J. Bob Alotta, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: LGBTQI rights

CONTACT: jbalotta@astraeafoundation.org, 212-529-8021

IP TAKE: Alotta has a colorful personality and a demonstrated willingness to fund all kinds of LGBT-related work in all corners of the world.

PROFILE: J. Bob Alotta was named executive director at Astraea, a New York-based public foundation that works exclusively on LGBTQI rights, in February 2011. Here's her bio on the foundation's own website:

 J. Bob Alotta is the Executive Director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, a global foundation based in NYC that provides critical resources to LGBTQI organizations and individuals around the world. Bob is a lifelong activist and an accomplished filmmaker with a track record of leading exponential organizational growth and capacity building through visionary management and fundraising. She builds strong partnerships with diverse communities, grantee partners, donors, institutional funders, and corporate stakeholders. Bob served for four years as Board Chair of FIERCE, a longtime Astraea grantee partner, helping to build the leadership and power of LGBTQ youth of color. On behalf of the FIERCE Board of Directors, Bob was awarded the Stonewall Foundation's 2009 Alan Morrow Prize for Excellence in Board Leadership. Bob also served for six years as grant reviewer for Open Square Foundations' Community Fellowship Program, and has consulted for Swarthmore College, Williams College, WITNESS, and the Prison Moratorium Project. Prior to joining Astraea, Bob served as Director of Digital Media and Content for Zeitbyte Digital Media and as Director of Digital Technology for Film at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Bob's documentary and narrative films have aired on Democracy Now, GRITtv, and PBS, and have screened at festivals in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East.

 

Alotta has a colorful personality and a more artistic, radical bent than many of her peers at the upper management level of elite grantmaking foundations. Her career has taken a long and winding path, but she's proud to be leading what is still, incredibly, the only foundation in the world that works exclusively on LGBTQI issues at both the domestic and international level. Alotta describes her innovative leadership style at Astraea this way:

In my role as executive director, I'm tasked with amazing responsibilities every day. I deeply know our work to be relevant and critically necessary. So I want to build the best vehicle by which we function — that's the organizational piece — who says we have to operate as we always have? Who says there aren't smarter ways to do things? I'm not talking about abandoning what works. AT ALL. I'm talking about being bold enough to hold ourselves to the standards we deserve. To prioritize our needs, and strengths and mission and figure out how the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice needs to be best positioned to thrive, so that our uniquely tried and tested vision is triumphant.

Despite being a public foundation, Astraea is a major funder of LGBTQI advocacy; it has awarded more grants on this issue than any other foundation in the country (if measured in dollars, rather than quantity of grants, Astraea is still in the top 10). Astraea has supported LGBTQI work in 43 states and 81 countries over the past 35 years and will no doubt continue to be a force with someone as energetic and passionate as Alotta at the helm.

Under Alotta's leadership, Astraea has continued to distribute grants at a prolific pace, with 152 totaling more than $1.3 million being awarded in 2012. U.S.-based grants comprised more than half of the total quantity but less than half of the total dollar amount. Astraea does not, like some of its peers, distribute only small grants or only large grants; grants in 2012 ranged from $500 to $125,000. Alotta is demonstrably open not only to awarding grants to small, grassroots organizations but also to grantseekers who have never received funding from Astraea. The foundation's portfolio shows a fair number of repeat grantees but also dozens of first-timers, perhaps more than one would expect from a foundation that has been at this for 35 years.

Alotta is not one to exclude any kind of LGBT-related work from consideration for a grant. In 2012, grants were awarded all over the world and for a wide range of work, including the arts, antiviolence initiatives, diversity programs, and much more. Although Astraea's international grantmaking comes with some important requirements, domestically the process is quite inclusive. Grantseekers doing meaningful work on behalf of LGBTs have, in Alotta, a true ally and a potential source of consistent funding.

Her tumblr page gives you a great sense of what's currently on her mind, as does her Twitter feed (below).

VIDEOS:

Astraea Introduces J. Bob Alotta from Astraea Foundation on Vimeo.