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Topics In the News
Financial State of the Movement
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/11/11
Last updated on: 12/11/11
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The Movement Advancement Project's recent report on the fiscal health of glbtq advocacy organizations has both good and bad news. Its examination of 40 leading glbtq social justice advocacy organizations indicates that the overall financial health of the glbtq movement remains strong, but it also points to some chronic funding problems.

The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) was founded in 2006 as an independent think tank. Its research and analysis are devoted to helping speed progress toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Its work is focused in three primary areas: Policy & Issue Analysis, LGBT Movement Overviews, and Effective Messaging.

MAP's 2011 National LGBT Movement Report was issued in December. It aims to educate the public, policymakers, donors, and advocates about the financial health and operating efficiency of the glbtq movement for equal rights.

The report suggests that, following two particularly challenging years, glbtq organizations have now entered a period of financial stability.

Most of the organizations examined report increases in their 2011 expenditures compared with 2010. And while revenues are still down from their high in 2008, unlike in 2009, revenues now exceed expenses.

The report also finds that the organizations are efficient in their fundraising operations and meet the American Institute of Philanthropy's charity benchmarks.

Although the stabilization of revenue and the projected increases in expenditures are reason for optimism, other data are troubling.

Corporate giving, bequests, and in-kind contributions have increased, but surprisingly funding from individual donors has declined.

Perhaps most troubling of all are the dismayingly small number of glbtq adults who contribute to national advocacy and social justice organizations and the huge disparity between the resources of gay organizations and those of anti-gay groups.

On the latter point, it is sobering to learn that in 2010, the ten largest anti-gay organizations (including Focus on the Family, Heritage Foundation, American Family Association, Alliance Defense Fund, Family Research Council, and National Organization for Marriage) spent more than $330 million, while the 40 largest gay advocacy and social justice organizations spent less than $127 million. The opponents of equal rights are vastly better funded than our movement, especially since these figures do not include the money spent by churches to lobby against gay rights.

Equally disturbing, the number of individual donors to national glbtq organizations has declined from 311,000 in 2008 to slightly fewer than 250,000 in 2010. The MAP report estimates that less than 3% of glbtq individuals donate to the national organizations.

One reason for the decline in individual donors from 2008 to 2010 is, no doubt, due to the fact that 2008 was a Presidential election year in which some high-profile anti-gay referenda (most notably, Proposition 8 in California) were on the ballot, while in 2010, disillusionment with President Obama and doubt about his commitment to fulfilling his campaign promises--especially the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)--likely contributed to a decline in donations to organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, which were seen as ineffective and as having been co-opted by the Democratic Party.

There is no question that the glbtq community and our allies are capable of raising large sums of money, especially when our rights are at stake. For example, we outraised our opponents in the contest over Proposition 8 in reported contributions, as we also did in the 2009 referenda on same-sex marriage in Maine and domestic partnership in Washington state.

There is also no doubt that a number of leading glbtq philanthropists have generously donated large sums to our causes, from Reed Erickson in the 1950s to, more recently, such figures as David Geffen, James Hormel, Bruce Bastian, David Bohnett, Jody Cole, Bruce Lindstrom and Carl Strickland, Jon Stryker, Chris Hughes, Jonathan D. Lewis, Jared Polis, and Tim Gill, among others.

Although large donors such as Lewis, Bohnett, Polis, and Gill have helped chart the political and social gains that the glbtq movement has achieved recently, it is imperative that more small donors step up to the plate.

Instead of donating to an anti-gay charity such as the Salvation Army this year, why not make a holiday donation to a glbtq organization? Whether you want to help an established group such as the Human Rights Campaign or a grassroots group like GetEqual, an organization fighting in the courts for equal rights like the National Center for Lesbian Rights or the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, or an issue-focused organization like Freedom to Marry or the Point Foundation or the Trevor Project, many glbtq groups are worthy of your help.

MAP's report on the movement's financial health may be found here: 2011-national-lgbt-...

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