I feel extraordinarily lucky to be stepping into the role of President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues at such an exciting time for our movement. Like so many of us, I felt inspired this past November when, for the first time, we won four victories for marriage equality at the ballot box. The way that we won was just as inspiring: through smart, data-driven strategy; through coalition-building and intersectional work with communities of color, immigrants, and organized labor; and through old-school, grassroots organizing to win the hearts and minds of our neighbors.
It’s an inspiring time in LGBTQ philanthropy, too. As you’ll see in the new report we’re releasing today, grantmaking for LGBTQ issues reached a record-breaking high of $123 million in 2011. Last month, the Ford Foundation announced a five-year, $50-million commitment to advancing LGBTQ rights. Leading human rights funders like American Jewish World Service are fully embracing the reality that LGBTQ rights are human rights, investing millions of dollars in our movement at the global level, where there is so much work to be done. Meanwhile, long-time LGBTQ funders such as the Arcus Foundation, Astraea, and the Gill Foundation—to name just a few—are trailblazing grantmaking strategies in areas ranging from supporting LGBT youth of color to strengthening cross-movement alliances.
Momentum is on our side, but we need to work proactively and collaboratively to assure that this opportunity does not go to waste. We cannot allow a handful of victories to lull us into complacency, and we must remember that winning legal equality is only one milestone on the road to full social justice for our diverse LGBTQ communities. As a new majority emerges in the U.S., we have a unique opportunity to forge connections with funders working on a range of social change issues, from health care access to voting rights.
After less than three weeks on the job, I’m still actively listening to our members and partners. Here are some of the questions you’re likely to hear from me in the coming months:
• What we can we do to serve you—our members? How can we help you to maximize the impact of your grantmaking, to connect with peers in the field, to develop as grantmaking professionals, and to coordinate and leverage your investments in LGBTQ communities?
• How can we work together to expand funding for LGBTQ communities? Where are there opportunities for us to articulate how LGBTQ issues are connected to a range of grantmaking priorities, ranging from children, youth, and families to criminal justice reform?
• What are the most strategic ways for us to continue to serve as a thought leader, for the field, working to advance not only LGBTQ issues, but also racial, economic, and gender justice?
I hope to talk with as many of you as possible in the months to come. Please feel free to call me, e-mail me ([email protected]) or tweet me (@benfranciscom) any time. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on all these questions and much more.
It’s great to be here, and I can’t wait to work with you.
A sus ordenes (at your service),
Ben Francisco Maulbeck