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LGBTQ Philanthropy is Growing Yet Under Attack

23 November 2017 at 8:39 am
Wendy Williams
LGBTQ philanthropy in Australia should expect to face new battlegrounds after marriage equality is passed, according to US philanthropist, activist and researcher Dr Jason Franklin.

Wendy Williams | 23 November 2017 at 8:39 am


LGBTQ Philanthropy is Growing Yet Under Attack
23 November 2017 at 8:39 am

LGBTQ philanthropy in Australia should expect to face new battlegrounds after marriage equality is passed, according to US philanthropist, activist and researcher Dr Jason Franklin.

Franklin, the W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, is set to speak at The Channel’s grant announcement event, hosted by Australian Communities Foundation in Melbourne on Monday.

The giving circle, which was established in December 2016 and seeks to “grow the pot of gold under the rainbow”, will be announcing the recipient of its $5,000 Overcoming Isolation grant.

Ahead of the event Franklin told Pro Bono News he thought the state of LGBTQ philanthropy globally was simultaneously “growing, inspiring and under attack”.

“What I mean by that, is that it is growing because I think you see this momentum that has been building first in the US, and in western Europe, and Australia and now it is spreading to other parts of the world where you are seeing a real push both for marriage equality as a rallying cry but also other issues, from protections against workplace discriminations and other political rights, to freedom of expression or artistic protections for the trans community in particular. And you’re seeing more attention being paid to it all over the globe,” Franklin said.

“On the flip side, I say that it’s under attack, because it’s part of a broader trend around the shrinking of civil society that we’re seeing in so many parts of the world, where governments are trying to limit the ability of the charitable sector or the third sector to support advocacy and organising, and that can take everything from prohibitions against foreign funding to restrictions on the uses of charitable dollars, to restrictions on what is even considered allowable to advocate for, and in some of the most repressive countries around the world we’re actually seeing it made illegal to even say the word ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’.

“So it’s this moment where I think we’re both incredibly optimistic and very frightened simultaneously.”

Speaking about the impact the Australian same sex marriage survey result could have on the philanthropic sector, he said the US had feared they would see a drop in funding for the LGBT community in the wake of marriage equality but this did not come to pass.

However Franklin said the US had seen a shift in focus to other issues.

“You know I can’t say what will happen in Australia. But there was definitely a concern by especially funders and advocacy organisations in the U.S. that after marriage equality was won, the money would dry up and you didn’t see that happen,” he said.

“I think what we saw instead was two things. One was that many of the other issues within the LGBT community, particularly around LGBT youth homelessness, LGBT elders and the dynamics of aging, protections for the trans community, protections for communities of colour and minority communities, LGBT communities within those sub communities, those started to get more attention. And you saw funders staying in court.

“We did see some funders shifting from domestic work to be funding more international work.”

But he said the US also saw new battlegrounds being formed.

“Sadly… after marriage equality, you saw the opponents of LGBT inclusion really push hard on other things,” Franklin said.

“So in particular we’ve seen threats around religious exemptions and using religion as a justification for discrimination. And you see real pushback against the transgender community in the US. Those two things in particular have become new battlegrounds.

“So I think the concern was, we would win marriage equality and things would quiet and people would go away. Instead we won marriage equality here and the attacks shifted to other fronts and so the organising and the rallying shifted to other fronts.”

Franklin used the Proteus Fund, a foundation which housed a number of different funder collaboratives where he serves as board chair, as a “concrete example” of this shift.

He said the fund ran the Civil Marriage Collaborative, which was the largest collaborative fund to support the marriage equality movement in the US, for nine years. However it closed in November 2015 after the movement won.

“We gave out the last grants and closed down. We now have a new fund that has just been opened a couple of months ago called The Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative which actually has many of the same funders, and some new ones, who are coming together this time to push back against the use of religion as a means of words for discrimination. And so you’ve seen continued energy within US philanthropy to continue the fight,” he said.

He said he “dreamed of a day” where there was full inclusion and equity for the LGBT community so this type of advocacy would not be needed, but that society was “far away from that”.

“So I think the organising and philanthropy and the organising of the charitable sector will continue as a result,” he said.

Franklin cautioned Australia not to get complacent after the success of the same sex marriage survey result.

“There is always a risk after a hard won victory to relax and to catch your breath. And unfortunately I think what we know from the U.S. and from the European and other examples is that after a victory you should take the moment to celebrate – because we don’t celebrate enough. We don’t win enough, and when we do we need to celebrate – but then we have to get right back to work because there will be other threats to the LGBT community,” he said.

“The groups in Australia that have been so critical in advancing the campaign for marriage equality, are going to be called on for other campaigns because full lived equality is a lot more than marriage.”

He said encouraging greater LGBTI philanthropy required drawing connections to what people already cared about.

“What we know is that as people build relationships with members of the LGBTI community they become allies and then they become advocates and funders. And perhaps the most important thing has been increasing visibility as a step towards support,” Franklin said.

“I think also we’ve seen as you start to acknowledge the connections between various identities you bring new allies into funding.

“So in the U.S. as we’ve acknowledged the dynamics of health for the LGBTI community, for example, you’ve seen some health philanthropy start to prioritize projects for the LGBT community.

“As we talked about, LGBT youth homelessness. In the US, sadly four out of every 10 homeless youth are LGBTQ identified, way overrepresented compared to how many of the overall youth population. But as that has become more clear, even in Grand Rapids where I lived in Michigan we have a local LGBT fund that I’m part of and we have focused on youth homelessness as the first priority issue. We have a lot of people join us who are straight who care about kids.

“And so it is bridging to what other people are concerned about. So those are the biggest two things: drawing the connections back to the issues people already care about and building the personal relationships so people see why it matters to them.”

He said giving circles had a unique role to play to try to increase funding, but he said funding campaigns for the LGBTI community should always be multi-pronged.

“You know we’ve seen the success of giving circles like The Channel and many others in the US as well, as a way to organise more people to become actively engaged donors,” he said.

“You need to have giving circles. But you need to target larger foundations. You need to do campaigns to try to engage individual wealthy families and individuals. You need to engage corporate leaders to become real allies.

“Some of the best results recently in pushing back against discrimination against the transgender community in the US have actually come from corporate allies who said we won’t do business in this state if you pass a bill to discriminate. And it’s been both their corporate leadership and [for] some of them also their funding that have been really critical.

“So I think it’s not an either or, it’s a giving circle, yes, large foundations, yes, individual donors, yes, corporations, yes. You have to go in all avenues.”

He said it was inspiring to see The Channel grow.

“I think that’s a powerful example where it really says you don’t have to be wealthy to also be a donor. And it really invites a broader part of the LGBT community and their allies to become supporting donors as well as activists and public allies in this work,” he said.

Franklin said he didn’t think the LGBTI community were “looking at the end of the fight any time soon”.

“Sadly I think we’re quite a ways. I mean it’s hard to know,” he said.

“When I came out when I was 17-years-old I thought that meant I would never be able to get married… So the fact that you know 20 years later marriage is the law of the land, I’m still just in complete amazement. I didn’t believe it would be possible in my lifetime, let alone before I turned 40.

“And so on one hand it shows me that incredible change in possible in a short period of time. At the same time, I think we are going to face resistance to full equality for many decades to come.”

But he said it was about making things possible for future generations.

“When they came out of the U.S. Supreme Court announcing the verdict, that we had won, it was just tears and amazement,” he said.

“I talk now to some of my students who have come out and their view of what’s possible for their future is so much more open and expansive than what I would have imagined, and my view of what was possible when I was 17, was so much more than the generation before me.

“We do this work to make things possible for you know, our kids and our grandkids and nieces and our nephews as much as we do for ourselves.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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