By Sean Kosofsky
As summer winds down and the credit card statements come back from summer vacations and other purchases, we must remember to be generous to our charitable organizations.
It is widely known in the GLBT movement that we are a pretty stingy group. Compared to other social justice movements, GLBT people do not contribute as much to GLBT organizations as their counterparts in other struggles. Maybe this is part of the natural evolution of our community. We have gone from hiding in the shadows, to fighting the indignities of police abuse to eventually demanding equality. We have set up our own social service agencies, formed political action committees and even created an infrastructure to support each other in running for office. But we have done little to encourage philanthropy and long term charitable giving.
There are only a few national foundations that have really been carrying their weight. The Gill Foundation, for example, has designed programs to encourage other large funders to increase their charitable giving. Meanwhile many GLBT agencies have been forced to compete for very few private and government grants to support the wide range of services we provide.
As a community we must make a commitment to reaching into our wallet and checkbook and making a regular commitment to support GLBT work. If everyone in the GLBT community gave just ten dollars a month, there would be an explosion of new resources made available to us. Triangle Foundation and other community organizations could hire dozens of news staff to help hate crime and domestic violence victims, challenge right wing extremists, provide scholarships to GLBT youth and build a sustainable community.
When I look at the Jewish and the Arab communities in Detroit, I see huge infrastructure that was made possible by very generous donors and philanthropists. Even in hard economic times, these communities have been able to maintain a strong network of community organizations and resources. The GLBT community is far behind.
If we gave as much money to GLBT charities as we spent on new music, new movies, iced lattes, martinis and getaway weekends in Saugatuck, we would be powerful. We give more to the economy than we do to community organizations. We need to think strategically and generously when we make financial gifts. Giving cash or writing a check may seem difficult for some people, but donating your car or shares of stock is just as helpful. How about planned giving? How many people have planned to leave their favorite GLBT charity in their will? Very few!
If you add up all the budgets of all the national GLBT organizations, it is still smaller than just one Christian fundamentalist group, Focus on the Family which has their own exit off the highway and their own zip code. The fact that our community has accomplished so much with so little should speak volumes about the power we would have if we had a fully financed movement. When I say “fully financed” I mean a movement where our organizations never have to worry about rent, payroll or keeping the lights on. I mean a movement that assesses what our community needs and then supports it.
Everyone reading this column can make a commitment to financially support GLBT charitable work. Even if you can’t contribute five dollars a year, you can help by raising money or volunteering. Sell three things you own on Ebay.com to afford to make a gift. All of us have something we can sacrifice in order to build a sustainable, long term investment in our community. If you need other creative ideas call the Executive Director or Development Director of your favorite charity (if you don’t have one I recommend Triangle Foundation) and tell them you want to help.
Either way, if we don’t start contributing now, and dedicate ourselves and loved ones to long term financial giving, we may never know what might have been.