Gays who can give should give, panel says
by Katie Dettman
In the face of sobering statistics that show giving by LGBT people is just a fraction of what straight people give to groups, including those that are anti-gay, local organizations last week hosted a briefing on philanthropy.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Horizons Foundation, and Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group hosted the March 12 briefing on LGBT giving, called "Trends in Philanthropy" at the City Club in San Francisco.
About 50 major donors and board members from NCLR and Horizons, as well as several Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment staff people, attended the event.
Glenn Perry, with the Bhatia Perry Group, Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group, and a Horizons board member, moderated the event and provided some staggering statistics.
"Five hundred million dollars is given each year for LGBT causes by LGBT folks and that may sound like a big number but $1 billion a year is given to fight us, to prevent us from having our equal rights byÉ non-LGBT folks. We're not going to identify those people but you all know who I'm talking about," Perry said.
Of that $500 million, only 25 donors gave a total of $108 million. Another 250,000 donors made up the remaining $392 million. "Only 250,000 folks give $35 or more out of 8 million LGBT folks that are capable of giving $35 or more," said Perry.
David E. Ratcliffe, director of the Merrill Lynch Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management, said that LGBT donors must address the challenge of supporting LGBT nonprofits.
"How do we not only support our own financial well-being ... but how do we make the financial well-being and security of the nonprofit organizations that are out there fighting the fight on our behalf? How do we help them?" he said.
Ratcliffe shared some interesting statistics, including the fact that of the $260.28 billion given to charity in the U.S. in 2005, 80 percent came from individual donors and 5 percent came from corporations. Fifty percent of that amount went to religious and/or educational organizations and causes. Individuals are giving more, and want to be recognized by nonprofit grantees and have more control over how their investments are spent, he noted.
The U.S. is a deeply philanthropic nation, he added, and suggested people attempt to give more of their income to nonprofits because otherwise the U.S. government will decide where and how people's money is spent (the more people give to the nonprofit organizations of their choice, the less money will be taxed).
In addition, by taking advantage of creative estate planning techniques, one can attempt to avoid tax problems from which legally married spouses are automatically exempt. Members of the LGBT community and LGBT donors in particular, must seek what Ratcliffe called "double bottom line philanthropy," wherein they search for both financial and social returns on their philanthropic investments.
"How do we fund philanthropic interests we care about, how do we make a difference in our community, how do we create and sustain ability and capacity in the nonprofit organizations that are trying to achieve the missions that we have put out for them to achieve? This is what it's all about," he said.
Julie Dorf, director of philanthropic services and development at Horizons, spoke about what giving trends look like in the local LGBT community. Horizons pulled together research from the 2000 census, a survey it did in 2003, and a research report issued by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles in October 2006. Dorf told the Bay Area Reporter that Horizons' 2006 research confirmed its 2003 findings in that there are approximately 400,000 LGBT-identified people in the nine-county Bay Area region.
Of those 400,000 self-identified LGBT people, they discovered 25,000, or just 6 percent, are donors. Of those, only 8.3 percent were major donors. There are simply not enough LGBT people giving to LGBT and other nonprofit organizations, she said.
Referring to the 6 percent of LGBT people who give, Dorf said: "Obviously, we need that number to move. Just imagine if we could double that, so we get 12 percent giving. Imagine what we could do in terms of our movement."
Kate Kendell, executive director of NCLR, spoke about the small number of people who are motivated and passionate about giving. Because the LGBT movement has come so far, especially in the last two decades, some LGBT people can live their entire lives without ever feeling outright, direct discrimination.
"Only 3 percent of donor giving goes to nonprofits headed by individuals of color. Even a smaller percentage goes to organizations focused on social justice advocacy, really trying to move everyone forward, recognizing that folks are marginalized for a number of reasons based on race or class or gender identity or sexual orientation," Kendell said. "It's actually a very small number of people that we're able to motivate, who have passion for giving.
"There are a finite number of people who are going to be moved by that in a passionate way," she added.
Like Dorf, Kendell spoke of what the future might hold.
"Its amazing what we've been able to achieve with these very small numbers of people investing in a vision of what the world could be É What kind of world would we really live in [if more LGBT people invested]?" she asked. "What would it be like to really invest at a level that maybe 20 years from now, because we've been serious, we don't hear the same kinds of stories anymore?"