The New Arcus Foundation Strategy: Who Wins, Who Loses?

As the Arcus Foundation moves forward with its new Social Justice Strategy, the obvious question — and a nerve-wracking one for many current grantees — is who will win and who will lose under the new funding direction? (See Arcus Foundation: Grants for LGBT).

To answer that question, I looked to Arcus Foundation's 2012 grant recipients to estimate which projects seem likely to be funded under the 2013 guidelines and which might not be a good fit.

Arcus Foundation's new focus seems to turn away from legislative efforts and put more emphasis on grassroots efforts to integrate LGBT people into their communities by building cultural acceptance. In 2012, Arcus granted funds under a National LGBT Rights initiative. Recipients included the ACLU, which received $300,000, and Alliance for Justice, which got $150,000. These grants were aimed at legal advocacy, both litigation and pursuit of legislation. With Arcus' new strategy, though, it would seem that these kinds of efforts are less likely to receive funding in the next few years. (Read Arcus Foundation president, Kevn Jennings' IP profile).

The Foundation’s material explaining its new social justice strategy makes it clear that marriage equality is not on their radar at this time. My sense is that Arcus feels there are sufficient sources of funding for that effort, so they want to put their money into other areas. The broader the base of efforts, the more success LGBT efforts worldwide will have.

Instead, look for organizations and projects that offer more targeted assistance to specific communities to receive grants. The problem of homelessness among LGBT youth has made national headlines lately and Arcus is specifically focusing on LGBT youth in its U.S. efforts, projects targeting homelessness and community alienation should have a strong shot at Arcus funding. Arcus is also looking to assist LGBT youth of color, so projects targeting minority communities should be in good position when applying for Arcus grants. 

In the past, Arcus Foundation has funded both national and international efforts. (Read International Human Rights director, Adrian Coman's IP profile) The new directives seem to place emphasis on a more global effort of inclusion and acceptance in all faith communities. So will organizations and projects focusing on the U.S., whether nationally or more locally, split the pot with more international efforts?

In both U.S. and global efforts, Arcus' new policy announcement referenced faith repeatedly. In 2012, the American Jewish World Service received $108,000 for international advancement of LGBT human rights. This type of grant seems likely to continue under Arcus' new directives. Last year, Arcus granted $7500 to Lutherans Concerned North America for a specific, short-term project producing a video that could be played to church members. With Arcus’ new interest in building bridges and opening dialogue with faith communities, this kind of project could be exactly what Arcus is looking to fund.

On a larger scale, in 2012 Arcus granted $200,000 to the Protestant Episcopal Church Diocese of Chicago in support of full inclusion of LGBT persons in that church and the Anglican Church worldwide. This grant, again, seems like one that could be a model for successful grant applications in 2013. 

It will be interesting to watch how The Arcus Foundation's new social policy goals translate into actual grants. Will long-standing allies like the ACLU really be out? Will Arcus focus more of its efforts nationally or internationally? How much will Arcus' stated emphasis on outreach to faith communities show through in its grants?