My term of service as Board Chair of Funders for LGBTQ Issues comes to a close at the end of December. As you know, during the past two years Funders has navigated through several significant transitions while also working to increase member engagement and enhance our impact on both philanthropy and the LGBT movement. I am grateful for the support, patience and wisdom of our various constituencies – internal and external, past and present – during this time of change. I could not have a greater level of confidence in our no-longer-new President, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, or in my successor as Chair, the great Cindy Rizzo of Arcus, who will together lead the implementation of an ambitious programmatic agenda in the years to come.
I am particularly pleased by the field’s response to our 2013 convenings (in Albuquerque and in Charlotte) and reports (Physics of LGBTQ Funding and the just-released tracking report). Funders will end the year in great financial condition, having raised significant resources to support our operations in a sustainable manner. I owe a personal debt of gratitude to every donor who showed up for us, or stayed down for us, during this time of need.
Funders will undertake strategic planning next year in order to address the significant challenges that we continue to face in LGBT philanthropy, and I’ll remain in the mix to help support that process. Far too many “mainstream” foundations deem LGBT-specific work (and therefore queer people ourselves) to be out of scope. Our universe of roughly 400 grantmakers is too highly concentrated; the top five institutional funders provided about half of all foundation dollars in 2012. Several significant donors to LGBT issues changed their strategies or decided to spend-out after the collapse of the economy five years ago; while I’m certain their choices were thoughtful ones, their absence will be felt by the field and the movement. And the levels of funding for certain members of our queer family – particularly bisexual and transgender people, queer people of color and queers living in poverty – do not come close to corresponding to their representation demographically.
I joined Funders for LGBTQ Issues in 1998 shortly after making my first “gay grant,” which means I’ve been a (small) part of this organization’s story for about half of its existence. As we march forward, we must continue to focus tightly and creatively on bringing more funders to the table in order to grow the pie that fuels the engine of justice and change. We look forward to your continued engagement in making that happen.
Executive Director, Johnson Family Foundation