Part of a Larger Plan: A New Texas LGBTQ Fund Gears Up To Make Its First Grants

   Christopher Oliver /shutterstock

 Christopher Oliver/shutterstock

For many years, funding for LGBTQ causes was almost entirely provided by national foundations and major donors. More recently, as this area became less controversial, an increasing number of community foundations and other local funders have embraced grantmaking for LGBTQ populations. But this funding has mostly been focused in large urban areas of coastal states, and, like national grantmaking, has tended to bypass rural states, especially in the South.

Now, there’s a new LGBTQ funder in Texas that’s a bit different, and is looking to play an important role in a sprawling state that's often been hostile territory for LGBTQ people. 

The Texas Pride Impact Funds (TPIF) emerged from an initiative of a charitable nonprofit called Black Tie Dinner, which has donated over $20 million to LGBTQ groups since 1982. But even with this group’s steady effort and the efforts of other funders in Texas, no one has really taken a leadership role in LGBTQ philanthropy on a statewide level. TPIF was established in 2015 to fill this role, and its gearing up to award its very first round of grants.

This move is a part of a broader push to expand LGBTQ giving in the South that we've previously reported on. When Funders for LGBTQ Issues released its first Out in the South report in 2014, it found that per capita, LGBTQ people in the southeastern United States were getting about a tenth of foundation funding of their counterparts in the Northeast. The Out in the South Fund was created to fill that gap, and has drawn support from a number of major funders. The aim is to build the capacity of local and regional funders working on LGBTQ issues.

In 2016, TPIF was awarded a $50,000 planning grant from the Out in the South Fund. That year, TPIF also received its first major donation, a $100,000 anonymous, unrestricted gift. In addition to planning and assessment, the group began seeking out additional contributions from donors who were willing to pledge between $3,000 and $10,000. Now, less than two years later, with commitments in hand of around $500,000, it's ready to start handing some of that out.

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The first TPIF grants will be for amounts up to $10,000, and the funder plans to give away a total of $120,000 in this first cycle. The plan is to have one grant cycle per year, with future goals of bumping that up to two annual cycles.

So other than being an LGBTQ-focused nonprofit in Texas, what is this new foundation looking for in grantees?

To start, TPIF is looking for nonprofits that are already stable and have gotten some programs and services off the ground. This means that well-established LBGTQ groups and familiar names will likely have better luck securing grants than startups, at least for now. However, the group has expressed interest in providing pilot and seed funding for new approaches as well, so the funding distribution could be a little bit of both strategies.

In terms of funding priorities, TPIF is really interested in employment as it relates to local LGBTQ communities right now, especially increasing and improving employment opportunities for Texans who identify themselves as transgender. Healthcare is also a top priority for this funder in relation to transgender individuals, and this may extend to grants that make healthcare staff more culturally competent and that increase access to quality care for transgender people.

This focus reflects a larger trend that we recently reported on: After years of neglect, trans issues are finally getting more attention from funders.  

TPIF board member Roger Wedell said:

What we found in conducting the needs assessment is that even when LGBTQ people have routine access to healthcare, the healthcare providers are often uncomfortable dealing with or uninformed on specific health issues. So, we don’t really need to add healthcare providers. What we need is to bring existing providers up to speed in addressing health issues and concerns in LGBT patients.

LGBTQ youth and seniors are also topics of interest for this funder. And considering how many parts of Texas are rural, the needs of LGBTQ individuals of all ages who live in rural areas will likely also be a top consideration when making these grants.

In addition to grantmaking, TPIF is getting involved in statewide LGBTQ affairs through town hall meetings that will be held this year in Austin, Houston, and other regions of the state. Keeping a statewide reach is very important to the TPIF board, which is another reason we expect to see grant distribution that goes beyond the big cities and reaches less populated areas with unaddressed LGBTQ needs as well.

You can learn more about grantee eligibility, evaluation criteria, and the application timeline for this new Texas funder here. We’ll circle back to TPIF again in the summer after the first grant awards are announced to see how things play out.