Lesbian Notions - Keep on Giving

So it’s that time of year again - your mailbox gets flooded with direct mail asking you for money. There’s a reason you get so much mail between Thanksgiving and Christmas - it works. People are in a giving mood. They’re already spending lots of money to buy presents - so what about a few more bucks for a good cause?
But what constitutes a good cause these days? Is it our LGBT political organizations like HRC and the Task Force, or the statewide organization where you live? Is it an organization like the World Rainbow Fund, which bundles LGBT philanthropic dollars for relief efforts such as Hurricane Katrina, or a group like Truth Wins Out, which specifically exposes the lies and deceit of the radical Christian right? Is it our local LGBT community centers? Or our LGBT choruses or youth programs or AIDS organizations or houses of worship... I could go on and on.
What constitutes a good cause is a deeply personal decision based on what you think is important. What I think is important is supporting the LGBT community. I’ve always said that if we don’t do it, no one else ever will - and, unfortunately, the facts are bearing me out.
According to an article written in 2004 by Nancy Cunningham, the former executive director of Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues, the amount of funding by “mainstream” foundations giving to LGBT organizations has remained flat, while the need has increased substantially.
Cunningham cites the Foundation Center’s Foundation Giving Trends (2004 edition), which reported that “giving to lesbian and gay organizations and programs by the 1,000 largest foundations in 2002 was only 0.1 percent of total grant dollars awarded, the same percentage awarded to lesbian and gay issues in 1995. Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues estimates that giving to LGBT issues in 2003 was 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent of grant dollars awarded when including grants not tracked by the Foundation Center.”
Foundation giving in 2005 topped $33.6 billion in the United States, according to the Foundation Center. Even if our share of that money increased another 10th of 1 percent, we’re only talking about $1.68 million going to LGBT organizations throughout the country. If you average those funds over 50 states, you’re talking $33,600 per state - hardly enough for one full-time staff member at a community center.
My point in extrapolating all these numbers is to illustrate that we really need to support our community with our own money, because we can’t rely on the mainstream to do it.
It is up to us as individuals. In 2004, 75.6 percent of the $248.52 billion given in charitable gifts came from people like you and me. Imagine what we could accomplish as a community if we made giving to our LGBT organizations a priority.
Our money could really impact the state of LGBT youth in this country. If each of us gave a portion of our charitable dollars to our local community centers to support existing youth programs or start new ones, we as a community would be creating a legacy that would continue to help our youth for generations to come.
Maybe youth isn’t your issue - so give some of your hard-earned money to LGBT political organizations. We might have swept the Republicans out of the House and Senate on Election Day, but don’t for a minute think that the folks who fund the GOP, its think tanks, and its community organizations are putting their checkbooks away.
People like Richard Mellon Scaife and the Coors Family (the folks whose beer you have probably drunk) are in this ideological war for the long haul and will continue to fund it. That’s why it is so important for us to do the same - we may not be able to put together as much money, but we can match them passion for passion and person for person.
Don’t like politics but love the arts? Support your local gay chorus or film festival. Gays and lesbians have a long tradition of supporting the arts - museums, theater, opera, film. Imagine our cultural impact if our local gay choruses were all like the Gay Men’s Chorus out of New York City or Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale, singing with local city symphonies and making a loud, proud statement.
I bet if you think about it, there are lots of ways you could give money to support the community - be it at the national, state, or local level.
And, if you think about it, there are a lot of reasons to make a contribution - to get a tax-deduction, or to get recognition, or to express your joy at how vibrant our community is - or just because you want to help
So open a few of those envelopes in your mail, or write a check to a group that hasn’t even asked - whatever you do, just keep on giving.
Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.

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