“Proud Philanthropy”: Emma Beeston writes about philanthropy and LGBTQI rights in the UK and internationally

We feature regular blogs by philanthropy adviser Emma Beeston (of the Emma Beeston Consultancy and Sarah Taragon and Steve Woollett and their associates at Clarity CIC (please note that the Clarity CIC website appears to be down at the moment, so keep checking back).

Emma’s blog for July 2021, entitled “Proud Philanthropy”, explores the availability of funding to advance LGBTQI rights in the UK and internationally. 

The blog includes an open invitation from Emma for funders to contact her for advice on applying a LGBTQI lens to their grant programmes, and for help with identifying and selecting groups to fund or to explore collective funding options.

“Proud Philanthropy”

“Pride celebrations have been a little less visible this year thanks to Covid. But there have still been reasons to celebrate when it comes to advancing LGBTQI rights: Stonewall marked its 30th anniversary; we have seen marriage equality gained in Costa Rica, and Sudan lifted the death penalty for same-sex relations. Pride has always been about protest alongside the party and there is still much to be done to reach equality. It is illegal to be LGBTQI in 69 countries; and discrimination and prejudice are widespread from bullying and beatings, to being denied a job or healthcare. The hostility is often state sponsored: Hungary recently banned adoptions by same sex couples, while Poland’s president signed a “Family Charter” pledging to block gay marriage, adoption by same sex couples, and the teaching on LGBT issues in schools.

The pandemic has also had a negative impact. A report to the UN found “that COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on LGBT persons and that, with few exceptions, the response to the pandemic reproduces and exacerbates the patterns of social exclusion and violence already identified”. As with other marginalised communities, LGBTQI people are also adversely affected by the other crises of our time: racial and gender injustices, inequality and climate change.

Because of its independence, surely philanthropy is in a good place to step-up to support groups at the margins; to fill the gaps in government funding and to support activists pressing for justice? The reality is that philanthropic funds are falling short. The latest report from Funders for LGBTQ Issues found that in 2017–2018 global LGBTI foundation funding made up less than 31 cents out of every $100 of overall global foundation funding. For every $100 awarded by government and multilateral agencies, only 4 cents benefited LGBTI communities. A survey conducted by Consortium, a membership organisation for LGBTQI groups in the UK, found that 47% of organisations reported an immediate loss of earnings in the pandemic, with 20% saying they were concerned they would have to close.

A number of philanthropists and funders are leading the way in addressing this funding gap. Giving Tuesday listed the most famous LGBT philanthropists including Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Sir Elton John and Ellen DeGeneres. The Global Philanthropy Project’s list of the top 20 Foundation LGBTI funders includes familiar names including the Ford Foundation, the National Lottery Community Fund and Comic Relief. As you would expect, there is a diversity of funding approaches. Some take a participatory grant-making approach like the International Trans Fund. Some work to raise the profile of LGBTQI giving, such as Horizons which is the Community Foundation behind Give Out Day in the US, which raised $1.7m this Pride month. Some have been around for ages like Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice which has awarded $31m to grassroots activists over 40 years. Others are newer such as Give Out in the UK, an international community foundation which takes a collective approach – pooling resources to support LGBTQI activists. It has just launched the world’s first LGBTQI Climate Fund to support work at the intersection of climate change and LGBTQI rights. Collective giving is also the approach of several giving circles that focus on supporting the LGBTQI community such as Black Trans Lives Thrive and the Jewish Pride Fund.

For those looking to mobilise more resource to the LGBTQI cause, my advice is:

1. Look at your existing giving and funding programmes through a rainbow lens. Are LGBTQI communities accessing your current youth/ housing/ health programmes? Are LGBTQI people served by the groups you fund? If not, get learning and involve the LGBTQI community to help you improve.

2. Identify and start funding groups that are directly supporting LGBTQI people and furthering LGBTQI justice. In the UK, you could start here to find organisations to back: https://www.consortium.lgbt/member-directory/ and in the US take a look at this list: https://philanthropytogether.org/20-lgbtq-led-nonprofits/

3. Act together – look to co-fund existing programmes or pool your resources with others in a giving circle or collective fund.

4. Align your philanthropy and your investments. There are lots of resources on LGBTQ+ Friendly investing – see https://www.investopedia.com/lgbtq-friendly-investing-5120600 or https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/lgbt-friendly-investments/

There are groups and funds in many more countries and intersections than covered here. Contact me for advice on applying a LGBTQI lens to your grant programmes, and for help with identifying and selecting groups to fund or to explore collective funding options.”

Image: Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy.