Over the past year or so, we’ve been noticing a shift in LGBTQ funding, as more local funders—including community foundations—have become active in this space. Among other things, the trend is a sign that backing LGBTQ work is no longer viewed as controversial, but it also underscores growing appreciation of the array of challenges facing the LGBTQ community and the need to bolster key community-based programs.
The Boston Foundation is a great example of a local funder that has been engaging in LGBTQ work over recent years. It established an Equality Fund in 2012, and made its first grants from it in 2013. This is a permanent, endowed fund at TBF and an important one to look at—not necessarily because of the size of its grants (TBF’s Equality Fund grants fall between $5,000 and $12,000), but because of the issues it’s getting behind.
Here are some notable themes:
Life Skills and Financial Training
In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, financial institutions have begun making waves on the LGBTQ funding scene in Boston. And it seems that this backing might be pushing grant dollars towards life skills and financial training. These are causes that financial companies have always held near and dear, and we’re seeing more LGBTQ-targeted support in these areas—at least in Boston. Eastern Bank, BNY Mellon and Northern Trust are three corporate donors that support TBF's Equality Fund.
One new grantee is Theater Offensive, which is using TBF’s $5,000 to put on skill-building workshops about life skills and social justice work. Silver Lining Mentoring also received a TBF grant to deliver programs that boost basic life and financial skills.
Technology Improvements and Seniors
Nonprofits across the board need tech upgrades, and LGBTQ nonprofits are no exception. To help these groups be more effective, TBF has been awarding tech grants. For example, Coro Allegro received $7,500 to expand and upgrade its infrastructure and technological systems, and Boston Senior Home Care received $6,500 to support upgrades to the Boston ElderINFO website. Overall, LGBTQ seniors continue to be a top cause for this TBF fund, reflecting an awareness among more local funders that this population, which can be quite isolated, is especially vulnerable and has special needs.
A Multi-Faceted Approach to Equity
Equity is a term used so widely among foundations these days when describing their grantmaking strategies that it’s easy to forget what it really means. TBF interprets “equity” in a few different ways in terms of the LGBTQ community. For one, it funds legal groups, like Health Law Advocates. It also supports arts nonprofits like the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus to share a message of diversity and equitable treatment with the public.
Looking to Future Needs
The Boston Foundation seems to be doing a solid job of balancing what’s needed for the LGBTQ community now and what it may need in a few years. For example, TBF pledged $250,000 in challenge grants as a 2:1 challenge to strengthen the fund’s endowment.
“We are committed to not only provide critically needed funding for the LGBTQ community’s current needs but to build an endowment that will provide for future needs,” said Scott S. Squillace, Esq., co-chair of the Equality Fund advisory committee, in a press release. “We are making great progress on both sides.”
The Equality Fund already has more than $8 million in testamentary gifts, which makes TBF confident that it can be a significant supporter of the local LGBTQ community for decades to come.
In the fifth and most recent round of giving, TBF’s Equality Fund awarded $88,000 in grants. It’s stewarded by TBF, but the fund’s grantmaking priorities and strategies are guided by an advisory committee of community members. Learn more about the fund here.