Google’s headquarters in June. Sundry Photography/shutterstock

Google’s headquarters in June. Sundry Photography/shutterstock

This has been a banner year for celebrating Gay Pride. In New York City, an estimated 150,000 people marched down Fifth Avenue in one of the largest parades ever, and a crowd of more than 2,000 spilled across the sidewalks in front of the historic Stonewall Inn, the bar that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Celebrations in other cities seemed to mark progress. Chicago’s first openly gay mayor, Lori Lightfoot, led her city’s march. But in other places, like San Francisco, the community attracted a large police presence by protesting the Trump administration’s rollback of transgender rights. 

In the span of five years, the country has whiplashed between legalizing same-sex marriage and a series of anti-LGBTQ actions, from discharging trans troops to a violent attack in Orlando. It took the president until this year to finally acknowledge that Pride Month exists—by tweet, of course.

Politics aside, it was hard to miss the Instagrammable rainbow flags flying across everything from ATMs to Absolut Vodka. Amazon dedicated a site to Gay Pride apparel. Sam Adams created a special edition beer, “Love Conquers Ale.” Facebook was flooded with business ads offering Pride travel and shopping discounts. And Gay Pride hashtags trended all month in June on Twitter.

Judging solely on the optics, corporate America appears to be all-in on supporting the LGBTQ community. But how much of that enthusiasm translates to addressing the tough issues the community faces, from health and wellness to safe schools?

Much More Than Grantmaking

The numbers can be difficult to capture. Grantmaking is transparent, but doesn’t tell the whole story. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) estimates that foundation giving only accounts for 34 percent of overall business support for LGBTQ causes. Direct cash from marketing or affinity groups accounts for 48 percent. In-kind giving follows at 18 percent.

Behind these philanthropic investments are considerations about the bottom line. Research shows that the LGBTQ community represents purchasing power of nearly a trillion dollars annually. And the tight labor market’s made creating an inclusive workplace a business imperative. Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies. 

On the foundation side, data shows that corporate grant support has soared, more than tripling since 2012. Funders for LGBTQ Issues 2017 report on LGBTQ grantmaking by U.S. foundations shows a record-breaking year, with $27.1 million in total giving. That’s up 5 percent from last year’s high of $25.9 million, which was driven in part by the $9.4 million response to the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. While corporate funding represents only 14 percent of overall support for LGBTQ causes, corporate funders and community foundations racked up the largest increases.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues credits the upswing to substantial funding surges by two reliable stalwarts: Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare, both of which are heavily involved in HIV/AIDS work. Gilead doubled its support in 2017. ViiV’s funding grew from $1.27 million to $2.9 million, an increase of 128 percent. Two top funders, Gilead and the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund, landed on the top 10 list for giving overall. 

A Focus on HIV/AIDS

The Gilead Foundation, established in 2015, focuses on expanding access to HIV and hepatitis education, outreach, prevention and health services. In 2016, it invested $7.5 million in GLBTQ issues. In 2017, that number jumped to $11.7 million, moving Gilead into first place among corporation foundation supporters.

Its U.S. HIV work is comprehensive. The foundation funds in three categories: HIV/AIDS, HIV Cure and HIV Prevention. Its general HIV/AIDS funding centers on understanding the disease’s impact on the aging, ensuring care continuity, sparking innovative treatments, and creating a new generation of advocates. Cure funding supports work to discover life-saving medicines and simplified treatment regiments, expands access to treatment, and builds communities among the affected. Prevention efforts fund tools to help prevent infection, from education to biomedical interventions and community engagement. 

According to its 990, the Gilead Foundation’s top three U.S. HIV/AIDS grants in 2017 were a million dollars each to the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Campaign for Health and Wellness, and a $250,000 grant to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMAC) for workforce development. 

Changes are underway for the other corporate foundation that took a spot in the top 10 list overall, the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund. While still the number two corporate funder for LGBTQ issues, its numbers dropped in 2017, from $5.7 million to $4.9 million. 

Since 1994, the fund has raised more than a half a billion dollars to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic through the sales of it products, supporting nearly 10,000 grants to more than 1,800 partner organizations, including God’s Love We Deliver and the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. 

This year, it’s expanding its mission to, “fight for healthy futures and equal rights for women, girls, and the LGBTQ communities,” under a new name, the M∙A∙C VIVA GLAM Fund. It will also be funded through product sales. 

Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at the Estée Lauder Companies, says, “We now have testing and treatment needed to end AIDS—now we need to address head on the inequities and stigma that prevent women, girls, and LGBTQ communities from seeking and staying in treatment. In 2019, M∙A∙C will further that vision by evolving the mission to reflect the intersectional approach needed to end the epidemic.” 

This year, the Fund is beginning to support new partnerships, like a half-million-dollar investment in GLAAD’s media advocacy work, which is designed to accelerate LGBTQ acceptance.

Three other foundations are trending up. Wells Fargo and Google increased their giving by a million or more in 2017, and the Citi Foundation made its first appearance in the top 10.  Overall, the numbers say that corporate foundations are putting Pride month to action year-round.


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