Evgeniya Tomashevskaya/shutterstock
Evgeniya Tomashevskaya/shutterstock

Many grantmakers and related entities are adapting their work in response to COVID-19, and LGBTQ-focused funders are no exception. The affinity group Funders for LGBTQ Issues canceled its 10th annual spring conference and offered a virtual Funding Forward. It is now providing resources on how this pandemic is affecting its communities, and what funders can do to help.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues has published a COVID-19 LGBTQ funding page that shares grant opportunities, grassroots fundraising campaigns, and other resources and examples for best practices. “LGBTQ people are going to be some of the people most impacted by this pandemic and the potential economic downturn. Let’s get ahead of this as much as we can by being bold today,” Funders for LGBTQ Issues Vice President of Research and Communications Lyle Matthew Kan says.

Quick and Flexible Funding for Pressing Needs

There are multiple reasons LGBTQ populations need extra support right now. LGBTQ people, especially trans folks, are disproportionately poor. Most states lack explicit laws prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination across sectors like employment and housing, and new bills citing religion as justification to discriminate keep popping up. And members of LGBTQ communities often face barriers to healthcare, which can worsen during a crisis.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues says many of its members are already taking or exploring a number of steps to support their communities. Three main avenues are discussed: easing grantmaking processes, altering the forms of grants and technical support available, and changing internal practices to better support staff.

These calls for greater flexibility and responsiveness from grantmakers echo much of what we hear throughout the sector during this and other crises (and during calmer periods, as well). Many funders have already altered or broadened how funds can be used. For example, the Groundswell Fund changed the parameters of its Rapid Response Fund to support campaigns and organizations adapting to COVID-19.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues states more general operating support and rapid-response funds are needed. The Pride Foundation is running a Crisis Community Care Fund, which it states will be “flexible and geared toward supporting general operations” and “will have a simple and very low-barrier process.” The Horizons Foundation created an LGBTQ COVID-19 Response Emergency Fund, which focuses on supporting COVID-19 programs from LGBTQ-primary groups in the Bay Area, and on helping groups experiencing “critical near-term organizational financial need.”

Another example of a regional LGBTQ funding response is a $25,000 rapid response grant round from the Campaign for Southern Equality, which will directly benefit individuals, families and community groups of the LGBTQ South. The New York Women’s Foundation launched an LGBTQ-inclusive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, providing $1 million in grants to help organizations meet the needs of “girls, women, [transgender, gender-nonconforming and gender nonbinary] people, and their families.”

To support their staff during these challenging times, Funders for LGBTQ Issues says grantmakers can increase paid sick and personal days, mental health service benefits, and training and resources for remote work. Funders for LGBTQ Issues and several of its members have adapted Wikimedia Foundation’s implementation of a reduced workweek (a minimum of 20 hours weekly without a pay cut).

Vulnerable LGBTQ Subpopulations

Senior members of the LGBTQ community can experience greater levels of social isolation and related health risks. Given that COVID-19 is very dangerous for older people, this population will need heightened support. Funding for older LGBTQ adults increased between 2017 and 2018, from about $2.4 million to $9.1 million, or from 2% to 6% of all giving in this area ranked by subpopulation.

LGBTQ community centers are key front-line service providers for LGBTQ people of all ages, and they need support to adapt and continue their programming at this time. SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders) in NYC, a top 2018 LGBTQ funding grantee, has temporarily closed its centers. But it will carry out check-in wellness calls and provide social services via phone. SAGE received close to $4.5 million in 2018 and has been supported by Ford, the Small Change Foundation and Broadway Cares.

The online LGBTQ community platform them created the guide, “How LGBTQ People Can Get Help and Resources During Coronavirus.” It shares that Los Angeles’ LGBT Center, Washington D.C.’s Whitman-Walker, San Diego’s Center and others are offering evaluations and coordinating support via phone and email. The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging offers a page of COVID-19 links and information, including Interim Guidance for COVID-19 and Persons with HIV, and the CDC’s guidance for older adults. LGBTQ-affirming health care providers can be found at HRC’s health care quality index, GLMA’s health provider directory, the CDC’s database of LGBTQ-inclusive health clinics or CenterLink’s national LGBTQ+ center database.

Young LGBTQ people also need specialized support. About 40% of youth who are homeless identify as LGBTQ. Casa Ruby, a homeless shelter for these young people in D.C., remains open and is seeing a client increase since the current coronavirus hit the area. Its big supporters have included the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Arcus Foundation and Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Candid is compiling grant opportunities from community foundations and others in response to this epidemic, and many of them seek to serve people who are homeless. These include the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund in Massachusetts, ACT for Alexandria’s COVID-19 Response Fund, United Way of Greater Los Angeles Pandemic Relief Fund, and more. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation gave $250,000 to Brilliant Corners, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County department of health services, to support the County’s COVID-19 services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues Director of Research and Communications Andrew Wallace says his organization has “documented persistent underfunding of work related to economic issues, which received only 5% of all foundation support [in 2018], much of which went specifically to address LGBTQ homelessness.”

Diverse grassroots funding campaigns are sprouting up in response to the pandemic, like the Emergency COVID Relief fund for Sex Workers in New York. The GoFundMe, “COVID-19 Mutual Aid Fund for LGBTQI+ BIPOC Folks” has a $250,000 goal. And some of the arts-related crowdfunding campaigns that have emerged lately are LGBTQ-specific, like this Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund.

Members of the LGBTQ community who face intersectional marginalization due to race, immigration status and other factors are at particular risk. Along with direct relief and services, advocacy is an important part of the COVID-19 response. The Transgender Law Center, in partnership with the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, recently called on ICE to release all people now detained, and for the Department of Homeland Security to shut down its centers, in response to COVID-19. The Transgender Law Center is backed by Fidelity Charitable, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Arcus Foundation, and others.

Wallace also says his group would, in general, “love to see more sustained investment in work to combat violence, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. This lack of funding is particularly distressing, given the current rise in violence toward Asian American and Pacific Islander [(AAPI)] communities.” He notes that funding for LGBTQ AAPI people fell in 2018.

Additional Philanthropic Resources and Responses

Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ COVID-19 informational hub also shares a list of COVID-19 funds from Giving Compass and the National Center for Family Philanthropy. And this, “Database of Localized Resources During COVID-19 Outbreak,” includes some links for queer, trans and elder care, including through mutual aid. As we’ve reported, numerous COVID-19 funds have now been established. Many foundations—from Gates downward—have stepped up with major commitments, along with some billionaires. Find more of our ongoing COVID-19 coverage here.

“I believe [it’s] important for all funders to acknowledge that this is not a business as usual moment. Our sector needs to step up and stretch ourselves for the sake of our grantees and society [at large]. And as we do so, let’s remember LGBTQ people,” Kan says.

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