By: Ben Francisco Maulbeck on December 19, 2019
I’m writing to share some big news: I’ve decided to step down from my role as President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues in the summer of 2020. By next year, I will have been at the helm of Funders for nearly eight years, and I feel that the time has come for both the organization and for me to begin an exciting new chapter. I am ready for new adventures. And Funders is poised to build on its strong track record of cutting-edge research on LGBTQ philanthropy, convening LGBTQ funders to tackle the greatest challenges facing our communities, and engaging new funders in supporting LGBTQ issues.
I am proud to be leaving Funders for LGBTQ Issues with strong finances, a leaderful staff, and an exceptional board of directors. Our budget has grown to $2.1 million dollars, and the revenue from membership contributions, earned income, and multi-year general operating grants totals more than $1.4 million annually, or about two-thirds of our annual operating budget. This strong financial position will enable our next leader to enter a stable and solid organization.
An integral part of my philosophy of leadership is that the work is never about one person, and that our organizations and movements are strongest when leadership is shared. The staff at Funders for LGBTQ Issues is diverse and has an astounding array of talents, from facilitation and communication to financial management and research. They collectively have 40 years of experience and a deep commitment to our mission. Our board is equally committed, a creative group of funders that represents our diverse membership. The opportunity to work with our amazing staff, board, and network has been one of the aspects of this job I most deeply treasure.
The inevitable next question is, “What are you going to do after Funders?” The truth is that immediately, I will be actively focusing on ensuring a smooth and successful transition. After that, I am excited about the prospect of being a “free agent” for a while, particularly as we look ahead to one of the most important elections of my lifetime, something in which I plan to be deeply involved. I also plan to provide philanthropic consulting services and devote more time to my fiction writing. Eventually, I hope to take on another executive leadership role in philanthropy or the nonprofit sector.
Whatever I do next, I hope it includes getting to work with many of you. The relationships and friendships I’ve forged in these past several years have been inspiring and nourishing–and I know they’ll last beyond my current role.
I’m excited that our board of directors is committed to a transparent process that reflects our organizational culture and values–including integrating substantive input from both staff and members. The board has formed a transition committee of four board members and three staff, which has already begun meeting. The committee consists of Kelli King-Jackson, Rickke Mananzala, Kristine Stallone, and Rye Young from the board of directors and Andrew Wallace, Marvin Webb, and Rebecca Wisotsky from the staff. The committee’s first charge is to hire a transition consultant. While I wanted you to hear this news from me first, you’ll be hearing from Rickke Mananzala, chair of our board and of the transition committee, early in 2020 with more details on the transition process. We’re fortunate to have a strong and thoughtful chair in Rickke at this important moment in the organization’s development.
Serving as a leader for this network these past several years has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I still remember my first day more than seven years ago, when I arrived at the office at 7:00 am, knocking at the door because I didn’t yet have a key-card. Marvin greeted me with enthusiasm, thinking that he’d been joined by a fellow morning-person on the staff. (Sadly, that impression was incorrect–it was just that I was so excited that I’d barely slept the night before and came in to the office at the earliest hour that felt reasonable.)
I never imagined all the experiences we would come to share in the intervening years. I have shared some of the hardest moments of recent memory with you: the heartbreak of the Pulse massacre, wave after vicious wave of violent attacks and scapegoating of transgender communities, the horror of the election of a presidential candidate who campaigned on promises of bigotry, and our subsequent struggle to resist a president who has governed through policies of bigotry.
I felt able to face those moments–both personally and in our work–because of the strength and love I found in all of you. Together, we’ve brought new funders into our world and helped the wider philanthropic sector understand that all issues are LGBTQ issues. We’ve catalyzed millions of new dollars for LGBTQ communities in the South and helped grow more than a dozen LGBTQ funds led by and for LGBTQ Southerners. We’ve compassionately responded to one of our community’s worst tragedies and left a lasting impact in Orlando ensuring that the experiences, identities, families, and communities of those affected would never be forgotten. We’ve helped center the leadership of transgender people in philanthropy and challenged the sector to work proactively to make sure that trans communities are never left behind. We’ve modeled and led the sector against this administration’s campaign of hate and dehumanization–particularly targeting undocumented immigrants, transgender people, people of color, and women of all backgrounds–and amplified a message of love, unity, and resistance. And perhaps just as importantly, we’ve built a community for LGBTQ people in philanthropy to support one another, learn from each other, and heal and grow together as we work to bring more resources to the movements we care about.
And yet–we still have so far to go to accomplish our vision of a world LGBTQ communities are equipped with resources that match the tremendous scale of our needs and the vast scope of our dreams.
It’s not good-bye yet! We’ll continue on this journey together for most of the year to come. And then we will have the wonderful chance to turn the page to an exciting new and not-yet-written chapter.
Ben Francisco Maulbeck
Funders for LGBTQ Issues