30 posts categorized "LGBTQ"

Winning Marriage Equality

June 24, 2016

Marriage_equality_for_PhilanTopicOn June 26, 2015, history was made when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. This victory for social justice would not have been achieved without the efforts of tenacious leaders and litigators, diverse LGBT organizations, straight allies, elected officials, celebrities, and, most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people toiling at the grassroots level. But a crucial, and largely unknown, force was also at work: the Civil Marriage Collaborative, a consortium of foundations that helped change hearts and minds — and moved the country toward marriage equality.

The Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC) was created in 2004 at a time when there was strong backlash against the idea of gay marriage. Less than a year earlier, the Massachusetts high court had ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a decision that prompted a media and political firestorm. President George W. Bush called for amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and similar measures started making their way to the ballots in more than a dozen states. The LGBT movement was overwhelmed: it did not have the financial or operational capacity to mount the larger public education, policy advocacy, and litigation effort needed to deal with the onslaught.

A Vision to Win

That;s when a handful of foundations came together to create the CMC, which would work in tandem with Freedom to Marry, an organization founded in 2003 that would eventually become the engine of the marriage equality movement. Launched with a grant from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and led by Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry was based on a simple premise: Civil unions and domestic partnerships did not go far enough in removing obstacles for gays and lesbians in virtually every area of mainstream life. And by securing marriage equality, the LGBT community would gain rights in many other areas, such as in health care and the right to adoption.

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LGBTQ Groups Call for Unity in Wake of Orlando Shooting

June 14, 2016

The following statement of unity was issued yesterday by more than 50+ major LGBTQ organizations and funders in response to the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Arcus Foundation and other signatories, and is available in the following languages:

العربية | Español Français


We the undersigned organizations working on the front lines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movement share in the profound grief for those who were killed and many more who were wounded during Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Their lives were lost or forever altered in this devastating act of violence targeting LGBTQ people. Our hearts go out to all the family and friends touched by this horrific act. We know their lives will never be the same again.

This national tragedy happened against the backdrop of anti-LGBTQ legislation sweeping this country and we must not forget that in this time of grief. Unity and an organized response in the face of hatred is what we owe the fallen and the grieving. Collective resolve across national, racial and political lines will be required to turn the tide against anti-LGBTQ violence. Our response to this horrific act, committed by one individual, will have a deep impact on Muslim communities in this country and around the world. We as an intersectional movement cannot allow anti-Muslim sentiment to be the focal point as it distracts from the larger issue, which is the epidemic of violence that LGBTQ people, including those in the Muslim community, are facing in this country.

The animus and violence toward LGBTQ people is not news to our community. It is our history, and it is our reality. In 1973, 32 LGBTQ people died in an arson fire at an LGBTQ Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans. More than forty years later, similar acts of anti-LGBTQ violence are commonplace. Crimes motivated by bias due to sexual orientation and gender identity were the second largest set of hate crimes documented by the FBI in 2015 (over 20 percent). Murders and violence against transgender people globally have taken more than 2,000 lives over the last nine years. Bias crimes against U.S. immigrant populations, which include significant numbers of LGBTQ people, have increased over the past decade as anti-immigrant rhetoric has escalated.

For those of us who carry multiple marginalized identities, the impact of this violence and discrimination has even more severe consequences. These intersectional identities and their ramifications are apparent at every level in the Orlando tragedy, which disproportionately affected Latino/a members of our communities, and has xenophobic consequences that threaten LGBTQ Muslims. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), there were 24 reports of hate violence related homicides in 2015, and 62% of those victims were LGBTQ people of color. Transgender and gender nonconforming people made up 67% of the homicides, the majority of whom were transgender women of color. The violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people has continued into 2016 with 13 reported individual homicides this year alone. NCAVP research on hate violence shows that LGBTQ people experience violence not only by strangers, but also in their everyday environments by employers, coworkers, landlords and neighbors. The Orlando shooting is simply an extreme instance of the kind of violence that LGBTQ people encounter every day.

As LGBTQ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, we know what it looks like and feels like to be scapegoated and isolated in the midst of a crisis that actually requires solidarity, empathy and collaboration from all quarters. We appeal to all in our movement and all who support us to band together in rejecting hatred and violence in all its shape shifting forms. Let us stand united as a diverse LGBTQ community of many faiths, races, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds.


The Arcus Foundation
Believe Out Loud
Bisexual Resource Center
Center for Black Equity, Inc.
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
The Council for Global Equality
Courage Campaign
Equality Federation
Family Equality Council
Freedom for All Americans
Freedom to Work
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
Gay Men's Health Crisis
The Gill Foundation
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network
The Harvey Milk Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth
The Johnson Family Foundation
Lambda Legal
Marriage Equality USA
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of La Raza
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Minority Aids Council (NMAC)
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
OutRight Action International
The Palette Fund
PFLAG National
Pride at Work
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Southerners on New Ground (SONG)
SpeakOUT Boston
The T*Circle Collective
Tarab NYC
Transgender Education Network of Texas
Trans People of Color Coalition
Transgender Law Center
The Trevor Project
The Williams Institute

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (April 2016)

May 02, 2016

The 2016 presidential primary races are heading into the homestretch, and for the first time in half a century the contests in California may actually help determine the winner(s). In the meantime, we've already tallied your votes for the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in April. Take a look and let us know what you think (or write in your favorite) in the comments section below....

It's a new month and we're looking for new contributors. Got a submission you'd like to share with our readers? Drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

Why Fund 'Insignificant' Populations?

April 28, 2016

Two-spirit-LGBTRecently, I was invited to speak on a panel concerning the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and Two-Spirit Native peoples at a grantmakers conference co-sponsored by Funders for LGBTQ Issues and International Funders of Indigenous Peoples. When we entered the Q&A portion, someone in the audience stood up and asked, "Given that LGBT people are a small minority and Native Americans are an even smaller one, isn’t the population of LGBT Native Americans statistically insignificant?"

The attendee then added, "Why would you say to a foundation that they should fund statistically insignificant populations when they want their funding to have a big impact?"

It's a fair question.

On a strictly mathematical basis, the questioner is right: we are talking about small populations. In the 2010 U.S. Census, 2.9 million people identified as Native American/Alaska Native (AI/AN) alone. This puts the percentage of solely AI/AN people at approximately 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Unfortunately, the Census does not officially collect data on the number of LGBT people, but outside surveys peg the number around 6 percent of the total population. So if we are talking about absolute numbers, the questioner is technically right.

That said, I would argue that the question misses the point for three reasons:

Disparate impact. Seemingly small populations can be over-represented when it pertains to issues of particular concern to funders. Take homelessness. While LGBT-identified youth make up only 6 percent of the general population, they also constitute about 40 percent of the homeless youth population. Another fitting example would be educational outcomes. In South Dakota, which is home to a relatively large Native population, 91 percent of white fourth-graders are reading at grade level compared to only 34 percent of Native American students. How are we going to solve problems like homelessness and poor educational outcomes if we are not willing to address why some populations are faring more poorly than others? If you do not address the over-representation of so-called "insignificant" populations within larger, systemic issues, you’re less likely to make a significant dent in solving them.

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5 Questions for...Pamela Shifman, Executive Director, NoVo Foundation

April 01, 2016

Of the 1.8 billion young people in the world, approximately half — some 900 million — are adolescent girls and young women. In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before the age of 15, 38 percent are married before the age of 18, and more than half never complete their primary school education. In the United States, girls and young women, especially girls and young women of color, face a different but related set of challenges. African-American girls are suspended from school, sent to foster care, and incarcerated at rates higher than other girls. Latina girls have the lowest four-year high-school graduation rates and highest pregnancy rates. And Native-American girls are two and half times more likely to experience sexual assault.

In response to these challenges, the NoVo Foundation, a private foundation created in 2006 by Jennifer and Peter Buffett that has long worked in the U.S. and Global South, last week announced a $90 million commitment to support and deepen the movement for girls and young women of color here in the U.S. The day after the announcement, PND spoke via email with Pamela Shifman, the foundation's executive director, about the investment, the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color, and how the initiative complements NoVo's ongoing support for girls and young women in the Global South.

Philanthropy News Digest: I think a lot of people were surprised by the size of the investment NoVo has decided to make in improving the lives of girls and young women of color in the United States. In fact, it's the largest commitment ever made by a private foundation to address the structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color. In going "big," is the foundation making a statement about what it elsewhere calls the "invisibility" of girls and young women of color?

Headshot_pamela_shifman_philantopicPamela Shifman: We're making a major investment in this work because it is central to our mission. NoVo has always worked at the intersection of racial and gender justice, and we've included a focus on adolescent girls going back to our inception in 2006. We are a social justice foundation, with a deep commitment to dismantling the structural barriers that perpetuate inequality, so it's always been clear to us that we needed to focus on girls. To date, much of our work with adolescent girls has focused on the Global South. That work is essential to our foundation and will continue to be a significant focus of ours.

But the need is also great in the United States. We began working with girls and young women of color in the U.S. over four years ago and launched an initial strategy in 2014. We've been guided by the groundbreaking work of partners like Sister Sol, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, The Beautiful Project, Young Women Empowered, and many others. Our new commitment will allow us to deepen this work.

As we've pursued grantmaking in this area, we've been struck by the pervasive and deep-seated myth that girls, including girls of color, are doing fine. By being public about our commitment, we hope to join with others in sending a clear message: girls and young women of color face specific disparities that are holding them back. Women of color activists have led a national movement to name and address these disparities, and there is a huge opportunity for philanthropy, government, and others to step up and support this work.

PND: What kinds of structural inequities faced by girls and young women of color do you hope to address through the initiative?

PS: If you look at the lived experience of girls and young women of color, you'll find structural inequities almost everywhere. Let's start with education. According to a landmark report from the African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School's Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy, across the nation black girls are six times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. Among indigenous girls, almost half, 49 percent, do not finish high school.

Safety — both inside and outside the home — is a huge issue. According to Black Women's Blueprint, 60 percent of black girls experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. Sixty-two percent of Latina girls report not feeling safe in their communities, and indigenous girls are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other girls. Twenty-two trans women and girls were murdered in the US in 2015, with women and girls of color making up a disproportionate number of the victims. The fear and threat of violence shapes every aspect of a girl's life, impacting her mobility, sense of safety, and bodily integrity.

Barriers to economic security also are very real. Thirty-five to 40 percent of Asian-American/Pacific Islander girls, for example, live in poverty, despite a widespread perception that suggests otherwise.

These disparities are deeply unacceptable in their own right, but they're even more troubling when you see how they combine into new disparities in adulthood. Today the median wealth for single black women is just $100, compared to $44,000 for single white men. Inequality starts early, and it must be addressed early if we want to create lasting change.

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5 Questions for...Gregorio Millett, Vice President and Director of Public Policy, amfAR

February 22, 2016

National Black AIDS Awareness Day, February 7, was established in 1999 in response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in African-American communities. More than fifteen years later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that while the number of new HIV diagnoses in the general population fell 20 percent between 2005 and 2014, the prevalence of HIV among African Americans remains significantly higher than it is for other racial/ethnic groups, while the rate of new diagnoses among young black men is rising.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Gregorio Millett, vice president and director of public policy of amfar, the Foundation for AIDS Research, about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the African-American community and ongoing efforts to address it.

Gregorio_millet_for_PhilanTopicPhilanthropy News Digest: What is the most striking finding in the 2014 HIV Surveillance Report, as well as the finding that surprised you the least? And what do current trends in the HIV data mean for the African-American community?

Gregorio Millett: What surprised me the least was the fact that the number of new HIV diagnoses is falling among injection drug users; that's something we've known for quite some time, and it's incredibly encouraging to see that trend continue nationally. And there were two things that surprised me: The first was the 42 percent decline in HIV diagnoses among African-American women nationally between 2005 and 2014; we knew that diagnoses were decreasing, but we didn't realize they were falling that rapidly. The other interesting thing is that, in the last five years, diagnoses have remained stable, for the most part, for African-American men who have sex with men — though for the ten-year period it actually increased — while the number of diagnoses has been increasing for Latino men who have sex with men. So the fact that we really need to start focusing more on Latino MSM was interesting.

That said, the overall prevalence of HIV is greater among African Americans compared to all other racial and ethnic groups; we've had a higher prevalence in the black community since the mid-1990s. The good news is that for most African Americans, HIV rates are declining at a rapid rate. The bad news is that rates are not declining among gay and bisexual men, who comprise most of the new infections in the black community. Another issue for the African-American community is that even though HIV rates are declining, African Americans overall are still more likely to die from HIV/AIDS compared to whites or Latinos, even though we now have very effective medications that enable people with HIV to live a normal lifespan.

PND: What are the key factors behind the persistently higher rates of HIV prevalence among African Americans?

GM: There are several. The first is that HIV prevalence is just higher in black and Latino communities, particularly among gay men, and when you have more people living with HIV, it means there are more opportunities to transmit HIV, so higher prevalence begets a greater number of diagnoses. Another huge issue is healthcare access; we know that whites are more likely to have access to health care in the United States compared to Latinos or African Americans, and if you don't have access to health care and you're HIV-positive, you're less likely to be on medication or virally suppressed, and therefore you're more likely to transmit HIV to your partners.

A third issue is that, quite frankly, we haven't focused on where HIV is really hitting the black and Latino communities. When you take a look at the cumulative dollars for research, for care, for prevention, they're going primarily to heterosexual communities and injection-drug-using communities. Unfortunately, from the very earliest days of the epidemic, that's not necessarily where HIV has hit hardest. A lot of that has to do with our society not being able to talk about HIV, which has been concentrated among gay and bisexual men, honestly, because our politics didn't allow us to talk honestly about gay and bisexual men. Instead, we say that everybody is at risk for HIV, which just isn't true; some groups are at far higher risk. So, from a historical perspective, there has been less money to address HIV among Latino and black gay men, and there has been less press and attention from black and Latino leaders. And you see that in the rates of HIV infection for those groups. In the African-American community, for instance, the overall infection rate is about 2 percent; among black gay men, it's about 30 percent. In other words, one in three black gay men is living with HIV. And if you look at the campaigns and initiatives led by black leaders, members of Congress, celebrities, and so on, they're doing wonderful work but they're talking about HIV among women or babies — U.S. populations where there is actually very little HIV. What we need is a realignment of those efforts to focus on dealing with HIV where it is still a problem in the black community.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2015)

August 01, 2015

It was a typically hot and muggy July in most places, but here at PhilanTopic it was an especially cool month, with new posts from Sarah Gunther and Diana Samarasan related to the release of an updated Foundation Center report on funding for global human rights, three posts full of great fundraising and governance advice for nonprofit leaders, a new Q&A with Jean Case, and the latest installment in Matt Schwartz' Cause-Driven Design series topping the list of the most popular posts on the blog. What, you were on vacation? Don't sweat it. Here's your chance to catch up....

Read, watched, or listened to anything lately that surprised or made you think? Share your find with others in the comments section below, or drop us a line at mfn@foundationcenter.org.

The Parting Glass

July 30, 2015

Jane_Schwartz_Paul RapoportIn 2009, when the board and staff of the Paul Rapoport Foundation decided to spend out in five years, we focused initially on conveying our decision to our grantees with total transparency. We then worked to develop effective guidelines, assist applicants in creating strong grant proposals, and help grantees develop viable exit strategies once our final multiyear grants had concluded. We were so focused on these activities that we were all taken by surprise when we realized it was 2014 and our grantmaking was at an end. After twenty-seven years of supporting all the major organizations in New York's lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGTB) communities — providing start-up funding to many, ongoing general operating support to many more, and essential infrastructure development in our final spend-out period — the actual closing date was upon us.

Throughout the preceding decades the foundation's board and staff had engaged a number of excellent organizational consultants to help us with strategic planning, including during our final spend-out phase. When they realized our closing was imminent, all of them — either formally or informally — reached out and urged us to plan for some sort of closure, not just for board and staff but for our grantees as well. So while we had had the idea in the back of our minds during the spend-out process, holding a final event for the community suddenly became vitally important to us as a way to deal with the sad realities of closing.

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Knowledge Is Power: LGBTQI and Human Rights Funders, Disaggregate Your Data!

July 20, 2015

Lgbt-handprintWhen several LGBTQI funders set out in 2013 to better understand the landscape of funding for trans* human rights, our first stop was the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Foundation Center's groundbreaking data set on global human rights funding. To our surprise, we found very little information about funding for trans* people specifically. When I went looking last month for data on funding dedicated to lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, I found the same gap. This, I realized, is because most foundations report their funding for "LGBT" people as just that: "LGBT."

We know, however, that the LGBT acronym masks a huge diversity of communities, needs, and human rights priorities. Lesbian and queer women may be more concerned with addressing family violence or changing cultural narratives about sexuality than overturning a colonial sodomy law. Trans* activists may be focused on ending the discriminatory policing of trans* women of color or passing laws that allow people to self-determine their legal gender. Intersex activists are seeking specific protections against non-consensual genital surgeries and other rights-violating medical interventions on intersex bodies. From Astraea’s nearly forty years of supporting queer and trans activism with a racial, economic, and gender justice lens, we also know that foundation funding for LGBTQI rights does not match this diversity of agendas. Without dedicated attention to lesbian and queer women, trans*, and intersex folks, "LGBT" too often means the leadership and priorities of cisgender gay men.

Without attention to other identities we hold, "LGBT" also often means the more privileged aspects of our movements in terms of race, class, and age. It would be easy to look at the LGBT funding dedicated to marriage equality in the U.S., for example, and say that our work is getting done. But we know that LGBTQI justice will only come when all people experience legal and lived equality, and when we are all free from hatred, discrimination, and violence. That is why we need an LGBTQI agenda that dismantles racial, gender, and economic inequality, and why we need to look not only at the gender breakdown of "LGBT" but also the proportion of funding that supports organizing by and for communities of color, as well as poor and working-class folks. Our data must reflect the intersectional reality of our lives and our movements.

This year's Advancing Human Rights report tells us that LGBT funding represented 5 percent of all foundation human rights dollars in 2012 and has held relatively steady over the past three years. If we are going to meet the demand from growing LGBTQI movements pursuing human rights around the world, we absolutely need to grow the overall pie. But we should also look at where the funding available to us is going. Which constituencies are receiving support? Whose agendas are they funding and amplifying?

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[Infographic] LGBT Rights Around the World

September 13, 2014

If, like us, recent headlines have you feeling more than a little discouraged, the infographic below should cheer you up.  While acknowledging that gays and lesbians around the world have widely different experiences, it notes that the legal status of LGBT individuals in the U.S. has improved markedly in recent years. As regular readers of PND and PhilanTopic know, that's due, in part, to the tireless efforts of foundations such as Gill, Arcus, Ford, Haas, Pride, Horizons, Tides, and van Ameringen. And while acceptance of gays and lesbians is not yet the norm in many regions of the world, recognition of same-sex relationships and/or marriage is becoming more common -- a reminder that social change, while not easy, is possible when enough people see an injustice and commit themselves to righting it.

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Tracking the Human Rights Response to HIV

September 10, 2014

"Good decisions always require good information, and when resources are limited, data matters even more...."

– Greg Millett, vice president and director of public policy, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research

Headshot_sarah_hamiltonIn August, AVAC and amfAR issued a report, Data Watch: Closing a Persistent Gap in the AIDS Response, that calls for a new approach to tracking data on the global response to AIDS. What's unique about Data Watch is that it places equal emphasis on filling the gaps in both epidemiological and expenditure information. Data has always reigned supreme in the public health world, but in their new report AVAC and amfAR pose a simple question: What happens to our quest to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 if we don't know whether we have the funding to sustain our efforts?

Through improved data, for instance, we now know that key populations (i.e., men who have sex with men, people who use drugs, transgender people, and sex workers) represent a major share of the epidemic, largely due to such factors as stigma, discrimination, and punitive laws that continue to marginalize these populations and keep them from the care and treatment they need. With human rights abuses continuing to fuel the epidemic and impacting the health and rights of those most at-risk, targeted funding for a human rights response to HIV is critical.

But is that happening?

Sadly, no. Recent research from the Join United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) [1] found that less than one percent of the $18.9 billion spent on the overall HIV response in 2012 supported human rights programming.

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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


Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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