Racial Equity - Funders for LGBTQ Issues
About the Toolkit
Investing in leadership

Horizons Foundation has supported numerous leading LGBTQ organizations across the Bay Area since 1980—today it's helping diversify the leadership of LGBTQ organizations. Roger Doughty, Executive Director, and Jewelle Gomez, Director of Grants and Community Initiatives, discuss their foundation's successes.

Tell me about Horizons Foundation. When was it founded? What is its vision for the community?

When Horizons Foundation began in 1980, it was the world's first LGBT community foundation. That first year, the foundation gave out two $500 grants. Now, 29 years later, we've given out more than $18 million dollars and over 3,200 grants.

Our vision is simple: Horizons envisions a world where all people live free from prejudice and discrimination and where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people contribute to and thrive in a vibrant, diverse, giving and compassionate community.

Our mission is to strengthen the organizations that are meeting the needs, securing the rights, and celebrating the lives of LGBT people in the Bay Area, and promote giving as an integral part of a vibrant, healthy, compassionate LGBT community. We do this through a variety of programs, including grantmaking, leadership development, donor education, donor services, and philanthropic advocacy. Our long-term goal is to create a world free of prejudice and discrimination where LGBT people can thrive.

As you reflect on its history, what have been some of the Horizons Foundation's most notable successes?

We're very proud of the fact that Horizons has given many LGBT organizations their first grant, or one of their first grants, and they've gone on to become cornerstone institutions in the LGBT community—National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Gay Games, Project Open Hand, Lyon-Martin Health Services, Community United Against Violence, Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, Transgender Law Center, just to name a few. Back in 1982, we also gave the first two grants anywhere in the country to fund groups working on HIV/AIDS, including the organization that would go on to become the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Even though Horizons is best known for our grantmaking, we're also excited by the work we're doing now with our LGBT Community Endowment Fund, a permanent fund built primarily through planned gifts from many donors. With everything we've seen since we launched the fund in 2005, we think it has a great chance to create significant resources to fund the ongoing needs of our community, as well as give us the capacity to respond to unforeseeable issues (like marriage equality or AIDS) as they crop up.

Finally, Horizons plays an important role as a conduit between the LGBT community and the world of philanthropy, making sure LGBT concerns are heard by mainstream funders and bringing more money to meet our community's needs. For example, we recently received a $500,000 grant from the Community Leadership Project for grants focused on communities of color in California—we were one of only six regranting partners they selected statewide, and the only one focused on LGBT people of color.

This toolkit is exploring how funders can better promote racial equity in this country. Through your role at the Horizons Foundation, how have you seen racial and economic inequities affect LGBTQ communities in the Bay Area?

The Bay Area like many others has ready examples of how inequities affect our queer communities. One is a quick scan of the organizations that are viewed as representatives of our movement shows that none are led by people of color. The recent campaign against the anti-equal marriage ballot initiative, Proposition 8, revealed major flaws in the ability of local or national queer groups to make alliances with people of color communities in the Bay Area. Addressing the perception that the LGBT community is primarily, comfortably, middle class has yet to begin within the community itself. Although some organizations have programs aimed at economic issues few have made that a core part of their mission.

What is the POCIBLE (People of Color Initiative to Build Leadership and Effectiveness) program at Horizons? What does it hope to achieve?

POCIBLE is a grants program which will provide multi-year support for capacity building projects for POC/LGBT organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The POCIBLE grants will address four major goals: (1) to build the capacity of POC/LGBT organizations to ensure that they are strong, visible, effective, and sustainable; (2) to develop strong, capable, inspired, and supported leaders working actively within the LGBT community, especially but not exclusively in POC/LGBT organizations; (3) to build community, both among POC/LGBT organizations and leaders as well as between POC/LGBT and non-POC/LGBT organizations and leaders; and (4) to strengthen the larger LGBT movement.

In 2007, the Horizons Foundation was one of eight community foundations nationwide that received funding from Funders for LGBTQ Issues to better support LGBTQ people of color organizations. Why did the Horizons Foundation apply for this funding?

Horizons Foundation has long recognized—and been committed to addressing—the particular and persistent challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of color and their organizations face. Not surprisingly, many of these reflect the historical and contemporary racism of US society in general. Beyond those, other challenges include low levels of foundation funding; smaller administrative capacity to support an organization's work; and fewer opportunities for LGBT leaders of color to network at the professional and social gatherings where information and contacts are exchanged.

To help a core of people of color LGBT (POC/LGBT) organizations and individuals develop the capacity to play sustaining leadership roles in the LGBT community, Horizons has made investing in this area one of our grantmaking priorities, particularly through this new program, POCIBLE.

As the Racial Equity Initiative has developed, what specific changes have you seen in the community? How have LGBTQ people of color organizations and individuals been changed?

It's really too early to assess any quantitative change in either specific organizations or in the community. However the quality of discussion among grantees and applicants who were not funded in the POC/LGBT community has risen dramatically. The level of hopefulness is apparent in the questions asked and the discussion of the benchmarks each applicant develops for their capacity building projects.

Is there a grantee organization that you believe best embodies the vision of the Racial Equity Initiative?

Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) has a clear and articulated commitment to social change. The growth of their programs has been supported by considered development of their infrastructure and management. Their workshops and annual festival reach the most diverse populations of almost any cultural activity in the LGBT community.

And how has your foundation's outlook changed since it began this initiative?

Horizons Foundation has long been focused on addressing the inequities facing LGBT people of color. This initiative has helped us focus even more effectively—and given Horizons more resources to make change.

Finally, what advice would you give to a grantmaker who's interested in exploring funding to LGBTQ communities of color?

Make the first step in grantmaking an exploration of what organizations want. A research project Horizons funded provided responses from a dozen leaders of POC/LGBT organizations about their most significant challenges and successes leading Horizons to focus on what makes the organizations thrive rather than trying to 'fix' things that objectively might seem under developed.

Roger Doughty & Jewelle Gomez, Executive Director & Director of Grants and Community Initiatives, Horizons Foundation (San Francisco, CA)

Roger Doughty has held senior positions with the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and Chicago's Horizons Community Services, and has led Bay Area-based Horizons Foundation as its Executive Director since 2002. He has been active in the LGBT movement for more than 20 years.

Jewelle Gomez, author and activist, has worked in philanthropy for more than 20 years including at the New York State Council on the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Astraea Foundation. She serves as Director of Grants and Community Initiatives at Horizons Foundation.

Horizons Foundation