Non-profit

Freedom House

Website:

freedomhouse.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

13-1656647

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $48,017,381
Expenses: $49,040,735
Assets: $7,651,969

Type:

Non-Governmental Organization

Founded:

1941

President:

Michael J. Abramowitz

Freedom House is a United States-based non-governmental organization that is primarily funded by the United States government but also receives money from private grantmaking foundations. [1] The organization’s focus is on research and analysis of political rights and civil liberties in countries around the world. It uses its analysis to publish its annual “Freedom in the World” report, which is often cited by high-level political officials. [2]

It has been criticized for its bias in its reporting and analysis, has been called “opaque,” and charged with channeling a “radical libertarian ideology” in some of its reporting. [3]

Founding

Freedom House is a United States-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that is primarily funded by the United States government. It conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. The organization produces several annual reports including Freedom of the Net, Nations in Transit, Freedom and the Media, and the China Media Bulletin. [4]

Freedom House was formed in 1941 to promote support from America to the Allied Powers in World War II before the attack on Pearl Harbor by countering isolationism spread by the America First Committee. Its first honorary co-chairpersons were then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, the Republican Party presidential nominee who ran against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. The organization was founded on bipartisan principles but has been criticized for taking a left-wing turn since the end of the Cold War. [5] [6]

Freedom House launched its “Freedom in the World” report in 1973. The report assessed “the level of freedom” in every country in the world, by assessing a country’s political rights and civil liberties, and used a ranking system to determine if a country was “Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.” Critics have noted that the Freedom in the World report has hidden biases by using a left-of-center definition of democracy. [7] [8]

Financials

Freedom House is primarily funded by the United States government but also receives funding from private grantmaking foundations including the Ford Foundation, [9] Open Society Foundations, [10] and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. [11]

Freedom House had a total revenue of just over $40 million in 2018, of which just under 100% came from contributions and grants. Approximately $35 million of the total came from federal grants, $1 million from international public agencies, $2.6 million from corporations and foundations, and $1.1 million from individual contributions. [12]

The NGO’s total expenses amounted to just over $39 million, $38 million of which was spent on program services. These services include $8.5 million spent on personnel wages and benefits, including just under $1 million on executive compensation, $4.2 million on subgrants, $4 million on consultants, and $4.1 million on “emergency assistance.” [13] [14]

Freedom House’s finances have risen since 2019: its total revenue amounted to $48 million in 2019, $50 million in 2020, and $64 million in 2021. The organization’s total revenue from federal grants amounted to $45 million in 2019, $46 million in 2020, and slightly less than $60 million in 2021. Freedom House had total expenses of $49 million in 2019, just under $50 million in 2020, and $63 million in 2021. The NGO, in 2021, spent a total of $14.8 million on personnel wages and benefits, $7.5 million on subgrants, and $4.5 million on consultants. [15] [16] [17]

Freedom House’s 2021 financial statement noted “net assets with donor restrictions.” Under this section of the statement, the NGO lists it has a positive balance in assets of $50,000 from Amazon, $134,682 from Facebook, $200,000 from Newmark Advocacy, $182,586 from the Ford Foundation, $125,000 from Google, $215,141 from the Swedish Postcode Foundation, and $2 million from the Willkie Memorial Trust. [18]

Funding

Freedom House notes on its website that its primary funding comes in the form of grants from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. State Department, and other governments including the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. [19]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a U.S. non-profit organization that was founded with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad and is primarily funded through an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress in the form of a grant awarded through the United States Information Agency. [20] NED has granted Freedom House a total of $2,017,578 across 11 grants. The earliest grant was for $115,894 in 2016 to promote “civic education and human rights” in Kazakhstan. The note for the grant states that it will be used to “conduct a national civic education campaign aimed at mobilizing a new generation of young activists” in the country. NED provided the NGO with another grant of $197,026 in 2017 to continue the program. NED’s largest grant was for $900,000 in 2020 with the intent to “deepen understanding of global authoritarian influence and inform international policy dialogue, debate, and advocacy,” on the subject of human rights. [21]

Although Freedom House receives most of its revenue from government contributions and grants, it also receives funding from private grantmaking organizations. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (also known as the Hewlett Foundation) is a large left-of-center private grantmaking foundation. Its program areas are education, environment, global development, and population, performing arts, Madison Initiative, cyber, effective philanthropy, San Francisco Bay Area, and special projects. The foundation granted a total of $1,287,500 to Freedom House between 2002 and 2020, most of which was for general operating support. [22] [23]

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (also known as the MacArthur Foundation) is a large left-of-center private grantmaking foundation. The foundation has granted Freedom House a total of $1,060,000 in the form of four grants between 2008 and 2014, all of which were based on human rights. The largest grant the foundation made was $400,000 in 2011 to advance an “open Internet,” increase the security of journalists in Mexico, and support human rights advocates in Ethiopia. [24]

The Open Society Foundations (OSF; formally Open Society Institute) is a private grantmaking foundation created and funded by billionaire financier and liberal philanthropist George Soros. OSF granted a total of $574,980 across three grants between 2019 and 2020. Two grants were for general operating support but a grant of $24,980 was to create a “support network” of journalists across Romania. [25]

The Ford Foundation a left-of-center grantmaking foundation, provided Freedom House with $500,000 across two grants, one $100,000 grant in 2013 and another grant of $400,000 in 2021. Both grants were part of the Ford Foundation’s Civic Engagement and Government program. [26]

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a left-of-center foundation created in 1940 as the charity for the five sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr, provided Freedom House with a single grant of $50,000 in 2021 for general operating support. [27]

The F.M. Kirby Foundation is a family foundation run by the great-grandchildren of founder Fred Morgan Kirby (1861-1940), an entrepreneur whose five- and ten-cent store chain was merged into the F.M. Woolworth Company. The foundation granted Freedom House a single grant of $20,000, however, the objectives of the grant and the year it was made are not shown. [28]

Under the information on the Freedom in the World report on Freedom House’s website, the NGO states that the report is funded by “generous support” from organizations including Google, Lilly Endowment, Meta Platforms (the corporate parent of Facebook), and NED. [29]

Political Activities

Freedom House, funded entirely by the United States Agency for International Development, created its “Partnership for Reform in Ukraine (PRU)” program in 1998. The program was designed to provide “financial training, networking, and technical assistance” to groups in Ukraine that focused on research, advocacy, and implementation of political and economic reform initiatives in the country. [30]

The program granted a total of $207,170 via 11 grants between January 2001 and June 2001. In addition to grants that would “influence policy,” the program established links between “think tanks” in Ukraine to similar organizations in the United States, Poland, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. [31]

Freedom House, with the support of Open Society Foundations, conducted an assessment of “democracy and human rights” in Ukraine. OSF announced a speaking event co-hosted by Freedom House in April 2011 regarding the assessment. [32]

Criticism

Bias

Freedom House publishes an annual report titled “Freedom in the World,” on its website. The report grades “the level of freedom” in every country in the world, by assessing a country’s political rights and civil liberties, and used a ranking system to determine if a country was “Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.”

Critics note the report has hidden biases, primarily its measure of democracy. An analysis of the report in The Washington Post notes that measures of democracy in these reports also define democracy. The author of the analysis, Sarah Bush, notes that when Freedom House began to publish its “Freedom in the World” report, politicians started to use the ratings of countries in foreign policy discussions. Bush also notes that the United States government uses the Freedom House report to decide what countries are eligible for economic aid via the Millennium Challenge Corp, which has dispensed more than $10 billion since 2004. [33]

The first Freedom in the World report was published in 1973 and created by one social scientist, Raymond Gastil. He worked alone on the reports until 1990 when a team of people replaced him. Gastil noted that the reports were not scientific as he relied on “hunches and intuitions” and “a loose, intuitive rating system” to describe the levels of democracy and freedom in a country. This rating system, Gastil notes, was “defined by the traditional political rights and civil liberties of the Western democracies.” [34]

Internet Freedom

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) wrote an analysis of Freedom House’s annual “Freedom on the Net” report and called for the State Department to stop funding the organization unless it “focuses on true violations of Internet freedom, such as political persecution.” [35]

The ITIF analysis notes that the Freedom House report “channels a radical libertarian ideology,” that fails to “differentiate between legitimate freedom and free license,” and states the report is “opaque.” [36]

References

  1. “About Us.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/about-us. ^
  2. Bush, Sarah. “Should we trust democracy ratings? New research finds hidden biases..” The Washington Post. November 7, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2022. www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/07/why-do-we-trust-certain-democracy-ratings-new-research-explains-hidden-biases/ ^
  3. Atkinson, Robert D, and Michael McLaughlin. “Freedom Is Not Free License: Freedom Houses Flawed Measurement of Internet Freedom.” ITIF. June 8, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://itif.org/publications/2020/06/08/freedom-not-free-license-freedom-houses-flawed-measurement-internet/. ^
  4. “About Us.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/about-us. ^
  5. “About Us – History.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/about-us/our-history. ^
  6. “Freedom House Turns Partisan.” The Heritage Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. www.heritage.org/global-politics/commentary/freedom-house-turns-partisan. ^
  7. “About Us – History.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/about-us/our-history. ^
  8. Bush, Sarah. “Should we trust democracy ratings? New research finds hidden biases…” The Washington Post. November 7, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2022. www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/07/why-do-we-trust-certain-democracy-ratings-new-research-explains-hidden-biases/. ^
  9. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Ford Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.fordfoundation.org/work/our-grants/grants-database/grants-all?minyear=2006&maxyear=2022&page=0&minamount=0&maxamount=30000000&originatingoffices=&thematicareas=&search=%26SearchText%3Dfreedom%20house. ^
  10. [1] “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/grants/past?filter_keyword=freedom+house. ^
  11. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.macfound.org/grantee/freedom-house-6240/. ^
  12. “Financial Statement – 2018.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FINAL_Freedom_House_Financial%20Statements_2018.pdf. ^
  13. “Financial Statement – 2018.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-02/FINAL_Freedom_House_Financial%20Statements_2018.pdf. ^
  14. Schwencke, Ken. “Freedom House Inc – Nonprofit Explorer.” ProPublica. Accessed June 7, 2022. projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/131656647. ^
  15. “Financial Statement – 2019.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Freedom_House_FY_2019_Audited_Financial_Statements.pdf. ^
  16. “Financial Statement – 2020.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-05/Freedom_House_FY2020_Audited_Financial_Statements.pdf. ^
  17. “Financial Statement – 2021.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-11/Freedom%20House%20Final%20Report.pdf. ^
  18. “Financial Statement – 2021.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2021-11/Freedom%20House%20Final%20Report.pdf. ^
  19. [1] “Regional Programs.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/programs/regional. ^
  20. “About.” National Endowment for Democracy. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.ned.org/about/. ^
  21. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” National Endowment for Democracy. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.ned.org/wp-content/themes/ned/search/grant-search.php?organizationName=freedom+house®ion=&projectCountry=&amount=&fromDate=&toDate=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&projectFocus%5B%5D=&search=&maxCount=50&orderBy=NewYear&start=1&sbmt=1. ^
  22. “Our Programs.” Hewlett Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://hewlett.org/about-us/our-programs/. ^
  23. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Hewlett Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://hewlett.org/grants/?keyword=freedom%20house%20&sort=relevance¤t_page=1. ^
  24. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” MacArthur Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.macfound.org/grantee/freedom-house-6240/. ^
  25. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/grants/past?filter_keyword=freedom+house. ^
  26. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Ford Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.fordfoundation.org/work/our-grants/grants-database/grants-all?minyear=2006&maxyear=2022&page=0&minamount=0&maxamount=30000000&originatingoffices=&thematicareas=&search=%26SearchText%3Dfreedom%20house. ^
  27. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.rbf.org/grantees/freedom-house-inc. ^
  28. “Grants Database – Freedom House.” F.M. Kirby Foundation. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://fmkirbyfoundation.org/grants/freedom-house-inc/. ^
  29. “Freedom in the World.” Freedom House. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world. ^
  30. “Partnership for Reform in Ukraine (PRU) Program.” U.S. Agency for International Development. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDABU579.pdf. ^
  31. “Partnership for Reform in Ukraine (PRU) Program.” U.S. Agency for International Development. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PDABU579.pdf. ^
  32. “Sound the Alarm: State of Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine.” Open Society Foundations. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/events/sound-alarm-state-democracy-and-human-rights-ukraine. ^
  33. Bush, Sarah. “Should we trust democracy ratings? New research finds hidden biases..” The Washington Post. November 7, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2022. www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/07/why-do-we-trust-certain-democracy-ratings-new-research-explains-hidden-biases/. ^
  34. [1] Bush, Sarah. “Should we trust democracy ratings? New research finds hidden biases..” The Washington Post. November 7, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2022. www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/07/why-do-we-trust-certain-democracy-ratings-new-research-explains-hidden-biases/ ^
  35. Atkinson, Robert D, and Michael McLaughlin. “Freedom Is Not Free License: Freedom Houses Flawed Measurement of Internet Freedom.” ITIF. June 8, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://itif.org/publications/2020/06/08/freedom-not-free-license-freedom-houses-flawed-measurement-internet/. ^
  36. Atkinson, Robert D, and Michael McLaughlin. “Freedom Is Not Free License: Freedom Houses Flawed Measurement of Internet Freedom.” ITIF. June 8, 2020. Accessed June 7, 2022. https://itif.org/publications/2020/06/08/freedom-not-free-license-freedom-houses-flawed-measurement-internet/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Norman Hill
    Former Trustee
  2. Larry Lessig
    Former Board Member

Associated Organizations

  1. The Demoracy Project (Other Group)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 1943

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form 990 $48,017,381 $49,040,735 $7,651,969 $4,091,758 Y $48,002,805 $0 $66,639 $1,145,271 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $39,904,249 $39,136,362 $9,253,493 $4,543,013 Y $40,019,497 $0 $71,051 $959,522 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $32,650,022 $33,298,243 $8,575,576 $4,665,029 N $32,570,112 $0 $39,370 $1,010,562
    2016 Jun Form 990 $28,826,975 $29,485,222 $8,990,191 $4,504,260 N $29,014,522 $0 $45,243 $1,062,747
    2015 Jun Form 990 $30,856,377 $30,627,282 $10,771,374 $5,592,157 N $30,853,220 $0 $45,751 $800,827 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $31,965,126 $33,031,694 $9,400,408 $4,436,827 N $32,036,206 $0 $45,768 $785,049 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $34,528,992 $36,393,184 $11,110,230 $4,702,348 N $34,715,192 $0 $43,628 $569,234 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $45,249,648 $43,059,213 $15,144,537 $7,019,192 N $45,392,369 $0 $33,051 $531,628 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $41,448,447 $41,450,257 $9,922,321 $3,849,962 N $41,394,346 $0 $29,080 $452,687 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Freedom House

    1850 M St. NW Floor 11
    WASHINGTON, DC 20036-5803