This New LGBT Community Fund Just Awarded Its First Grant in Southwest Florida

Over the summer, we interviewed the president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida about its local LGBT support to find out what types of LGBT causes the funder was paying attention to the most. To quickly recap, this particular foundation has been focusing its efforts on LGBT seniors, LGBT youth, and LGBT families lately.

Read: How the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida Approaches LGBT Funding

But there’s another community funder at the opposite end of the state that’s been hard at work for local LGBT residents too. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has a new LGBT Community Fund that just awarded its very first grant. So who is the inaugural recipient that sets the stage for all future grantees? A teen theater program.

The LGBT Community Fund of Southwest Florida, which is a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, awarded its first grant of $18,000 to the Laboratory Theater’s “Staging Teen Success Through Theater” program. This is a mentorship program for LGBT teenagers that pairs them with LGBT adults involved in the theater community and also licensed counselors.

So this very first grant taps into an area of LGBT funding that so many other community foundation funds are as well around the country: LGBT teenagers. But unlike some other funder efforts, this one isn’t aiming to tackle the big issues of homelessness, housing, or substance abuse. Instead, it’s starting from the ground up with helping teens understand themselves, express themselves, and find common ground with like-minded peers and mentors.

“While participating in this program, youth will have the chance to work with older LGBT people from the community and learn about their experiences,” said Annette Trossbach, producing artistic director for Lab Theater. “This component will allow older LGBT people feel a sense of purpose and need within the community, also making them less prone to depression and suicide.”

This is a great start for a brand new LGBT fund, and we're looking forward to seeing what it invests in next. Promoting a sense of community and empowerment within LGBT youth communities can be viewed as a preventive strategy so that the other big issues hopefully never come into play.

The LGBT Community Fund of Southwest Florida is a multi-donor fund that has no minimum donation required, but if donors give $250 or more, they get voting privileges for future grants. So basically, it’s a giving circle that connects like-minded individuals and organizations in the Southwest Florida. As we’ve written about in the past, giving circles have been huge for LGBT grantmaking around the country lately.

Read: The Foundation World Couldn't Care Less About Your Cause? Start a Giving Circle

This particular LGBT fund has a steering committee that identifies the greatest LGBT needs in Southwest Florida and guides the group’s grantmaking focus. Since this fund is in its earliest stages of infancy, there’s still plenty of time to develop a strong focus and grantmaking strategy. Yet based on the steering committee’s research, the current areas of interest at the fund are homelessness, emergency housing for LGBT youth, elder care/senior housing, HIV prevention/education/treatment, and suicide prevention/mental health. So we wouldn’t be surprised to see the giving circle fund’s next found of LGBT grants dive a bit deeper into these troubling issues.

In the spring of 2017, the fund plans to reassess its focus areas and choose new ones if warranted. Then grantees are selected in the summer and announced and disbursed in October. Check out the new fund’s grant cycle page to learn more about applying for a grant for the next round of distributions.