The Embattled CSO Assistance Fund

ICNL is proud to be a part of the civil society consortium led by Freedom House that implements Lifeline the Embattled CSO Assistance Fund. With the support of nineteen governments and two foundations, the fund assists civil society organizations under threat or attack.

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How to apply for a Lifeline Grant

ICNL accepts applications for advocacy support and resiliency support on a rolling basis. Project assistance is generally limited to $25,000 and six months in duration. There are no geographic limitations on Lifeline support. A preliminary application for Lifeline support may be found here (as a form) or here (as a Word document). For more information or to submit an application, please contact Please note that applicants will only be contacted regarding applications selected for further consideration.

Lifeline provides three forms of assistance:

Advocacy Grants

Lifeline advocacy grants support short-term initiatives that enable CSOs to push back against restrictions on civil society that are resulting in closing civic space, especially restrictions on freedom of assembly and association. These grants are highly flexible and can support a wide variety of activities, including community mobilization, policy and legal analysis, coalition building, awareness-raising campaigns, and advocacy.

Resiliency Grants

Lifeline resiliency grants strengthen the ability of CSOs in closing environments to navigate restrictions and continue their work. Grants can support an array of activities, including supporting compliance with legal requirements; reducing vulnerability to legal threats; building capacity of civil society to exercise freedoms notwithstanding restrictions; sharing resiliency strategies; developing networks and support mechanisms to protect civil society actors; and helping disrupted organizations re-establish their work.

Emergency Grants

Through Freedom House and Front Line Defenders, Lifeline provides small, short-term emergency assistance to organizations threatened because of their human rights work. Emergency assistance grants can address security needs, medical expenses, legal representation, prison visits, trial monitoring, temporary relocation, equipment replacement, and other urgently needed expenses. To apply for Lifeline emergency assistance, please contact Freedom House or Front Line Defenders as described here.

Additional resources and opportunities:

Advocacy in Restricted Spaces Toolkit

The Advocacy in Restricted Spaces toolkit is a practical resource that emphasizes that advocacy is possible even in highly restrictive contexts. Created by the Lifeline Embattled CSO Assistance Fund, the toolkit is intended for use by grassroots, national, and regional organizations that want to engage in advocacy in restrictive environments. It includes concrete examples and new perspectives on mobilizing around opportunities for change. While many advocacy resources are oriented toward groups operating in functioning democracies where basic freedoms are respected, this toolkit provides real-world examples of how civil society can be effective even under significant duress. Visit the Freedom House website to learn more.

Reanimating Civil Society

This guide, created by Lifeline, is meant to support activists, civil society organizations, and social movements who want to explore tactics and strategies to respond to smear campaigns or negative stereotypes by creating new, positive narratives to counter them. It provides a framework for thinking about narrative change, with examples and resources. This resource is designed as a stepping stone for crafting campaigns. The guide is available on Lifeline’s website and can be downloaded here.