Southern Decadence is an annual six-day event held in New Orleans, Louisiana, by the LGBT community during Labor Day Weekend. Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans. (CC BY-SA 2.0)We love seeing so many community foundations stepping up to the plate for LGBT people in their areas over the last year or so. While community foundations used to shy away from controversial funding topics like LGBT rights, these issues are become more mainstream as each day goes by. And responsive community funders understand that they can’t sit back and ignore this area.
This new local funding is arriving just in the nick of time, too. As we've reported, some national funders like Ford have pulled back from the LGBT space in the wake of the marriage equality victory and the overall progress toward greater acceptance of LGBT people. Meanwhile, though, the LGBT community still has lots of pressing needs—which is where community foundations and other local funders come in.
The latest community foundation to jump onboard this trend takes us south to the tip of Louisiana, where the Greater New Orleans Community Foundation just launched its very first LGBT fund. This is a fund that will help donors in the New Orleans community contribute to local LGBT organizations to improve the lives of these individuals close to home.
This announcement came on the anniversary of a painful day, June 24, 1973, when a fire was intentionally set to the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in the French Quarter. Thirty-two people died, a largely forgotten mass murder which is eerily reminiscent of the recent Orlando nightclub shooting.
"The Greater New Orleans Foundation is playing a vital role of raising awareness and support for organizations that represent the interests of LGBT communities," said GNOF Board Chair Cheryl Teamer. "This fund will allow us to better understand LGBT challenges in the community and find ways to address them."
Notably, the foundation will not be assessing any fees to administer the new fund. This means that every dollar donated toward LGBT people in New Orleans will directly fund that work without any overhead. The foundation has been connecting with donors for about a year now to raise money for the fund, and the recent tragedies have really pushed donors to their limits to give and take a stand against violence.
Admittedly, community foundation LGBT funding is still in its early days, but it's gaining traction with each city that acknowledges these local needs with an open mind. Across the country, a lot of the community funder support has been focused on both ends of the age spectrum and going to LGBT youth and seniors. These are typically considered to be the most vulnerable LGBT populations, but what about everybody else in the middle?
Clearly, there is still plenty of room for growth and evolution in the community foundation LGBT funding space, but it’s an exciting time because support is steady and growing with each grant cycle that passes. And from the looks of things, GNOF’s LGBT fund is taking a bit of a broader approach.
For groups in the New Orleans area and that serve Orleans Parish, applications for the LGBT fund are being accepted through July 15. We expect to see 10 to 15 grants in the $5,000 to $10,000 range awarded from the new LGBT fund’s first grantmaking cycle. The fund will support pretty much everything, at least initially: general operating support, programs, advocacy, and capacity building. Check out the LGBT fund guidelines for more details.
Stay tuned until late August to learn about the first grantees to receive awards through the new fund and what LGBT grantmaking in New Orleans may look like in the years ahead. We’re particularly interested to see whether youth and elderly LGBT programs are the main focus down here, or whether there are other local needs that stand out here and inform and influence other grantmakers in the region and beyond. A quick look at the fund’s theory of change suggests that youth and the elderly will be a big part of LGBT grantmaking, but also youth of color and low-income people of all ages. According to an Out in the South report, more than three in ten LGBT adults live in the South, which means this could be a really influential region for LGBT funders across the country if local groups start collaborating in some seriously unconventional ways.