Proteus Fund: Grants for LGBT

OVERVIEW: Proteus Fund leads the Civil Marriage Collaborative, an increasingly powerful and influential network of LGBT funders supporting the cause of marriage equality. 

IP TAKE: The Civil Marriage Collaborative is Proteus's major contribution to LGBT funding. This program has usually provided heavy funding to a small number of grantees each year, and proposals are by invitation only.

PROFILE: Proteus Fund, established in 1996, has awarded more than $130 million in grants for work on human rights, democracy, and peace. Proteus is places a strong emphasis on networking and collaborating with other funders, and in addition to supporting LGBT rights has funds dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty, limiting the influence of special interest political groups, and protecting the "civil rights of individuals whose communities have been targeted for profiling, surveillance, hate crimes and discrimination" in the wake of 9/11. 

For LGBT grantseekers, the most prominent and pertinent component of Proteus's funding operations is the Civil Marriage Collaborative (CMC).  The CMC is headed by director Paul Di Donato, who is the key-decision maker on grantmaking.  Described as a "funding collaborative of 10 national and regional grantmakers supporting strategic public education and advocacy efforts in a number of states with concrete plans to advance marriage equality," the CMC has awarded over $20 million in grants since being established in 2004. 

In prior years, funding was directed largely at securing marriage equality, with grants directed toward states in which marriage equality was seen as "a viable and realistic short-term goal." During that time, the CMC awarded between $1.7 and $2.0 million annually in grants, which were typically distributed among a small number of grantees and ranged in size from $50,000 (Equality Ohio Education Fund) to $500,000 (National Center for Lesbian Rights). 

In keeping with its commitment to annually review its "strategic priorities, grantmaking goals and ensure the highest level of strategic impact and responsiveness to needs on the ground," however, the CRC has recently expanded its funding to additional areas, particularly in the area of "religious exemption public education." Award recipients under this category have included American Civil Liberties Union funds and foundations in several states, as well as the ONE Community Foundation in Arizona and the Equality North Carolina Foundation. 

Grantseekers should note that grants at the CMC are by invitation only, and unsolicited letters or appeals for funds will not be reviewed.