Arcus Foundation: Grants for LGBT

OVERVIEW: The Arcus Foundation, now well into its second decade of operation, specializes in defending LGBT rights and protecting the world's great apes. With the awarding of nearly $20 million in LGBT-related grants in a recent year, Arcus is a huge player in this field. 

IP TAKE: Arcus describes its domestic LGBT strategy as being directed at "youth, communities of color, and targeted faith communities, with special priority for youth of color, transgender populations, and work by and for affected communities," with a particular focus on funding projects related to cultural messaging, youth leadership, and enhancing "social and economic protections." Grantseekers should be attentive to what kind of work Arcus is now looking to fund.

PROFILE: The Arcus Foundation, established in 2000 and with offices in New York City and the United Kingdom, describes itself as "a leading global foundation dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world." The foundation specifically focuses on two core issues: expanding LGBT rights and protecting the world's population of great apes. Arcus is an extremely well-resourced institution, bankrolled by the billionaire Jon Strkyer.

Throughout the world of LGBT funding, there has been a marked shift toward helping those LGBT communities that are uniquely disadvantaged, such as the poor and minorities. Arcus is clearly on board with that increasingly prevalent philosophy. This strategy places more emphasis on practical activism that helps people in need, rather than sweeping political or legislative efforts to advance the broader LGBT movement. 

Arcus's LGBT Social Justice campaign is divided into three strategic areas. The Global Religions strategy emphasizes improving and deepening domestic and international between LGBT and religious communities as well as combating "those who would misuse religion to deny the full humanity of LGBT people." The International Human Rights strategy focuses on nurturing "a global movement integrating sexual orientation and gender identity into shared conceptions of human rights" with a primary focus on countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. 

Lastly, the U.S. Social Justice strategy stresses LGBT economic and social programs focused on youth, people of color, faith communities, and the poor. The U.S. Social Justice strategy is described more fully here (click on the link for U.S. Social Justice). There has been some upheaval at Arcus's social justice wing in recent years, something that has been extensively covered by Inside Philanthropy

Arcus has a fairly diverse approach to grantmaking, and offers funding for general operations as well as more specific projects and initiatives. In addition to its large-scale grants to well-known organizations, small grants have been awarded here and there. A recent list of Arcus's grant recipients can be found here.

In addition to philosophical and organizational prerequisites for the organizations it funds, Arcus' grant application involves three steps and is clearly laid out on its website. Organizations should definitely keep the foundation's strategic priorities in mind when appealing for funds.  


  • Jon Stryker, Board President and Founder
  • Annette Lanjouw, Co-Executive Director
  • Jason McGill, Co-Executive Director
  • Roz Lee, Social Justice Initiatives Director
  • Adrian Coman, International Human Rights Program Director