Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia on Unsplash
Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia on Unsplash

With renewed legislative and physical attacks against transgender people making headlines, and queer and trans people of color continuing to suffer from the harshest impacts of COVID-19 at rates higher than the general populace, LGBTQ communities’ needs remain at the forefront of philanthropy. Though visibility and recognition have made for steadily increasing totals in grantmaking, a report from LGBT Funders found that in 2018, the last year for which data on LGBTQ funding trends is available, for every $100 awarded by philanthropic foundations, only 28 cents went toward LGBTQ issues.

In spite of the tiny share given to organizations focused on queer and trans people, there is some good news: In 2018, LGBTQ organizations received nearly $210 million, representing a 13% increase from the previous year’s total of $185.8 million. It’s quite possible that in the two years since LGBT Funders’ most recent data, that number has only risen further.

This regular increase is thanks, in large part, to funders specifically geared toward giving to LGBTQ communities. Here are five of the most powerful funders to watch in this space.

Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice

Founded in the late 1970s, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is one of the oldest LGBTQ funders in the United States. In 2018 (the last year for which the organization has publicized its financials), Astraea gave $2.8 million to LGBTQ groups—$1.2 million of which went to groups led by lesbians, bisexuals and queer women; and $1.6 million toward groups led by trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Astraea bills itself as “the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) human rights around the globe,” and aims to be intersectional and inclusive, meaning the organization is interested in funding people and groups who are also members of other oppressed communities. It also considers arts and cultural work to be a powerful tool of change and works to fund arts groups that fall under the LGBTQI umbrella.

Horizons Foundation

In 2020, the San Francisco-based Horizons Foundation gave nearly $1 million in emergency grants to LGBTQ organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group bills itself as “the world’s first community foundation of, by, and for LGBTQ people,” and is in the business of increasing and securing endowments for LGBTQ people to make sure they see the future.

Along with fundraising for queer and trans communities, Horizons has also researched the needs of LGBTQ people in the San Francisco Bay area—and found that in spite of the region’s famed inclusiveness, community members still faced undue obstacles.

Stonewall Community Foundation

Named for the famous anti-police brutality riots at New York City’s Stonewall Inn gay club in the late 1960s, the Stonewall Community Foundation gives to both nonprofits and individuals who are part of the LGBTQ community.

Founded in 1990 at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that took the lives of millions of gay men, the Stonewall Community Foundation has given $20 million in grants to date in endowed and donor-advised funds, alongside annual grantmaking. The group boasts a roster of 100 funded nonprofits per year, and notes that nearly 60% of its funding goes to trans communities.

The Gill Foundation

Founded in 1994 by Tim Gill, one of the first openly gay people on the Forbes 400 list, the Gill Foundation is one of the United States’ largest LGBTQ funding organizations. As of 2018, Gill had funded nearly $350 million since its inception and focuses much of its efforts on securing equal rights for LGBTQ people in the US.

In 1996, the Gill Foundation created its OutGiving donor network, which features high-dollar LGBTQ funders and holds an annual conference.

Arcus Foundation

Though funding LGBTQ issues isn’t the Arcus Foundation’s sole purpose (the other is ape conservation), it is nonetheless one of the biggest power players in the queer and trans funding space. The foundation was launched by Jon Stryker, an architect and philanthropist who is an heir to a medical equipment supply fortune.

Founded in 2000, the Arcus Foundation states that the majority of its multi-year grants are between $100,000 and $150,000 per year, and that it has “distributed more than 2,000 grants to more than 500 organizations in more than 50 countries” since its inception. In 2019, it awarded nearly $14.3 million to LGBTQ causes.

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