The community that works together stays together

By | 2011-03-12T09:00:00-04:00 March 12th, 2011|Uncategorized|

Board members, staff, and executive directors from Project YES, Ruth Ellis Center, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Triangle Foundation, and the American Friends Service Committee LGBT Project came together Dec. 6 for an intensive non-profit training led by consultant Mickey McIntyre.
The training was the brainchild of Kathleen Russell, Director of Project YES (Youth for Equality and Safety), who strongly believes that LGBT organizations can be made stronger and more effective by working together. “It is a brianchild I’m very proud of and yet it has input from so many people that it’s really a collaborative brainchild,” said Russell, “I got a lot of feedback from folks who are committed to this idea and it certainly would not have been successful if it were not for their assistance.”
The organizations that participated in the training are the LGBT-specific organizations that are involved in Project YES, a group that works to eliminate heterosexism and homophobia in youth-specific social service agencies in Michigan. Project YES also works with LGBT-inclusive groups such as Alternative for Girls in Detroit, HelpSource in Washtenaw county, and Third Level in Traverse City.
The funding for the training came from a Project YES grant Russell wrote with the idea of getting LGBT organizations to work together. The executive directors of the participating LGBT groups all stated their support for the idea. Russell contacted Nancy Cunningham, the executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Funders who suggested some national experts in non-profit training. “And out of that grew the contract with Mickey McIntyre,” said Russell.
McIntyre has been doing trainings for local, regional, and national organizations for over fifteen years. Formerly the Development Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, McIntyre is currently a member of the adjunct faculty for the Gill Foundation. The Gill Foundation is the largest funder of LGBT organizations in the country with an endowment of $200 million.
In addition to the two day-long training sessions back in Sept. and last Saturday, each participating organization had the opportunity for ten hours of individual consultation with McIntyre.
“I think it’s really fantastic,” McIntyre told BTL. “I thought that some of the activities that we did in the first training really helped people see that the way they operate within the community can benefit the collective good of all the organizations.”
“The one thing that I thought was really fantastic is the broad range of diversity of perspective, both culturally, racially, age wise,” he said. He also thought it was important to get people working together directly by getting both staff people and board members together in the same room doing the same activities.
The most significant part of the training was the collaboration between LGBT organizations. “It’s those relationships that really build community,” he said. “I’m really the catalyst of the building of a relationship.”
Getting groups to work together helps them to see each other as partners rather than as competition for funding. “There’s more emphasis placed in the belief that there’s finite resources for the community as opposed to trying to create a larger pool of resources,” said McIntyre. “We end up fighting each other rather than working to create a new resource stream.”
Part of the training looked at effective fundraising and how to create new resources. “Look, your resources aren’t finite and your ability to access them is far greater than you actually believe,” he said. “It’s not who gets what piece of the pie, it’s let’s make another pie.”
Other training topics included stages of organizational development, how to recruit volunteers, board evaluation skills.
The community has already seen positive results for a collaborative future. “For example, the executive directors of the four primary organizations are now meeting on a regular basis as a vehicle for exchanging information, coordinating activities, and keeping each other informed and to some extent getting to know each other,” said McIntyre. These meetings include Leslie Thompson of Affirmations, Jeffrey Montgomery of Triangle Foundation, Grace McClelland of Ruth Ellis Center, Michael Gibson-Faith of AFSC LGBT Project, and Kathleen Russell of Project YES. “It gives them an opportunity to communicate and talk to each other. I suggested that their board chairs meet on a regular basis, too.”
Russell said overall the participants of the training rated it as very effective. “Participants were asked to share their vision for our LGBT community,” said Russell. One participant stressed “unity to overcome outside challenges” while another hoped “to increase the diversity and cohesion of the community and that we could continue to grow together as allies.”
David Lascu, a board member of both Affirmations and Ruth Ellis Center, called the training, “An energizer, a revitalizer. It’s an opportunity to rethink my commitment to the organizations I belong to.” Lascu saw the collaborative component as essential. “The communication among the organizations is so important for our community to move forward.”

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