The power of participationEpiCenter Thursday, March 24th, 2011
Recently, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) published the 2010 National LGBT Movement Report, an overview of the fiscal and programmatic health of almost 70 percent of the budgets of LGBT social justice and advocacy organizations in the U.S. The report is described in its conclusion as follows:
“The 2010 National LGBT Movement Report provides important information to educate the public, policymakers, LGBT movement donors and advocates about the financial health and operating efficiency of the LGBT movement.
“Participating LGBT organizations have seen significant revenue decline over the past few years, likely due to the economic downturn. They have responded to the economic challenges by taking the necessary step of reducing expenses, and as a result, the overall financial health of the leading LGBT organizations remains strong, though overall movement capacity may be somewhat reduced. Despite this more difficult fundraising environment, LGBT organizations continue to meet charity watchdog benchmarks and are efficient in their fundraising operations.
Of total organizational expenses, 79 percent are spent on programs and services, 9 percent are spent on management and general expenses and only 12 percent are spent on fundraising.”
Those conclusions are not surprising; they mirror the earlier 2010 MAP report on LGBT Community Centers and can be summarized in the sentence, “Revenue has dropped significantly (average is 20 percent), budgets have reduced accordingly, some service capacity is reduced, but important charity watchdog ratios have been maintained and financial health remains strong.”
But that was not the portion of the report that got the attention of many nationwide. Instead, it was a Huffington Post op-ed by MAP Executive Director Ineke Mushovic examining implications of the report’s findings. Mushovic highlighted the following finding:
“MAP analysis shows that fewer than 4 percent of all LGBT adults in the U.S. are donating $35 or more to these organizations. At the same time, just the top ten anti-LGBT organizations – groups like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage – spent $333.1 million in 2009. That amounts to twice the 2009 expenses of all 39 participating LGBT organizations combined ($165.6 million).”
Nationally, only about 4 percent of community members actually contribute on an annual basis to the LGBT service and advocacy projects that sustain our community and fuel our efforts toward equality! Imagine how much more powerful this equality movement and the services and advocacy associated with it could be if we could improve the percentage of those that give even $35 dollars a year to one of the LGBT organizations?
The wins we have enjoyed haven’t been easily won. The hard work of thousands across decades has made them possible; and the dollars of too few have funded that work. Each of us is and will continue to be deeply grateful for those 4 percent. But a challenge lies before us all if we are to truly succeed. How can we better inspire those among us who do not yet give?
How can we all, together, better explain what’s at stake? How can we make it clearer that even $35 a year makes a tremendous difference in our local, statewide and national capacity to achieve the equality we deserve?
The answers hold a vital key to our collective capacity to see our goals achieved in our lifetime and it will take all of us to find those answers … and quickly.
Dr. Delores A. Jacobs is CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center.
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