Since 2006, the State of the States report by Equality Federation has documented the strength and sustainability of state-based advocacy organizations that advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the communities they call home.

Over the past eight years, State of the States has faithfully documented our movement’s triumphs and trials as reflected in the capacity of our state-based organizations. This year, we will maintain this spirit, while telling the story of our movement not just in numbers, but through the incredible work of our members.

In the posts that follow, we’ll review the highlights from the culmination of recent data we collected from our members in hopes of providing an understanding of the current state-based LGBT movement, and look at what lies ahead for the future of the movement.

For Part 1, we look at the financial capacity of our movement — how groups are sustaining their budgets and attracting donors to support their incredible work.

Although funding is always stretched too thin, the movement’s state-based organizations do a lot with very little to continue making progress.

In 2013, Equality South Carolina decided to partner with three other organizations in their state to engage the LGBT community during a 24-hour online fundraising campaign called Give OUT Day. The organizations united their fundraising efforts, and ended up raising $25,000. And this past May they did it again, this time partnering with eight other organizations and raising over $45,000 collectively. Not only did South Carolina Equality raise money and increase their donor base, they created partnerships that will extend beyond these 24-hour events to collaborate on other important issues.

This is what our movement is all about — partnering with others to accomplish common goals. We are still a grassroots movement — we work on the ground and are finding new ways to support our work, especially as we enter a post-marriage moment.

  • The estimated total aggregate budget of 41 Federation member organizations is $25,643,409.
  • The median budget is $222,200 and the average is $625,449.   

Larger organizations, as well as those state groups running campaigns, report budgets ranging from $1 to $3.7 million. These groups are not necessarily the norm, as most of our organizations function with smaller budgets. Overall budgets come from funding sources that range from foundation support to major donors to grassroots organizing & membership.

On average, groups receive the majority of their funding from foundations/funders, grassroots organizing and membership dues.

A large portion of funding seems to be raised from major donors, but when asked how many individual donors groups had, 19% reported having fewer than 100 donors.

Larger organizations, like Equality California, Basic Rights Oregon, and Equality Florida, have thousands of donors. This is notable for all three organizations, but especially for Equality California and Basic Rights Oregon — two organizations who have been able to sustain their donor bases even after winning marriage.

Along with major donor contributions, many groups still rely on foundations and funders to make up a large percentage of their budget, with over 50% (23 groups) reporting they receive funding from the following national LGBTQ funders.

1 The State Equality Fund is a collaboration of funders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights: the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the Gill Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and anonymous donors. It is administered by the Tides Foundation.

While many groups receive funding from various national funders, almost 50% of our members do not. Groups still rely on donations, and must find new and inventive ways, like in South Carolina, to build their organizational capacity.

Funding a Post-Marriage Movement

In just the past year, we have seen the state-based LGBT movement transform. We are now at a place where more states have the freedom to marry than don’t, and we are likely heading toward a nationwide marriage decision. In this unique movement moment, many of our members are asking themselves “What’s next?” Many of our members have had to restrategize after winning marriage in their state, and many more will begin to rethink their organization’s future as a favorable marriage decision becomes a quickly approaching reality. Many might be nervous about sustaining funding once the marriage fight is won, but it is critical that in this post-marriage moment we continue to receive financial support for the incredible amount of work that still lies ahead.

We are entering a moment that will require us to go back to our roots as a movement, to finish the job of ensuring that all LGBT people are equal, not only in the right to marry, but in the right to stay protected from discrimination no matter where they live and work.

As we enter this post-marriage moment, there is an even greater need for funding so that all groups can achieve their goals. Whether it be through increasing donations via online campaigns and partnerships to seeking support from national funders — we will need to find ways to sustain our work.

The State of the States survey is distributed in the spring of each year to all current Equality Federation member organizations. The survey is sent by email as part of our member recertification, and responses are collected over several months. The most current data was submitted by 41 organizations. Each year, the survey includes approximately 25 questions, some with multiple responses. Some organizations choose not to complete every question, leaving some answers blank.

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Rebecca Isaacs

Executive Director at Equality Federation
Since 2011, Rebecca Isaacs has been the Executive Director of the Equality Federation, the strategic partner to state-based organizations winning equality in the communities we call home.

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