What We're Reading: New research on charitable giving to LGBTQ+ organizations

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy: A new report on giving to LGBTQ+ organizations found that, from 2015 to 2019, they received just 0.13 percent of overall philanthropic support but grew their giving faster than non-LGBTQ+ groups during that time. Donations to LGBTQ+ groups increased 46.3 percent, while contributions to non-LGBTQ+ nonprofits grew just 24.9 percent. Researchers ended their study in 2019, the most recent year they could access near-complete tax filings from organizations. The findings come from Equitable Giving Lab, a research project of the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that digs into how philanthropy serves historically marginalized communities.

“This movement is grossly underfunded,” says Elise Colomer-Cheadle, director of development for OutRight International, a global LGBTIQ human-rights group. Colomer-Cheadle also served as a member of the advisory council for the report. “While we are seeing positive growth patterns, the resources pale in terms of the need,” she adds.

Compared with other groups, LGBTQ+ nonprofits receive less philanthropic support, on average, bring in less revenue, and have fewer assets and expenses, the report found. That’s common for nonprofits that serve marginalized communities, which tend to have few major donors and little if any fundraising infrastructure, says Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Giving to LGBTQ+ groups tracked closely with headline-grabbing events, researchers found. Dollars surged to LGBTQ+ nonprofits in 2017 and 2018, correlating with the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and a sharp spike in anti-LGBTQ legislation in statehouses across the country.

It’s an ebb and flow of dollars similar to disaster philanthropy, says Osili. LGBTQ+ groups can learn from the tactics disaster groups employ. “They have that opportunity to engage new donors with these events,” Osili says. She adds that advocacy organizations in particular should be mindful to communicate with their supporters year-round, not just when their mission is in the news.

For LGBTQ+ groups trying to engage a polarized society that’s about to head into a presidential campaign — and perhaps also an economic downturn — the baseline data in this report is crucial, Colomer-Cheadle says. With a clear picture of the recent state of philanthropic support they receive, she says, LGBTQ+ groups can set about strategically growing that support.

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