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4 posts categorized "LGBTQ"

2012 Year in Review: Underserved Communities Targeted for Larger Share of Philanthropic Pie

December 31, 2012

Pnd_yearinreview_2012The amount of money flowing to nonprofit organizations serving underserved populations and communities of color, and the number of private funders backing such programs, continued to grow in 2012, even as support for those communities from other sources was declining.

Over the course of the year, a number of foundations announced multimillion-dollar commitments to programs designed to address the needs of underserved communities and communities of color. They included the Ford Foundation, which announced a commitment of $100 million over ten years to extend its Ford Fellows program to young scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups; the Lumina Foundation, which awarded $11.5 million to thirteen partnerships working to increase college graduation rates among Latino-American students; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which announced an investment of $9.5 million over three years to improve the health and success of boys of color; and the California Community Foundation, which launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to expand educational and employment opportunities for African-American teenage boys in Los Angeles.

A number of corporate grantmakers also stepped up their support for underserved populations. They included Walmart, which through its foundation awarded $3.35 million to six women's foundations working to help economically vulnerable women achieve financial and economic security; AT&T, which announced a huge, $250 million commitment over five years to improve graduation rates among at-risk youth; and the UPS Foundation, which in February awarded $6 million to nearly a hundred and twenty organizations working to promote diversity and support underserved communities across the country and in June announced grants totaling $6.9 million to support the same kind of work globally.

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5 Questions for…Kimberleigh J. Smith, Board President, Paul Rapoport Foundation

June 12, 2012

(Laura Cronin is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Recently, she chatted with Kimberleigh Smith, board president of the New York City-based Paul Rapoport Foundation, about the foundation's decision to spend down by 2015, what the foundation is doing to help grantees navigate that transition, and Smith's advice for other foundations that may be considering spend-down scenarios. In her last post, Cronin wrote about the Disability Funders Network's efforts to make access to arts and culture a central focus of their education and convening efforts.)

Kim_Smith_headshotPhilanthropy News Digest: As a founder of two of the most important nonprofit organizations in New York City -- the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center and Gay Men's Health Crisis -- and as the donor who created one of the first foundations to make grants in support of LGTB communities of color, Paul Rapoport left not only a financial legacy but a substantial legacy as an innovator in the nonprofit sector. How has that legacy shaped the Rapoport Foundation's giving program?

Kimberleigh J. Smith: Unfortunately, I never knew Paul, but from what I've been told, he was sharply intelligent, funny, and a generous human being who sought to give to and support communities that were marginalized, including the LGTB and queer community. That has always been at the core of PRF's giving and it has not changed in the years since Paul's passing. But the foundation has adapted with the times, and today we pursue this vision in a slightly different way in order to continue to reach those least likely to access resources from mainstream sources -- those being communities of color, young people, seniors, and gender-non-conforming folks. This shift in the foundation's mission is, in and of itself, a reflection of Paul's original innovative spirit. Furthermore, we don't just confine this legacy to our giving. Our board of directors, for example, reflects the racial diversity we promote in our giving. I wonder whether Paul could have ever imagined that one day his foundation’s board would be led by an African-American lesbian! We're very proud of how Paul's life as a gay, Jewish, attorney, lover of culture and the arts, and philanthropist has impacted our foundation and its giving today.

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Movement Building and System Change

May 14, 2012

Movement_buildingThe bad old days of the '70s and '80s are a distant memory for many, but New York City in 2012 isn't without problems. The list includes a public education system that fails too many kids, a chronic shortage of affordable housing, immigrant populations that lack basic protections, and rising income inequality.

The city is home, however, to roughly ten thousand nonprofit organizations, some 70 percent of which provide direct services to constituents. A sizable percentage of these groups work at the grassroots level and many have a social justice orientation, working in and with communities and populations that are marginalized and underresourced.

How the good work of these groups can be leveraged more effectively to drive social change was the topic of an interesting panel discussion hosted by Philanthropy New York I was fortunate to attend earlier this spring.

Moderated by the Foundation Center's Lisa Philp and featuring Hugh Hogan, executive director of the North Star Fund, Ana Oliveira, president and CEO of the New York Women's Foundation, and young leaders from four grassroots nonprofit organizations, the discussion focused on strategies that funders and donors can pursue to help community-based nonprofits create a more fair, just, and compassionate New York.

Early in their respective careers, both Hogan and Oliveira realized that social justice -- a concern "for those who are the least well off politically, economically and socially" -- would shape and inform their life's work. Hogan's "a-ha" moment came in Senegal and Namibia, where he spent nearly a decade working to reverse a legacy of colonialism and apartheid. That experience eventually led him to the Open Space Equity Campaign for the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, which he served as director from 1999 to 2003. Back then, Hogan told us, eight out of ten communities affected by environmental problems in NYC were communities of color; today, seven out of ten are immigrant communities.

Oliveira worked in the health and human services field for over twenty years, developing programs for vulnerable populations in New York, and then served as the first woman and Latina director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, one of the oldest and largest AIDS service organizations in the country, before joining NYWF in 2006. The organization, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, was established, Oliveira noted, around what many people at the time thought was "a crazy idea": that women from all walks of life and with different interests could come together to address the root causes of economic injustice. But come together they did, and the organization flourished. Today, NYWF funds women leaders and women-led organizations seeking to create positive change in the lives of women, girls, and communities in the metro New York region and works closely with its grantee partners to incorporate their "front-line" expertise into its grantmaking strategies. Or, as Oliveira put it, the organization is "intentional [about] following its grantee partners and leading its donor partners."

As impressive as Hogan and Oliveira were (and are), the real stars of the afternoon were the four young nonprofit leaders who had been invited to talk about their work: Jaron Benjamin, an organizer at VOCAL-NY, which works to organize low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use, and incarceration; Priscilla Gonzalez, executive director of Domestic Workers United, an organization of nannies, housekeepers, and elder caregivers that led the six-year campaign for the nation's first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights; Daniel Gross, co-founder and executive director of Brandworkers International NY, a nonprofit that works to protect and advance the rights of retail and food employees in the city; and Kris Hayashi, co-director of the Audre Lorde Project, an LGBTQ center for community organizing.

All had compelling personal stories to share and all were poised beyond their years. They also were quick to give at least partial credit for their effectiveness as advocates to the coaching they received through North Star's Movement Leadership Program. Launched in 2010, the program was created in response to requests for technical assistance that the fund was getting from grassroots groups. The goal in creating the program, said Hogan, was to free up the leaders of these groups to think more strategically about how to run their organizations, to give them an opportunity to learn from their peers, and to get them thinking more in terms of a movement-building framework.

In its first year, the program awarded two-year grants of $50,000 (the fund's largest grant previously had been $15,000) to five organizations: New Immigrant Community Empowerment, Brandworkers International, Families for Freedom, VOCAL-NY, and DWU. Each organization also was invited to send a three-member team (the executive director, a leader from the board, and a member leader) to a series of workshops and trainings focused on the building blocks of community organizing: base building, leadership development, campaign strategy, and strategic communications.

While movement building as a strategy in these distracted times might strike some as quixotic, it was obvious to anyone in the room on this particular afternoon that the program had succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. And indeed, earlier this year North Star decided to fund a second group of grantees through the program that includes the Child Welfare Organizing Project, which works to transform the quality of services provided to New York City families through the city's child welfare system; DAMAYAN, a grassroots group that advocates for the rights of migrant workers; FIERCE, an LGBQT youth organization; VAMOS Unidos, a Bronx-based social justice organization founded by Latina/o and immigrant street vendors; and Picture the Homeless, a grassroots advocacy organization founded and led by homeless people. All are "in the process of expanding their organizations and work to a broader scale," says North Star program officer Walter Barrientos, and that's good news for the poor, the dispossessed, and the disenfranchised in New York City.

But it's a drop in the bucket. As Hogan noted toward the end of the event: "If someone comes into a room with a bad cut on his leg, most people will say, 'We've got to get you to a doctor and get that taken care of'. But if a dozen people, each with a bad cut on his or her leg, walk into the room, sooner or later you have to ask, 'What the hell is causing all those cuts?'"

Social justice work is hard and not for the faint of heart. We've made progress as a country on a lot of fronts in the fifty-plus years I've been around. But there's more to do. It's heartening to know that passionate, talented leaders like Jaron Benjamin, Priscilla Gonzalez, Daniel Gross, and Kris Hayashi are working hard every day to make ours a more just and compassionate society, and that organizations like the North Star Fund and the New York Women's Foundation are willing to try new things and take risks to help leverage their efforts.

To learn more, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

5Qs for...Karen Zelermyer, President and CEO, and Andrew Lane, Chair, Funders for LGBTQ Issues

April 10, 2012

For the past thirty years, Funders for LGBTQ Issues has worked to mobilize philanthropic resources for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities and has regularly published reports on the progress of the sector. Forty Years of LGBTQ Philanthropy 1970-2010 (44 pages, PDF), its most recent report, found that over the past four decades nearly eight hundred foundations invested more than $771 million in support of LGBTQ issues, with 86 percent of that funding awarded in the last decade. And while the amount represents just 0.13 percent of all giving by U.S. foundations over that period, it represents a big leap forward for the gay rights movement.

Prior to joining Funders for LGBTQ Issues in 2005, Karen Zelermyer was deputy director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and also served on the Funders for LGBT Issue board from 1999 to 2003 (the last two years as co-chair). Lane, executive director of the Johnson Family Foundation, previously served as president of the Paul Rapoport Foundation. In 2011, he was appointed by the White House to the Executive Committee of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, where he serves as co-head of the alliance’s LGBT Populations Task Force.

KarenandLane_headshotPhilanthropy News Digest: Although the first known foundation grant to a lesbian and gay organization was awarded in 1970, grantmaking to such organizations didn't really pick up until the early 1980s. How did the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s alter the funding environment for LGBTQ issues and organizations?

Andrew Lane: The report tells the story of the LGBT philanthropy movement, but there's a parallel story, which is that of the gay rights movement in this country. As a relatively young social justice movement, it grew tremendously during that period. The HIV/AIDS epidemic also transformed the organizational landscape within the LGBT community and our approach to doing policy and advocacy work. I think it really galvanized our willingness to make demands and fight hard to see that those demands were respected. I think there is an analogous story around LGBT philanthropy. As the movement matured, our community of grantmakers also matured and began to take a much more aggressive approach to advocacy in terms of our issues. The other dynamic the report touches on is that we lost many, many gay and bisexual men to AIDS, some of whom were very wealthy and left their estates to be used specifically for LGBT or HIV/AIDS causes.

PND: How important was the work of celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana in shining a light on the needs of the LGBTQ community? And is there anyone on the scene today with a comparable impact on the visibility of LGBTQ issues?

Karen Zelermyer: That's a complicated question, because while both Elizabeth Taylor and Diana clearly were strong allies and friends of the LGBT community, their focus was HIV/AIDS, not LGBT issues specifically. So in some ways I think the question is have there been other celebrities, today or in the past, who have played the same role for the LGBT community that those two played for HIV/AIDS. Andrew and I had an interesting conversation earlier, and we both came up with the same name. Care to guess?

PND: Lady Gaga?

KZ: Right. I mean, there certainly have been others who helped to focus attention on LGBT issues. Rock Hudson, for example, whose HIV diagnosis was covered up until his death, when both it and his homosexuality sparked widespread public discussion. Or Ellen DeGeneres.

AL: Yes. Although, I don't really think of Ellen as operating within an institutional frame the way we do. It will be interesting to see where Lady Gaga goes with her support and advocacy. But there's every reason to feel good about her passion and generosity. It's good to have allies.

PND: According to the report, between 2007 and 2010 the share of LGBTQ funding from foundations going to organizations focused on the needs of LGBTQ people of color increased from 9 percent, or about $7.8 million, to more than 14 percent, or almost $45 million. To what do you attribute the increase?

KZ: There were two major factors, and I think we were one of them. In 2007, amid the strategic planning process for our LGBT Racial Equity campaign, we determined that if any part of our community was left behind or not supported, we would not have succeeded in reaching our goals. We also set a high bar for our original goal, which was to move funding for people of color issues to 15 percent of overall LGBTQ funding, recognizing that while it was not as high as it needed to be, it represented a significant increase.

I think the other big factor has been the Arcus Foundation, which over the last five years has focused on issues of racial equity as a funding priority. The foundation, which has put enormous resources into addressing the needs of LGBTQ people of color, actually accounts for a significant portion of that increase.

PND: The fatal beating of college student Matthew Shepard in 1998 served to highlight the hatred and violence faced by many LGBTQ people. Research suggests that in the years following Shepard's death, grantmakers invested nearly $70 million in efforts to address hate crimes nationwide. Has the recent increase in cyber-bullying had a similar impact on giving to LGBTQ groups?

AL: Well, I would broaden it beyond cyber-bullying to bullying in general. In the report, we note that a great deal of money -- more than $64 million in the last forty years -- has been awarded in support of education and safe schools. Not all that funding addressed bullying, and not all of it was in support of school work. But bullying definitely has become a big issue. It's also worth noting the fact that young people are coming out of the closet at earlier ages. In the same way that the LGBT community is facing a graying of our population, my guess is we're going to see growth in numbers at the younger end of the spectrum.

Still, for me personally, it has been very frustrating to see how challenging it has been to affect change around the issue of bullying, particularly at the federal level. There is tremendous need, but figuring out how to create the kind of impact that really improves kids' lives has been challenging. I think there's a tendency sometimes, particularly on this issue, for funders to focus on supporting efforts aimed at enacting new policies. Some assume that if an anti-bullying law passes, everything will be fine. But the reality is that kids' lives in school are much more complicated than that. New legislation may be the least effective solution.

KZ: Changing the law is hugely important, but unless we're able to figure out how to change people's hearts and minds around these issues, the gay rights movement will be where the reproductive rights movement is right now. The laws can change, but to what end if the culture doesn't?

PND: Projects and organizations working to address issues and rights related to relationship status received more than fifteen hundred grants totaling $75.2 million between 1970 and 2010, making it the single largest funding area among LGBTQ funders. Now that a number of states have legalized gay marriage, with more expected to do so in the not-too-distant future, do you think that trend will continue? And what are some of the other needs in the LGBTQ community that need to be addressed?

AL: Well, there is no question that we have achieved some significant victories in the last decade with respect to marriage and relationship recognition, but we still have a long way to go. As a result of the media coverage, however, we have had a unique opportunity to engage people about the realities of LGBT life. There is no question that this has been one of the important ways in which we have been able to humanize our community.

That said, there are still tremendous needs in the LGBT community. We've already noted, briefly, the needs of queer youth and aging LGBT people. Research also shows that LGBT people are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and that LGBT people of color continue to experience health and well-being disparities. Let's not forget hospital visitation. Even though it doesn't get anywhere near the level of attention that marriage or bullying or suicide do, that single act on the part of the Obama administration probably will do more to affect the lives of LGBT people -- whether they're single, partnered, or married -- than any in recent history.

One of the unique things Funders for LGBT Issues tries to do is to give voice to the diversity represented in the community. But LGBT philanthropy has to recognize that we're moving ahead on twenty different fronts at any given point in time. Marriage is one of them, and it's an important one. But we are perfectly capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. One of the reasons we feel so passionate about the need to grow this sector is because we see the range of needs involving the transgender community, for example, whose organizations are much less developed and generally smaller. A bigger sector will enable us to address a more diverse range of needs.

KZ: We're at an exciting moment, both within philanthropy and within the social justice movements we support. There is value in working together. We're much stronger together than alone, and we've seen this in the many cases around marriage equality issues, where organizations like the NAACP and United Farm Workers of America have stepped up. Or the ways in which the LGBT movement has stepped up in support of immigration and a host of other issues not LGBT-specific. Right now, there are somewhere between three hundred and three hundred and fifty foundations making grants annually in support of LGBT issues. At the same time, there's a greater openness within philanthropy to LGBT issues, part of a cultural shift that is happening. Andrew and I hope we'll be able to inspire some of those other foundations to turn that openness into actual support. It's certainly a challenge for us, but it's also a challenge for the field.

PND: A challenge and an opportunity?

AL: Absolutely.

KZ: For all of us, yes.

-- Regina Mahone

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