For the first time in its 31-year history, the Gay Games has a presenting sponsor: The Cleveland Foundation. With a $250,000 grant to the Gay Games, the Cleveland Foundation is set to nearly double the investments it has made in LGBT issues over the last 40 years.
When we spoke with the Cleveland Foundation’s Executive Vice President, Bob Eckardt, he noted that, “[the Gay Games] are a very important event taking place in Cleveland and as a community foundation we should be an early supporter that helps the Games with early funding.” Mr. Eckardt said, “We thought being a presenting sponsor was attractive on a number of fronts. We were really attracted by the opportunity to work with the local LGBT community on something that was bigger than anything they had tried before.”
Cleveland might not be an obvious choice for the Gay Games. Organizers of the Games noted that Cleveland was selected over cities with larger LGBT populations because of community-wide support for the Games. This presenting sponsorship from the Cleveland Foundation is a testament to that support. As Mr. Eckardt noted, “we were impressed with 7,000 people turning out for a rally to support bringing the games to Cleveland.”
Mr. Eckardt pointed out that sponsoring the Gay Games was relatively easy for the Cleveland Foundation. In his words, “The fact we had done some LGBT work made the conversation easier to take place … we knew people in the community and we knew people in leadership positions at the Games.” Recognizing that not all mainstream community foundations may be ready to make such a large investment in LGBT issues, he recommends starting by getting to know the local LGBT leaders and making small grants.
In the past month, the Gay Games also secured Ernst & Young as their first ever national sponsor with a $100,000 donation. Organizers hope to use any revenue remaining after the Games to start a legacy fund at the Cleveland Foundation, which would benefit LGBT communities in the Northern Ohio area.
The Gay Games are being held in Cleveland and Akron August 9-16, 2014. Cleveland/Akron was selected as host city over other finalists Boston and Washington, DC. The Games are expected to attract 30,000 visitors to the area including 11,000 participants.