to reducing inequalities through applied research.