The Sex Work Donor Collaborative was originally formed under the name of the Donor-Activist Collaboration for the Advancement of the Human Rights of Sex Workers and was convened during a donor dialogue hosted in 2008 by Open Society Foundations, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects and CREA in response to the lack of funding for sex workers' rights groups. One of the key outcomes of the donor-activist collaboration was the creation of the Red Umbrella Fund, the first global fund led by and for sex workers, founded in 2012. Many of the members of this collaboration were and continue to be donors to the Red Umbrella Fund.
However, resourcing of the sex workers’ rights movement remains unacceptably low at less than 1% of all global human rights funding.
Members of the donor-activist collaboration identified the continued need for donor-to-donor advocacy that could increase the amount of funds to support the movement. With this need in mind, the collaborative was reconvened in February of 2017. Additional outreach by a core membership resulted in an agreed statement of mission and values, and a structure to guide the work. In 2018, 17 funders signed onto this mission, joined the new Sex Work Donor Collaborative and elected a steering committee. Additional funders have since joined.