After Marriage Equality, have donors forgotten about LGBT charities?

Written with Rachel Stephenson Sheff

Whilst celebrating 49 years of Pride this June, and our extraordinary progress in recent years, it’s important to acknowledge the critical role our community has always played in nurturing and protecting the next generation of LGBT people. And as we continue to feel the effects of our lost generation of leaders — taken from us by AIDS and violence — we have some big shoes to fill when it comes to investing in our collective future.

Unfortunately, in our philanthropy advisory team we’re seeing shifts in LGBT charitable giving that have us worried: since the UK’s 2013 Equal Marriage Act there has been an alarming drop in donations of every size to LGBT causes, and we have not seen any funding shift from marriage campaigns to other vital needs within the community — it’s simply disappeared.

To paint the picture: in the last year, UNISON found charities serving the LGBT community are less popular with formal funders and more reliant on the public for funding, [1] yet according to the LGBT Consortium, only 11% of income for UK LGBT organisations now comes from individual donations (compared to a charity sector average of 45.2%).[2] In the last year alone, 32% of LGBT groups saw a decrease in funding, and nearly 50% reported they had to lose staff because of this.[3]

Despite our incredible victories — including equal marriage, parenting rights and PrEP — there are still urgent problems faced by our queer siblings that need and deserve our attention. LGBT hate crime in the UK has surged by almost 80% over last four years[4]; our social and community spaces often exclude people of colour; trans people face danger, stigmatisation and medical gatekeeping at every turn; and we have some of the highest rates of mental illness among any group.[5] That’s before you even consider the quarter of all homeless youth who identify as LGBT[6], and the loneliness epidemic faced by elderly LGBT people excluded from mainstream services.[7]

But there’s good news. Despite this challenging climate, brilliant organisations working on these issues still exist, and still have the potential to protect and drive forward our place in society. From small charities like Mermaids (working with trans kids and their parents) and NAZ Project (providing sexual health services to LGBT people of colour), to big well-known organisations like Albert Kennedy Trust (supporting LGBT homeless young people) and Stonewall (advocating for LGBT rights across the country) — there are so many opportunities to invest in our community and an incredible variety of approaches to choose from. Even if you can’t make up your mind, you can always support the LGBT Consortium, which works to strengthen the LGBT charity sector as a whole.

As a philanthropist, I have the opportunity to leverage my giving to improve the difficult and even life-threatening conditions facing so many who are just like me and my partner.” — Sascha McGregor, UK LGBTI Donor Initiative (Philanthropy Impact, 2016)

So in this important month of Pride, when we have much to celebrate, we must also remember the origin of Pride, which began as a protest — not a parade — in resistance to the oppression of queer people. While much has changed since then, it is still a privilege to be proud. And it is not a privilege afforded to all members of our community. LGBT philanthropists, whether they have £10 per month or millions to give, have a brilliant opportunity to change this. So, this Pride, we are challenging and inviting our queer community to step up alongside us to protect our collective future. If not us, then who?

About the Authors

Emily & Rachel work at I.G. Advisors, where they help philanthropists plan and deliver their charitable giving, and advise non-profits on how to grow their impact. They study trends in giving, and like to bring a queer lens to their work wherever they can.

Emily’s Twitter & LinkedIn

Rachel’s Twitter & LinkedIn

I.G.’s Twitter: @IG_Advisors

For more information, please visit I.G.’s website.