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PEAK Grantmaking

How Philanthropy Has Shaped the Modern LGBTQ Rights Movement

For me, LGBTQ Pride Month is about building my knowledge base about a community I am a part of, but was disconnected from until I was in my 20s. Because I didn’t have the benefit of seeing reflections of myself in the culture at large, or at least affirmational ones, this is a time of year where I try to make up for that lost time in my teens and seek out the voices that give me a rounded knowledge of the experiences of people like me who shaped society such that I can comfortably live my truth—and with legal protections to boot. Those legal and social gains were also realized because philanthropies decided to get involved. But there is more work to be done.

For this Pride month, my reading has been centered on the role that philanthropies are playing in this civil rights movement, the experience of the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community, and, of course, some general reading for my own benefit. I hope you enjoy these selections—and I invite you to share writings, movies, podcasts, or other resources that elevate aspects of the LGBTQ experience for you. Contact our team or give us a shout-out on Twitter by including our handle with your recommendation.

Philanthropy’s role in LGBTQ advocacy

“History of Philanthropy Case Study: The Campaign for Marriage Equality.” I had always expected that same-sex marriage would be adopted on a state-by-state basis at least for a good chunk of my lifetime. You can then imagine the pleasant surprise that came in the form of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. In this analysis, the Open Philanthropy Project finds that the philanthropic sector played a significant role in realizing this civil rights milestone.

“Millions in Christian-right dark money funding counterattack on LGBTQ+ equality.” The National Christian Foundation is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States and distributed more than $56 million to anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim groups between 2015 and 2017. Structured as a donor-advised fund, it’s not always easy to link the third-party organizations contributing the cash and the causes that money ultimately supports.

“This Pride Month, Let’s Talk About Trans Rights.” “While the world has been distracted and reeling from the crisis of Covid-19, more anti-trans bills have been introduced to block safe medical transitions, student athlete participation, and the basic needs of trans individuals, focusing on state level law when federal backing couldn’t be depended on,” Sae Allan Darling, administrative assistant of programming and external relations at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. But in light of the large-scale assault on transgender rights, Sae sees an opportunity for philanthropy to step in and fight for social justice.

“LGBT Charities Boost Giving by Building a ‘Culture of Philanthropy’ and Improving Career Paths for Fundraisers.” According to recent research by the Movement Advancement Project, only 3.4 percent of LGBTQ people donate to any of the top 39 advocacy groups in this country. Although this might currently be the case, nine years of studying philanthropic organizations and interviewing some 1,200 LGBTQ people have yielded several strategies that nonprofits can use to bolster their fundraising efforts.

Converging Epidemics: COVID-19, HIV & Inequality. By now, it shouldn’t be news that certain segments of our society have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Funders Concerned About AIDS convened a learning group to examine “the evolving needs of vulnerable communities at the intersection of HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, and (in the U.S. context) racial justice.” The study, which examines the experiences of LGBTQ Americans in addition to other marginalized populations, ultimately makes recommendations for how the funders can rethink their strategies and processes to more effectively partner with community-based organizations and support these communities in need.

General reading

The Stonewall Reader. Curated by the New York Public Library on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, dug into its archives of interviews, diaries, and magazine writing to elevate the voices of those activists who led the charge of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

We Are Everywhere. Mainstream visual representation of LGBTQ people is a relatively recent development in our culture because it was–and still can be–dangerous to publicly own that part of one’s identity. This collection of images and stories covers a vast span of time, starting in the 1860s and ending in the early 1990s, making a powerful and irrefutable statement that we are—and always have been—everywhere in society.


Image: Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh for