Jack Butler

Learning Design Coordinator

Philanthropy means “the love of humankind.” A beautiful message that, at its core, is equitable. We are all human after all. But many marginalized people know how it feels to be an afterthought—or worse, thought of as less than human.

For LGBTQ+ people, community is everything. As RuPaul often says, “We as gay people get to choose our family…” And we do choose, with great care, to love, support, and uplift each other—welcoming all people into our chosen circles who value that core message of philanthropy: the love of humankind.

Recent data from Equitable Giving Lab found that 2,800 organizations in the U.S. focused on the LGBTQ+ community received approximately $560 million in 2019, accounting for just 0.13% of all giving in the U.S. that year. While that number may be discouraging, the data also shows that giving to LGBTQ+ organizations increased by 43.6% from 2015 to 2019, outpacing growth in giving to non-LGBTQ+ organizations at 24.9%. And transgender-specific organizations saw even greater growth at nearly 200%.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, increased giving to LGBTQ+ causes and organizations can easily be traced to political and social events during that same period. “It’s an ebb and flow of dollars similar to disaster philanthropy,” says Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She goes on to mention that, while these events can be a great opportunity to engage new donors, advocacy organizations in particular should continue to engage with supporters year-round. This is supported by another critical figure in the data—52.8% of dollars to LGBTQ+ organizations in 2019 were to those focused on civil rights and advocacy.

The LGBTQ+ Index Report also shows the growing opportunity for individual giving by high-net-worth individuals. While it does point out that gifts to LGBTQ+ causes and organizations are predominantly small, the growth of larger contributions is cause for hope. The report highlights a series of studies of high-net-worth philanthropy conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in partnership with U.S. Trust, finding in the 2016 wave of the study that 4.8% of respondents gave to LGBTQ+ causes and organizations, followed by 7% in 2018, and holding at 6.5% in 2020.

Just this month, MacKenzie Scott continued her triumphant string of giving by donating over $30 million to LGBTQ+ community-led nonprofits around the U.S., saying “They are vital agents of change.” These one-time gifts will be transformative for the organizations, their missions—and the communities they serve.

The key takeaway: Donors need to be inspired to contribute to LGBTQ+ causes in more meaningful ways. To inspire bigger philanthropy in non-disaster times, it is important to share our stories—to uplift LGBTQ+ voices and experiences year-round—and to share those stories inside and outside of the community. As the data shows, the majority of giving goes to causes and organizations focused on civil rights and advocacy—equality for people. Larger contributions are possible when we focus on the impact on people. We don’t need to wait for disaster to strike, or Pride Month to come around.

“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

—Barbara Gittings