The Seattle-based Pride Foundation has helped address the heightened isolation, vulnerability and marginalization among LGBTQ communities of color in the Pacific Northwesta region with many predominantly white, largely rural, areas. Executive Director Audrey Haberman shares their story.
Tell me about Pride Foundation. When was it founded? What is its vision for the community?
Pride Foundation was founded in late 1985 by four people who believed that the LGBTQ community needed its own philanthropic organization. At that time, the dedication and determination of our community was evident in the many providers serving the community, but too often larger donations and bequests from LGBT individuals were gifted outside of the community to groups considered more financially sophisticated. Pride Foundation's answer was to create an endowment that would be prudently managed and professionally administered. A place where our community and our families and friends could confidently contribute to an organization committed to honoring their wishes and know that they are leaving a legacy that will endure for many generations to come.
In 1987, Pride Foundation awarded our first grants to organizations, totaling $7,654. This year, we will grant about $1 million in our 5-state region and another $5 million nationally through a designated planned gift.
Our mission has always been related to promoting philanthropy and strengthening the LGBTQ community. However we know that alone will not get us, or anyone else, the equity we all deserve. For that reason, our vision statement is also very important to who we are as an organization: Pride Foundation envisions a world that honors diversity, fosters mutual respect, and celebrates complete equality.
As you reflect on its history, what have been some of Pride Foundation's most renowned successes?
In 1993, we created one of the first scholarships for LGBT students in the country, based on a donor's bequest. The scholarship was for Seattle-area gay men of color. Our board of directors at the time was so moved by the students that we created another scholarship for LGBT students the next year. We are now one of the largest LGBTQ scholarship funds in the country. This year we awarded $265,000 to 111 students; 45 of the students are people of color andalso important to us10 are straight allies who have shown tremendous leadership within our movement.
We're also very proud of the work we have done with shareholder advocacy based on our endowment investments. Pride Foundation began our shareholder activism work in 1997, requesting through a shareholder vote that McDonald's and General Electric add protections based on sexual orientation to their workplace policies. At the time, less than one half of Fortune 500 companies had protections. We were emboldened by our success with both companies and have worked with many more since then. Now, almost all of the Fortune 500 have these policies.
Over the last several years we have also included gender identity in our work. Of course it feels good that our relatively small foundation's endowment can change corporate America, but it also feels right and within our values that we think of our endowment as a programand not just a fund.
This toolkit is exploring how funders can better promote racial equity in this country. Through your role at the Pride Foundation, how have you seen racial and economic inequities affect LGBTQ communities in the Pacific Northwest?
We find that there is often the perception that because we are in one of the whitest parts of the country, racial justice issues matter less. But in fact, the smaller numbers create smaller communities that are more isolated and often more vulnerable and marginalized.
In our region, communities of color represent about 20 percent of the population, yet in some of our smaller cities and rural areas, that percentage is much lower. So, isolation and fewer people of color here than in major urban areas, combined with a region that is predominantly white, (making it even more difficult to get momentum on issues of racial equity although we keep educating our white constituents that they must work for racial justice as well) results in less funding and less visibility for LGBTQ people of color organizations.
And that translates into organizations that have minimal infrastructure and frequent staff and volunteer turnover, so consistency and maintaining relationships is not always easy.
And that, in turn, means leaders of color are unable to get funding for their work because their organizations often don't have the capacity to write grants or solicit funding. And, because leaders have to spend time dealing with all of this, they are not making the connections and relationships that will help advance their work.
In 2007, The Pride 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 Pride Foundation apply for this funding?
We are a foundation that is always learning and is open to doing so. We felt confident that receiving this grant would significantly change how we do and think about our grantmaking. FLGI has offered us a concrete opportunity to work from our strengths and also to deepen our understanding of issues faced by LGBTQ people of color communities, raise awareness within ourselves and our broader constituency regarding the issues and concerns for queer people of color, and establish new and stronger relationships.
Although we have funded queer people of color groups prior to this grant, this grant presents a really exciting opportunity to increase our funding, strengthen our commitment, and be more deliberate and creative in our support.
I would add that when we applied for the grant, we felt it was very important that we not view this as a 3-year project with a beginning and an end. We wanted this program to have a permanent effect on our grantmaking and our own organizational leadership. Although we're about half- way through the program we originally designed, we are already having conversations about how we can continue or expand this program.
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?
We designed our project to have three components: convening, capacity building and unrestricted funding. At the onset of this project, isolation was listed as a key barrier to the health and longevity of grantee organizations, so the convenings were especially important to offer LGBTQ leaders of color a chance to meet one another and learn about the work being done in each of the organizations. The meetings have also served as a way to build relationships and communityan important strategy towards ending the isolation so often felt by LGBTQ people of color in the Pacific Northwest.
The benefits of breaking isolation have been very powerful and meaningful: Participants reported that the meetings helped connect organizations that did not know of each other, including organizations working in the same city. These convenings were unprecedented in that they were the first of their kind bringing regional LGBTQ leaders of color together in the Pacific Northwest specifically to build skills, decrease isolation and establish a network of regional leadership. Here's what one grantee (Frank Roa, director of Umatilla Morrow Alternatives) expressed:
The more inclusion I have with the Pride Foundation Racial Equity Initiative group means I'm not feeling as separated as when we started. I'm a part of something more than just this little area (Irrigon,OR). That's huge for me. I'm pretty much the only one in my community doing this work. These convenings offer a different atmosphere, it's important to me to be one of the group instead of the only one. We can offer support as leaders. I don't get that in my community where I am the leader. Having other people realize what we are doing out here is important because we have a tendency to not be heard because we're never seen.
And how has your foundation's outlook changed since it began this initiative?
Before we began this project, we had a practice of reaching out to queer people of color organizations to encourage them to apply for grants. (Our staff and board had requested that the make-up of the grants review committee be especially attentive to the parts of our LGBTQ communities that are further marginalized, including people of color.) The success rate for grants for queer people of color groups was very high, although our overall grants did not reflect that because so many of the organizations applied sporadically or did not apply at all. We made the first grants to several emerging organizations, including Northwest Two-Spirit and Trikone-Northwest. We also maintained strong partnerships with a number of organizations who we may not fund every year, but who we can offer help to in other ways such as access to other funders, support with board training, etc.
Because of this Initiative, I'd say one significant change is we now have a better understanding of the challenges faced by the LGBT people of color groups and leaders, and we can honor their work and vision more sincerely. Also, I'd say we have a strong sense of partnership with most of these grantees and we are not "just" a funder. This program has really brought home how critical it is to have meaningful working relationships that expand beyond any specific grant term.
Internally, our staff and board have a better understanding and awareness of issues, needs and trends, enabling us to work more intelligently and strategically as we move forward in building a strong community. We expect that, beyond the timeframe of this initiative, a larger percentage of our annual grantmaking budget will flow to these groups and we will continue to play a role in convening and offering capacity building support for these groups.
Finally, what advice would you give to a grantmaker who's interested in exploring funding to LGBTQ communities of color?
The process should start with an act of listening. I am so grateful that many of the leaders in this set of organizations were willing to be honest with us about what is working and what really is not. I think there was some skepticism at first, like, here comes another funder or institution asking us for feedback that they won't really take seriously. So I think it was important that we did follow-through. We worked from our strengths and we took the criticism that we heard very seriously. My guess is the tone and sincerity which we brought to this was just as, if not more, valuable as the funds and support we've offered since then.
Audrey Haberman, Executive Director, Pride Foundation (Seattle, WA)
Audrey Haberman is the Executive Director of the Seattle-based Pride Foundation, which has awarded $10 million to LGBTQ communities throughout the Pacific Northwest since 1987and was named Best Philanthropic Group (and one of the Best Places to Work) by Seattle Magazine in 2005. Audrey also serves as Vice President of the board of directors of Philanthropy Northwest, a regional association of grantmakers, and was recently named Community Leader of the Year by the Greater Seattle Business Association.
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