Down But Not Out: What Ford's Pivot Away From LGBT Funding Means

The writing has been on the wall for a while now: LGBT funding is likely to decline in the wake of the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling and other major victories. 

And, sure enough, the LGBT community has just suffered a big hit with the $12 billion Ford Foundation announcing that it would be cutting support to LGBT groups in the United States. 

Ford’s president, Darren Walker, who is gay, shared that news amid a broader statement about how Ford is streamlining its prioritiesnarrowing its previously-supported 35 initiatives down to just 15.

Ford has been one of the biggest supporters of LGBT causes in the country for many years, now. A list of recent grantees is available on Ford’s grant database. However, the foundation’s shift away from LGBT funding has been in the works for a while.

Recent restructuring made U.S. LGBT organizations ineligible for funding, as the foundation focused more broadly on inequality in all its forms. However, Ford will continue to support international LGBT groups.

“As a gay man, I am acutely aware that there is much more work to do on LGBT rights in the United States— and I hope that changes at Ford do not send the signal that victory can be declared in this country,” Walker said. “That being said, outside the U.S., the LGBT community desperately needs resources and allies, and so, as a global foundation, we’re adapting and recalibrating our focus where the greatest need exists.”

Ford's shift to overseas battles for LGBT rights reminds us of a similar pivot that the Arcus Foundation recently made. And you can certainly see the logic here: In some countries, people can still be executed for being gay. 

The good news is that, as we've reported, a number of fundersmost notably the Gill Foundationhave no plans to abandon the fight for LGBT rights in the U.S. In fact, a big effort has been gearing up to end all legal discrimination against LGBT people across the nation, and particularly in the South. As we've also reported, we're seeing more community and other local foundations enter the LGBT funding space, which reflects the fact that such funding is not as controversial as it once was. 


But don't count Ford out completely when it comes to LGBT work in the U.S. The foundation is still funding in several areas that may overlap with the work of LGBT groups, such as its focus on youth opportunity and learning.