1993 - 2011
The National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership (the Partnership) was launched in 1993 as a partnership between the Working Group on Funding Lesbian and Gay Issues (which later became Funders for LGBTQ Issues) and a small group of national foundations, amidst a historical backdrop in which LGBTQ concerns and communities had been addressed by very few philanthropic institutions. As the 1990s developed as a period of unprecedented economic growth and wealth acquisition, the Partnership formed to promote philanthropy in the LGBTQ community at the local level.
Robert Crane, President of the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, spearheaded the initiative committing $750,000 to launch the Partnership and convening leaders from other foundations and corporate giving programs. An RFP was issued to Community Foundations throughout the country, challenging them to collaborate with their local communities to raise and distribute funds specifically for LGBT issues. The Community Foundation grantees were awarded matching grants of up to $100,000 over two years. Between 1994 (the first year of grantmaking) and 2005 (the last year new sites were added), more than $9 million was invested in LGBT work at the local level through the Partnership.
The Partnership's strategy was, at the time, a relatively new model for philanthropy - a collaborative funding model that pooled resources from national foundations to support local community foundations that then provided monies to support problem-solving strategies at the local level. Over the last two decades, the Partnership has provided invaluable support to community foundations' key role in helping donors support local LGBT interests and initiatives, and has proved critical to raising the visibility of LGBTQ issues in philanthropy. Community foundations that participated in the National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership continue to fund LGBTQ issues through donor advised programs and general fund grants with several maintaining specific lesbian and gay endowments.
The Partnership's reach was broad, including states such as Texas, Vermont, Michigan, Tennessee, New Mexico and Oklahoma, in addition to more commonly funded states of New York and California. Indeed, one of the largest community grantmaking programs outside of the coastal regions is the Partnership supported HOPE Fund of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, distributing over $1.7 million since it began in 1994. More recently, Equity Action at the Rhode Island Foundation, which opened in 2002, currently has an endowment exceeding $1 million.
The National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership set out to achieve the following objectives:
- Increase awareness and understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues within the philanthropic community and the community-at-large;
- Stimulate the establishment and expansion of philanthropic resources available for LGBT programs and services;
- Encourage social service agencies to develop programs and services that respond to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people;
- Strengthen the infrastructure of existing LGBT organizations;
- Cultivate community foundations as a resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people including donors; and,
- Encourage a positive relationship between community foundations and the organizational and philanthropic leadership of the LGBT community.