LGBT Groups Face Uncertain Financial Times

About 35 LGBT leaders met in Washington, D.C., to discuss how they can conserve resources and still advance the movement during an economic downturn.

BY Kerry Eleveld

February 20 2009 1:00 AM ET

Money Salary Earning Wages (Getty) | Advocate.com

Chrisler agreed with
the sentiment expressed by many that mergers don't tend to
create immediate savings and sometimes even cost money, but she
added that they can make sense if two organizations work better
as one. In Family Equality's case, the merger with Rainbow
Families, which had an annual budget of around $350,000, was
about a "break-even" in terms of expenses.

"They came with a
funding stream -- a pre-identified set of donors and
foundations," she explained, "and we were able to offload a
lot of the back-office work -- they're getting much more robust
fund-raising support and we are able to do all the HR
and health care, which is hard when you're a small
organization."

The upside for Family
Equality is that it joined forces with a group that had
on-the-ground experience with running prospective parenting
groups, LGBT parenting conferences, and getting parents engaged
with creating systemic change in public schools.

"For us, it was
opportunity to leverage local work and see what was
replicatable in other places across the country," Chrisler
said.

Of course, there's
really no such thing as a "hostile takeover" in the
nonprofit sector. Instead, the boards of both entities must
agree that uniting would mutually benefit their missions.
Chrisler said the Rainbow Families board was given an
opportunity to examine their strategic goals after the
executive director left, something that often offers
boards the space to consider restructuring.

"Their board was very
smart to say let's look at the ways we can ensure the long-term
sustainability of the mission of this organization, not the
organization itself, but the mission," she said.

No one
The Advocate

spoke with said they were entertaining these type of
conversations with other entities presently, but some said they
wouldn't be surprised if groups consider the prospect down the
road.

Wolfe noted that the
Victory Fund, as a political action committee, had certain
legal hurdles to merging with other PACs that nonprofit groups
(known as C3s and C4s based on their tax code designation) do
not. But he added, "We would be flattered if anybody wanted
to work with us -- if they respected our work and our
management in that way."

Overall, people were
upbeat about the steps the movement was taking to confront
adversity.

"I think the donors
should feel a great deal of confidence," said the National
Black Justice Coalition's Robinson, "because the
executive directors really were looking forward and trying to
be responsible stewards of the funds we receive." But he also
noted "a great deal of uncertainty" and said many people
were anxious about the future.

Chrisler concurred:
"We are in the most amazing of times for the LGBT civil
rights movement. We have more access and more opportunity than
we've ever seen before, and yet we're in an economy where we're
really concerned about the number of resources that are going
to be available."

Tags: Politics

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