Funding Steady at Equality Michigan

BY JAN STEVENSON

Despite lots of changes in personnel and management, especially at the executive director position, an analysis of the financial reports for Equality Michigan from 2013 through 2015 show that the organization has enjoyed fairly steady funding, and going forward it should continue to garner enough funding to continue operations at least at its current level of activity for two to three years.

The total annual budget for EQMI has ranged from $450,000 to $600,000 per year over the last four years. The largest source of funding is now the Henry Messer trust. When Messer died in 2014 he left $3 million to EQMI in two parts. The first was a $1 million gift to be disbursed over four years for general operating expenses. The second part of the bequest was $2 million in an endowment fund housed at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Interest earned on the endowment is available to the organization for general operating expenses.

In 2015, EQMI received $369,000 from the first part of the bequest, plus $51,756 in interest on the endowment fund. In 2016, management opted to take less from the first part and only drew down about $225,000. The 2017 budget calls for an even smaller distribution from the first part of the bequest, in an effort to make the funds last longer than the original four years. Fundraising events, grants and membership dues increased in 2016 and are expected to support operations to a larger extent going forward. Management plans to eventually replace the monies from the first part of Messer's bequest in the annual operating budget before those funds are fully dispersed.

The second largest piece of EQMI's funding comes from a Michigan Department of Community Health grant that supports the victim services project. In 2015 that grant totaled $107,445 and increased by 26 percent in 2016.

At press time, BTL learned that EQMI received a new grant from the HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation of southeast Michigan. This fuels expanded community outreach, policy engagement, and greater capacity for victims services.

It is important to note that Motor City Pride has not been a source of significant funds for EQMI. With a budget of about $225,000, most years the event has either broken even or lost a small amount. EQMI reports the net amount from Motor City Pride on its financial statements. In 2015 that was $4,300. The January 2017 decision to spin off MCP into a stand-alone organization should have little to no financial effect on EQMI, and management hopes the staff and board will now have the opportunity to focus more on the core political mission of EQMI rather than producing the state's largest Pride event.


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