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Supporting ourselves

Network wants to encourage queer philanthropy

Big business has long since learned to leverage pink purchasing power, marketing products and services directly to queers. It’s only fair that queer organizations band together to ask big business for charitable donations in return.

“There is a huge business case for companies to support LGBT nonprofits,” says Philip Wong, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal (LGCA). “It sends a message to employees that they are equitable and, from a customer standpoint, I know that when I go shopping if I have a choice between two companies and I know one company has been supportive of LGBTQ services I’m going to shop at that company.”

But Wong says donations haven’t always been forthcoming.

“We’re not there when the decisions get made so we don’t know how homophobia or biphobia has a play in the decisionmaking,” says Wong, “but it has only been more recent that companies have been more open and accepting. Only recently have we gained access to funding resources that other charities have had access to for some time.”

The LGCA is one of 16 nonprofit organizations that have joined forces to become the LGBT Giving Network, a newly assembled partnership formed to promote queer philanthropy and share resources and support. The network is hosting its first initiative on Sat, Apr 5, a one-day conference sponsored by TD Waterhouse that will look at how to attract potential donors and how nonprofits can work together. Panels include recruiting senior fundraising volunteers and female philanthropy and are geared toward fundraisers and nonprofit volunteers.

Wong says that philanthropy in the US is much more established. Just last month gay philanthropist Ric Wieland gave $65 million to Seattle’s Pride Foundation.

“Compared to the rich resources and dialogue in the States we’re really far behind,” Wong says.

Establishing a tradition of queer philanthropy in Canada is part of what the network is aiming to achieve.

“We need to share how we interact as nonprofits and what our needs are and share that information with our donors,” says Wong. “It benefits us to have a strong LGBTQ community and that includes not only individuals but nonprofit organizations.”

Ken Aucoin, one of the founders of the LGBT Giving Network, is the director of alumni and development at U of T’s University College, the location for the upcoming conference.

Aucoin, a fundraiser for 15 years, says the idea of the network was sparked by a conversation with Doug Kerr, a longtime LGCA volunteer and employee at the Sage Centre, a charity that works on environmental sustainability.

“Doug and I were speaking about the possibility of creating some kind of opportunity for communities here to work together to encourage more philanthropic support of LGBT issues and causes,” says Aucoin. “We got a number of colleagues together that work at several organizations like Inside Out, the LGCA and The 519 and we started having meetings and brainstorming what we could do and how we could work together. Ultimately we ended up with the LGBT Giving Network.”