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Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Drawing upon advocacy efforts, fundraising is important to develop from the planning stage as an ongoing component of shelter programming. This is critical to sustain the operation of the shelter and ensure continuity of services provided over time, which enable the organization to fulfill its commitments to the women seeking support.

Fundraising should complement broader efforts to secure adequate state budget support for shelters and related services, as it is frequently provided by local, municipal, state or sub-regional government bodies (although this may differ across settings and communities). Other potential sources of funds for shelters include:

  • Foundations/large donor agencies 
  • Corporate partnerships/ businesses
  • Private individuals/ philanthropists

Steps for fundraising include:

  • Assess potential funding sources (both state and private donors). This should consider:
    • Whether the need for state funding might affect the organization’s ability to freely engage in political advocacy and lobbying to achieve systemic change.
    • The relevance and sources of non-financial contributions, such as material supplies and equipment, space, time, etc.
  • Develop a plan for raising resources to support the shelter’s operations, which may involve various approaches, such as:
    • Documenting stories and testimonies (using narrative, audio-visual or other methods of expression).
    • Preparing grants and proposal writing.
    • Establishing and developing relationships with individual donors or representatives of a foundation or donor agency by doing background research and networking.
    • Creating marketing and communications on the shelter, using various methods of outreach to target different audiences to donate funding or in-kind contributions (materials, space, time, etc.).
    • Organizing fundraising events to engage the community and increase support for the work.
  • Creating a case for support should help potential allies, funders, donors and supporters understand why they must invest in the shelter and the potential impact of violence against women on individuals, families and the entire community if the shelter or identified services are not established. The material developed should attract the attention and interest of individuals needed to assist in developing the shelter. A variety of formats may be used to present the case for support but should generally include:
    • The shelter’s vision and mission
    • History and structure of the organization or group developing the shelter
    • Existing programmes and services (if applicable)
    • List of staff and leadership (if applicable)
    • Financial information, including projected operational costs, estimated costs of not providing the services, and fundraising goals
    • Rationale for shelter services as identified by a situation analysis
    • Strategies for addressing the identified needs
    • Specific opportunities to become involved
    • Evidence of the organization’s impact in addressing related issues, if applicable, which may be drawn from programme evaluation data, user testimonials, and case studies/examples of programme impact
See examples of shelter annual reports which make a case for support from the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Cape Town, South Africa and the Interval House in Toronto, Canada, which provides an interactive version of their annual report along with static versions for download.

(Lesley Ackrill & Ashleigh Saith, 2012. Fundraising Basics for Women’s Organizations; Lysakowki, 2011- Conference presentation; Lorenzen and Elkan; Away From Violence - WAVE, 2004a, WAVE, 2004b; Martins, et. al.,2008).

Secure adequate state funding for shelters and services

It is critical for shelters to secure state funding for their operations, in line with international obligations to protect women from violence, although limited government resources and prioritization of other issues may challenge efforts by shelter advocates to obtain this funding.

Shelters should advocate for the state to be responsible for the majority of funding for shelter operations and their services, complementing other fundraising efforts, such as seeking resources from private foundations, individual donations, sponsorships or international grants.

State funding obligations should be embedded in legislation, with detailed measures on how sufficient resources will be allocated. Legislation should not affect the operation of shelters by independent, women-centred organizations.

Shelters should note any conditions that accompany state funding, such as:

  • Compliance to minimum standards of service provision.
  • Preparation of an annual report that details the services provided and activities  engaged in by the shelter in the previous year.
  • Formal internal or external evaluations of shelter services, operational policies and other shelter activities and their impact, which may be performed through feedback by women when they leave the shelter or confidential interviews with residents. See the section on monitoring services.


Illustrative Examples

United States: The State Government of Minnesota has legislated that, as part of their proposals for funding, only public and non-profit organizations can apply, applicants must include evidence of the ability to integrate into the programme a uniform method of data collection and programme evaluation established (in other subsections of the law); represent the interests of battered women and domestic abuse victims and their children to local law enforcement agencies and courts, county welfare agencies and local boards or departments of health;  and, do outreach to un-served and underserved populations and to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services (Minnesota Statutes 2010, 611A.32, Battered Women Programs).

India: The Swadhar Scheme for women in difficult circumstances is an example of government assistance to non-governmental organizations. Developed by the Government’s Ministry of Women & Child Development, the initiative aims to provide shelter and assistance to marginalized women in crisis, particularly reaching women who are marginalized and tend not to have access to familial support (e.g. widows, former prisoners, survivors of natural disasters, trafficking, sexual crimes, terrorist/extremist violence, women with non-psychiatric mental health issues, women living with HIV and AIDS, and other women in difficult circumstances). Non-governmental organizations must meet certain criteria and follow a particular procedure in order to receive support from the Swadhar Scheme. Once approved, they are monitored at the district, state, and central levels and receive a range of assistance including support for: construction of buildings, payment of rent for accommodation, staff salaries, other recurring and non-recurring expenditures, lease charges and bills for toll-free phone lines.  


Gender-responsive budgeting, including costing of services, can assist in identifying adequate funds to be allocated. Advocacy actions which promote state funding for shelters include:

  • Delineate the services to be provided and the unit costs (including infrastructure, administrative and personnel) of delivery effective services.
  • Analyzing budgets of relevant ministries and government institutions responsible for shelters and related services (ministries of social welfare, housing departments, etc.) for shelter facilities and related services.
  • Conducting costing on the services provided, and presenting alongside the significant socio-economic costs of violence on the state.
  • Reviewing the state’s international and national commitments to providing support to shelter services and creating recommendations accordingly to relevant national and sub-national institutions

Example: In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a local gender budgeting initiative on domestic violence called on local governments to fund the operation of shelters and safe houses for women and child victims of domestic violence. As a result of shelter advocates lobbying, the government passed an amendment to the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence in 2008 mandating the public funding of shelters. Read the full Case Study.


Example: The Shelter for Battered Women, operated by United Family Services, Inc., is the only domestic violence shelter in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, USA.  The shelter’s 29-bed facility was not meeting the growing demand for services, resulting in up to 70 women and children being turned away on a monthly basis. Within this context, a study was undertaken in 2007 to investigate the feasibility of creating new emergency and transitional housing arrangements.  Among other things, the study lays out the development, design and service needs for new shelter spaces and transitional housing; provides options of different models operating in other locations; and provides rough costs.

See the study in English.

Source: Morris, C. 2007. Domestic Violence Shelter Feasibility Study for Mecklenburg County.



Fundraising Basics for Women’s Organizations (Lesley Ackrill & Ashleigh Saith, 2012). This guide is for advocates working with shelters and related programmes. Based on the context in Canada, it presents an overview of key considerations for shelter organizations to establish fundraising processes, and includes information on how to pursue and maintain different types of support for the organization. The guide includes links to further reading and websites, and is accompanied by a proposal outline template. Available in English. 

Framing Public Issues Toolkit (The FrameWorks Institute, 2002). This resource is based on social and cognitive sciences research. The toolkit presents a research-based approach to communication and knowledge dissemination of social issues, providing strategies for overcoming perceptual barriers to integrating new information. Strategies and techniques described include using: context and numbers/data effectively in awareness-raising; messengers; visual tools and images; employing metaphors and simplify models; and using tone effectively. Available in English.

The Alberta Shelter Director's Guide (Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, 2011). This guide outlines information a new shelter director would need to know about running a shelter, based on the context in the province of Alberta, Canada. The guide includes specific information about shelters in the region, director role expectations, state programmes, how to work with states, how to take care of the physical building, what laws are relevant to shelter provision, shelter policies (including service delivery, financial and staffing policies), data collection and public relations. Available in English.

The Cost of Domestic Violence: Toolkit (2008) This toolkit, by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, is a resource for practitioners and advocates. The toolkit outlines the steps required to quantify an approximate cost of domestic violence in a specific community, based on data available. It provides brief explanations for calculating direct and indirect costs of domestic violence and related services, covering shelters, medical care, law enforcement and court services, alongside fear and suffering caused by the abuse. Available in English. 

Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice: A Training Manual (UNFPA and UNIFEM. 2006). This training manual, developed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), is a resource for programme managers and advocates addressing women's empowerment and human rights. The manual includes five training modules with 2-4 sessions each, addressing gender-responsive budgeting concepts, processes, budget analysis, case studies and government-specific gender-responsive budgeting which can be applied in a 3-day workshop.  All modules provide detailed facilitation guidance, and this manual should be used in conjunction with UNIFEM/UNFPA's "Gender Responsive Budgeting and Women's Reproductive Rights Resource Pack" (available in English; 92 pages). Available in English;  French; and Spanish.

Away from violence: guidelines for setting up and running a women's refuge (Women Against Violence Europe, 2004). These guidelines provide practical assistance for setting up a women’s shelter and outlines the goals of women’s shelters, how shelters can be funded, what services should be provided for women and children, how to maintain a safe and secure building and information about the management of shelters, community life in shelters, public relations and networking. Available in English.

 See additional background information, tools and a webinar on costing.