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Charities appeal for holiday donations

Contributions of any size welcomed by dozens of needy groups

Sasha Van Bon Bon was a special guest at Buddies in Bad Times' annual Art Attack fundraiser on Nov 10. Credit: Katie Toth

Fundraisers and executive directors of dozens of queer charities and community groups will soon be making their annual holiday pitch for Toronto gays and lesbians to open their wallets.

For those able to give, all the requests can be overwhelming, but Doug Kerr, co-chair of the LGBT Giving Network, has some suggestions for maximizing the impact of your contribution.

“It’s really important that donors are aware of what the issues are broadly in the community these days. For example, we hear a lot about suicide, but how do you translate that?” he says.

Kerr suggests that for some, a desire to help queer youth could translate into a cash donation to an organization such as the LGBT Youth Line, Supporting Our Youth, the 519 Community Centre or the Community One Foundation, which doles out grants to queer community groups, including gay-straight alliances.

Other forms of philanthropy that make a difference include volunteering time or taking up a leadership or board position.

Brandon Sawh, fundraising coordinator at LGBT Youth Line, says the organization always welcomes new volunteers.

“Our service volunteers are all under 26, so we have fantastic opportunities for youth to learn to be young leaders,” he says. For older community members, “we have tons of committees — fundraising, event planning — that they can be involved in.”

People are often motivated by a desire to help develop the community, Kerr says. Depending on where donors’ interests lie, they may give to political causes, arts and heritage, or HIV and health causes.

Contributions to political organizations are generally not eligible for tax receipts, but donations to Egale and Queer Ontario will help those organizations continue to fight for queer rights.

Supporting art and heritage can take several forms. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and the Inside Out film festival both showcase queer culture and offer mentorship programming for youth.

Arts organizations often struggle to make the community understand that they are non-profits and run on donations.

“I really wanted to help Buddies with the awareness that we are a non-profit and the work that it does for queer youth and bringing art to the community,” says lisaj lander, who recently took over as Buddies’ director of development.

“As anybody who’s working in theatre in this day and age knows, the grants are drying up, and the air around us is not as positive,” she says.

Gay history is preserved in the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and although the parade is six months away, making a donation to Pride Toronto will help the organization continue to celebrate queer culture and fight for queer rights.

HIV continues to be a major cause for the community. Local organizations like the AIDS Committee of Toronto and the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation support HIV-positive people in our community and work to prevent the spread of HIV.

Whatever cause you choose to give to, Kerr says donors should be concerned about the impact their contributions will have. “LGBT people should try and be aware of whether or not those organizations are supportive of LGBT people,” he says.

If donors are unsure, they should call and ask an organization, before making a donation, whether they have anti-discrimination policies and whether they serve queer people.

And no donation is too small.

“We have some who donate $10 per month, some who donate $200 per month; we have some who donate $100 at a time, some who donate $1,000,” lander says. “I’m grateful to them all. It makes a huge difference.”