Population & Reproductive Health Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy.

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, the MacArthur Foundation considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.


Globally, about 287,000 women die each year from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth and virtually all of these deaths take place in developing countries. Most maternal deaths are preventable, given sufficient resources, yet little has been accomplished towards reducing maternal mortality and morbidity over the last decade. The United Nations; Millennium Development Goal 5 calls for a reduction in maternal mortality ratios of 75% (from their 1990 levels) by 2015; this has raised the issue’s visibility, offering an opportunity to speed up progress.

Concerns about population pressures once led countries and international organizations to focus narrowly on incentives for the acceptance of fertility control technologies. Typical strategies today, however, reflect a comprehensive reproductive and sexual health and rights approach. This approach places women's well-being at the center of population policy and emphasizes the rights of individuals to determine and plan family size.

MacArthur's support of work on maternal mortality will increase the chances that women will have safer pregnancies and deliveries. These improved outcomes are also an indicator of the availability of services that help women make informed reproductive choices. The focus on young people helps them make sensible choices about their sexual activities and leads to improved reproductive health for successive generations.

Further questions can be addressed to Acting Director Erin Sines; in India, Deputy Director Dipa Nag Chowdhury; in Mexico, Director Sharon Bissell Sotelo; and in Nigeria, Director Kole Shettima.

What MacArthur Funds

Geographic Priorities

MacArthur's population and reproductive health (PRH) grantmaking focuses its work in three countries - India, Mexico, and Nigeria - chosen because they represent different conditions and are influential within their respective regions. Within each country the Foundation has selected priority states where grantmaking is concentrated. Grants focus on the two priority themes described below.

Priority Themes

Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

Maternal deaths and birth-related complications are problems for which unsatisfactory progress has been observed in the last decade. Most maternal deaths are preventable, given sufficient resources, but dramatic differences exist between richer and poorer countries. Major causes of maternal death include postpartum hemorrhage, eclampsia, and unsafe abortion, all of which are part of MacArthur’s grantmaking in this area.

Reducing maternal mortality requires effective health systems, but is also dependent on educational and legal systems. Besides good care, women need a legal environment that discourages unsafe abortion, one of the major causes of maternal death and morbidity. Women's health needs must be recognized by their partners and their immediate families.

MacArthur supports civil society organizations that work for changes needed in health, education, and legal policies and help to create the political will needed for their implementation. Special attention is given to support for model programs in our three focus countries, and explicit emphasis is placed on strategies for scaling up successful pilot efforts.

Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

The sexual and reproductive decisions made by today's youth will have great impact on their personal lives and on society. Indeed, the largest contribution to the size of the world population in the future comes from the demographic phenomenom called population momentum. An important way to diminish its effects is to increase the interval between generations - for example, by increasing age at marriage or by postponing the birth of the first child. From a reproductive health standpoint, adolescents are especially vulnerable. They have extremely high rates of maternal mortality, are targets of sexual coercion, and have rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV that are higher than those among adults.

MacArthur supports initiatives in India, Mexico, and Nigeria that increase the availability of high-quality sexuality education and confidential youth-friendly health services. For example, the Foundation will support model sexuality education programs for in- school youth, improve young people's access to reproductive health services, and promote an enabling environment for young people to access those services.

International Portfolio

The Foundation also supports some projects that are not country-specific. The international portfolio funds selected international population and reproductive health organizations whose work stimulates innovations in policy, programs, and services. Selected research projects advancing the program’s themes, especially maternal mortality, are also included. Organizations funded in this portfolio may make substantial contributions to reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and advancing young people's reproductive health, either by producing and disseminating new concepts and data, or by advocating new or modified policies. Alternatively, they may explore the applicability of lessons from other fields to PRH, or may shape knowledge and practice on PRH topics.

Organizations interested in applying for support should submit a letter of inquiry to the Foundation.

Grants are awarded to organizations that define clear objectives for their work and measures of progress toward those objectives. Typically, MacArthur provides multi-year support. Proposals must clearly relate to the country and thematic priorities of the Population and Reproductive Health area to be considered.