August 2016

DTF Grants Additional Support for Privacy and Safety Advocacy

The Digital Trust Foundation was charged to disburse $6,700,000 to support efforts in privacy and online safety. We have granted over $6,200,000 of this money and have a small percentage left. Our Board recently voted unanimously to divide $300,000 of the remaining funds evenly among 12 existing grantees working on privacy and online safety. This decision was based upon performance in executing an existing DTF grant, quality of work, and established reputation in the privacy/security area.

Center for Democracy & Technology 25,000.00
Center for Digital Democracy 25,000.00
Consumer Federation of America 25,000.00
Electronic Frontier Foundation 25,000.00
EPIC 25,000.00
Family Online Safety Institute 25,000.00
National Cyber Security Alliance 25,000.00
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse 25,000.00
Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) 25,000.00
FPF Education and Innovation Foundation 25,000.00
Without My Consent 25,000.00

June 2015 Update #2

The Digital Trust Foundation board of directors has now made grants in four program areas: (1) Privacy Education for Youth; (2) Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Online Privacy and Security; (3) Assessing, Preventing, and Addressing Digital Abuse; (4) General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety, and Security.

As of today, we have announced the grantees in three of the four program areas. Check out our latest announcement and read the project descriptions from these grantees.

We will be sending out our grant decisions for the Digital Abuse program area this week. In July 2015, we will announce the grantees of the Digital Abuse program area on our website.

The board has decided to eliminate our fifth program area: Innovation in Privacy Enhancing Technologies. After significant research and reflection, the board decided that increasing our investments in existing program areas will have a greater impact than investing a relatively small amount in technology development. We came to this realization after reviewing the compelling proposals that we received in response to our Understanding Socioeconomic Status and our Digital Abuse RFPs. We decided to increase our investments in these program areas.

As a result of this decision, the Digital Trust Foundation has completed its grant-making. We will now move into our grant-monitoring phase, which will last approximately three years. At the end of that phase, we will begin the process of closing the Foundation. We are no longer soliciting or entertaining requests for funding.

The directors of the Digital Trust Foundation are Erin Egan, Chris Hoofnagle, and Larry Magid.

June 2015 Update

It’s been awhile since we last had an update. Here’s a quick summary of the last few months at the Digital Trust Foundation:

  • We announced the grantees from our first round of grant-making in March.
  • We opened and closed two more requests for proposals in our Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Online Privacy and Security and Assessing, Preventing, and Addressing Digital Abuse program areas.
  • We notified the applicants to the Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Online Privacy and Security of our grant decisions in mid-May.
  • We wrapped up work on the Foundation’s evaluation plan, and we are working with grantees to align their reporting and evaluation to our plan.

We are currently reviewing proposals for the Assessing, Preventing, and Addressing Digital Abuse program area. We expect to notify applicants of their status by the end of June. We are also working on grant agreements with our new grantees in the Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Online Privacy and Security program area. We expect to announce the funded projects later this month.

If you are seeking funding for consumer privacy projects, the Rose Foundation recently announced available funding in their Consumer Privacy Rights program area. The deadline for letters of inquiry is August 1, 2015.

January 2015 Update

After careful deliberation, the Digital Trust Foundation board of directors has made funding decisions for our Privacy Education for Youth and General Funding program areas (see last month’s post for a summary of the applications we received). On January 28, 2015, we sent out decision letters to all of the applicants in these two program areas. If you applied for a grant in these areas and did not receive a decision e-mail, please contact us at proposals [at] digitaltrustfoundation [dot] com.

We will be working with our first round of grantees to launch their grants in February, and we plan to announce the grantees and their projects to the public in March.

New RFP Coming Soon

We plan to release a new request for proposals in our Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Privacy program area in the next week. As with our past RFPs, we plan to give applicants six weeks to respond. 

December 2014 Update

Earlier this month, we closed our first funding cycle and began reviewing proposals. We received many strong proposals, which speaks to the great work happening in the online privacy, safety, and security fields. Not surprisingly, we received requests for funding that far exceed our grant-making capacity, and, inevitably, we will have to turn down great ideas.

Here is a summary of the proposals we received in this first round of funding:

Privacy Education for Youth | Total Funding Available: $1,000,000
Strategy # of Proposals Received Total Requests for Funding
1.1 – Implementation & Assessment of Online Privacy Education Programs 14 $2,394,395
1.2 – Online Privacy Campaigns for Youth 7 $1,070,146
1.3 – Online Privacy Messaging Best Practices White Paper 4 $199,960


General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety, and Security | Total Funding Available: $2,200,000
Phase # Received Total Requests for Funding
Phase 1: Letters of Interest 50 $19,126,566
Phase 2: Invited Full Proposals 21 $5,623,198


The board of directors will meet in January to consider these proposals and make funding decisions. We expect to launch this first round of grants in February 2015.

Stay tuned for more details about our second round of funding in the new year.

October 2014 Update

We released our first two requests for proposals last Friday. The official announcement is below. You can also check out board member Larry Magid’s Huffington Post piece announcing the RFPs.

Be sure to review the RFPs carefully, noting the deadlines, eligible entities, and eligible activities. Check back here regularly for updates to the FAQ page. We look forward to reviewing your letters of interest and proposals!

Digital Trust Foundation Releases RFPs for $3.2 Million in Online Privacy Funding

The Digital Trust Foundation is pleased to release its first two requests for proposals that will provide $3.2 million for online privacy, safety, and security projects in the United States. Through the Privacy Education for Youth program, the Foundation will invest $1,000,000 in privacy education projects focused on young people residing in the United States. In addition, the Foundation’s General Funding program will invest $2.2 million in sustaining or scaling effective online privacy, safety, and security projects at organizations with demonstrated success in this field. RFPs and other supporting materials are available on the Foundation’s website.

These RFPs represent the first of the Foundation’s two funding cycles. In the second funding cycle, opening in February 2015, the Foundation will fund projects in three additional areas: Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Privacy, Assessing Digital Abuse, and Innovation in Privacy Enhancing Technologies. The five program areas are the product of a multi-month strategic planning process undertaken by the board of directors.


September 2014 Update

Over the last few months, the Digital Trust Foundation board and I have been refining the Foundation’s funding goals and preparing to launch the first funding cycle in the fall. The details are settled enough that we are ready to share dates and an overview of the program areas that the Foundation plans to fund.

Program Areas

The Foundation’s board of directors has approved the following program areas. We will release much more information—including the rationale behind each program area, the total funding allocation for each program area, and detailed explanations of eligible activities—with each request for proposals. For now, though, here is a high-level summary of what we plan to fund:

1. Privacy Education for Youth

The Lane v. Facebook settlement agreement directs the Foundation to invest in educating Internet users on how to protect themselves and their information from online threats. This program area will focus on implementing, assessing, and disseminating educational strategies aimed at increasing the privacy resilience of children and teens and helping children and teens develop skills and resources to protect themselves in the digital environment throughout life.

2. Understanding Socioeconomic Status and Privacy

Since the investigations of John Gilliom and Ellen Alderman, there has been little inquiry into how people living in poverty or individuals marginalized by low socioeconomic status experience privacy. Scholars and advocates have expressed concerns that the poor may be subjected to greater government and private-sector surveillance by virtue of participation in social service programs, the dynamics of low-wage workplaces, and the reality of policing in poorer neighborhoods. The Foundation intends to fund investigation of the privacy experience of people of low socioeconomic status.

3. Assessing Digital Abuse

Digital abuse can take many forms, including harassment, trolling, bullying, revenge porn, and sextortion. Although some legal and technical remedies exist, they may not reach far enough, particularly given the cost of litigation for victims. The Foundation intends to fund research projects on digital abuse and organizations providing direct services to victims.

4. General Funding for Promotion of Online Privacy, Safety, and Security

The Lane v. Facebook settlement agreement directs the Foundation “to fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.” The Foundation will invite proposals to continue or expand existing projects that fit within the settlement’s broad mandate.

5. Innovation in Privacy Enhancing Technologies

Privacy enhancing technologies have been a long unrealized dream of those who care about digital civil liberties. Yet they remain out of practical reach for the average consumer. The Foundation intends to fund activities that encourage the development of seamless, multi-platform, easy-to-use, privacy-enhancing technologies.

Grant-Making Process

Most of the funding will be distributed via an open and competitive grant-making process. There are a few activities that the board intends to fund via invitation-only proposals. When the Foundation makes those grants, we will be transparent about who is receiving the grants and why we chose to solicit proposals by invitation.

Grant-Making Timeline and Key Dates

The Foundation will make grants in two funding cycles. The first funding cycle will begin in early October 2014, with the goal of contracting with grantees in December 2014 and January 2015. The second funding cycle will begin in January 2015, with the goal of contracting with grantees in April 2015. If you plan to seek funding from the Foundation, please make note of these dates.

The first round of funding will be for the Privacy Education for Youth and General Funding program areas (numbers 1 and 4 above). Look for requests for proposals to be released during the week of October 6, 2014. If we encounter any unexpected delays, I will update this website as soon as possible with a revised release date and timeline.

Proposals for Privacy Education for Youth will be due on November 7, 2014, and we will aim to notify successful grantees in December 2014.

Letters of interest for General Funding projects will be due in late October. We will invite full proposals based on the letters of interest in early November and expect to notify successful grantees in January 2015.

Evaluation Consultant Update

The Foundation has hired Harder+Company, a highly-respected and experienced evaluation firm, to advise the Foundation on grant program evaluation requirements and to develop an evaluation plan for the Foundation. We are excited to work with their team, and we look forward to sharing the lessons learned from our grants with the field.

June/July 2014 Update

One of the goals that I have heard loud and clear from the Digital Trust Foundation (DTF) board is to set up a transparent and accountable grant-making process. In May and June, the board took steps to implement that goal by adopting a conflict of interest policy and deciding to hire an evaluator.

Conflict of Interest Policy

Adopting a conflict of interest policy is standard practice for foundations and other charitable organizations. These policies promote transparency by providing a process for employees and leadership to declare and consider actual or perceived conflicts of interest in financial decision-making. In the context of a foundation, this process is important when making grant decisions. Foundations should not give grants that will directly benefit individual board members, and they should avoid giving grants to organizations to which board members have close affiliations. The Internal Revenue Service does not require these policies as a condition of tax exempt status for non-profits, but it does strongly encourage them.

In developing and revising the policy, DTF consulted the policies of highly-respected foundations, including The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. DTF has adopted a conflict of interest policy that does three things:

  • Requires board members and consultants to declare relationships with potential grantees that are or could be perceived as conflicts of interest. The policy provides a process for the board to determine whether a conflict of interest exists and guides the board in making decisions involving a real or perceived conflict.
  • Prohibits the foundation from giving grants to organizations for which board members or consultants serve as principal executive officers and from giving grants that would financially benefit a board member or consultant.
  • Requires board members and consultants to sign annual statements that acknowledge awareness and understanding of the conflict of interest policy.

Hiring an Evaluator

The board recently decided to engage an evaluator to work with me to develop a basic evaluation plan for the foundation’s grant portfolio and to design some simple, cost-effective evaluation tools. Most foundations conduct some form of evaluation of their grant making, which is often used internally by foundations to improve their grant-making. Grantees commonly complain that they are subject to evaluation requirements by funders but don’t benefit from the lessons learned. Since DTF is a spend-down foundation, we can take an evaluation approach that focuses on benefitting the privacy field and the foundation’s grantees.

Our goals for the evaluation are:

  1. Document program investments and results.
    The foundation’s board has a strong desire to be accountable to privacy stakeholders. It also has a mandate from the Lane et al. v. Facebook, Inc. settlement agreement “to fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.” At a minimum, the foundation must demonstrate how it spent the settlement funds and how those investments accomplished the goals of the settlement agreement.
  2. Support privacy organizations and researchers in identifying and refining promising strategies to protect online privacy.
    Most foundations use evaluation to improve their internal processes and grant-making. Given the limited lifespan of DTF, we can put our evaluation resources towards helping privacy organizations learn from their work. Our evaluation plan should primarily benefit grantees and the field, not the foundation.
  1. Inform future public and private investment in DTF’s program areas.
    We can shape our evaluation plan to document and share lessons learned from funded projects. Evaluation results can be used by funders to inform future investments and by organizations to craft future programs and strategies.

We plan to select and engage an experienced evaluator quickly so that the consultant can contribute to the development of our first round of requests for proposals. This will ensure that we collect the right information from grantees from the beginning.

Grant-Making Update

The DTF board approved five broad funding areas at the end of May. I am now in the process of working with the board to refine those funding areas and develop implementation plans for each funding stream. We aren’t quite ready to announce the areas, but I can say a bit more about our process.

We expect to issue two rounds of requests for proposals (RFPs): one in the fall and one in early 2015. We will post more specific dates approximately a month before we release the RFPs so that potential grantees can plan ahead. We will try to make the application process as simple as possible, while also conducting due diligence—i.e., gathering sufficient information to ensure that we’re making grants to legitimate and sound entities that are well positioned to accomplish the goals of the grants.

May 2014 Update

Welcome to the new Digital Trust Foundation website. We will use this website to provide updates on the grant-making process, post requests for proposals, and accept grant proposals. 

Who am I?

This blog and website will be updated by Christine Fry. I am the newly-hired senior philanthropic advisor or, as other foundations might call this role, the foundation’s program officer. My job is to implement the funding priorities of the foundation’s board of directors. My background is in non-profit management and policy analysis. I look forward to working with the board, potential grantees, and foundation stakeholders to distribute the foundation’s approximately $6.7 million in assets over the next year.

Update on Foundation Activities

Over the last two months, the foundation’s board has been working to develop and refine its funding priorities. The board plans to prioritize 3-6 online privacy-related issues that it would like to explore through its grant-making. Once these issues are defined, we will develop grant-making strategies and guidelines for each priority area. We will likely have a mix of funding strategies, including competitive grants and foundation-initiated grants.

The board has also been working on administrative issues. It decided to hire a half-time consultant (me) to play the role of program officer for the foundation. The board is also working with an attorney to develop a conflict of interest policy. The conflict of interest policy is a standard requirement of the IRS for tax-exempt organizations. In addition to complying with federal law, the policy will help the board navigate potential conflicts of interest when making funding decisions. We will post the conflict of interest policy in the Governance section of the website once it’s approved.

Communicating with the Foundation

We have set up a contact form, which you can use to send questions and comments about the foundation. I may not be able to reply to every e-mail, but I will start an FAQ section to answer common questions that we receive. Keep in mind that I only work half-time and the board is entirely volunteer. Our goal is to keep administrative costs low, which means that we might not be able to communicate with the field as much as a larger foundation might.