Top 9 Funders of the State-Based LGBTQ Movement & More

State of the States: Part 1

One year ago, many of us worried that people wouldn’t understand the need to continue contributing to our movement for equality after marriage equality was secured. Ironically, thanks in part to the media firestorms generated by far-right attacks on our civil liberties such as the religious exemption bill in Indiana and cause célèbre du jours like Kim Davis, it is more likely that our funders and donors understand the need for a strong state-based LGBTQ movement. This year, Federation members have defeated over 100 anti-LGBT pieces of legislation, and as I write this, more battles are being waged, from an attempt to repeal Anchorage Alaska’s nondiscrimination protections to a potential anti-transgender ballot initiative in California.

Make no mistake, over the past year, our state-based equality organizations have achieved great success often with very few resources.


Overall, larger groups receive more funding from national funders as well as have more individual donors. All groups have a strong need and desire to increase individual giving. Research has shown that fewer than 3% of LGBT people give back to LGBT organizations. Several groups really stand-out for their efforts. Equality Florida holds many small galas throughout the state in towns large and small, and Equality Illinois has an excellent online fundraising presence. This year South Carolina Equality and Equality North Carolina won extra funding prizes for their efforts to raise money through GiveOUT Day.

Budgets of All Groups:


  • The estimated total aggregate budget of Federation member organizations is $23,672,089 (compared to $25,643,409 in 2014).
  • The median budget is $343,000 (compared to $222,200 in 2014) and the average is $577,368 (compared to $625,449 in 2014). Larger organizations, as well as those state groups running campaigns, report budgets ranging from $1 to $3.4 million.

Year after year the importance of a strong social media presence grows. Increasingly, groups are using mobile friendly tools to raise their brands and fundraise.



Funding sources for our state groups range from foundation support to major donors to grassroots organizing & membership.

On average (results from 41 groups) groups receive:

  • 27% of their funding from foundations
  • 20% from major donors
  • 11% from board members
  • 26% from grassroots/membership
  • 11% from corporate sponsors
  • 2% from government grants
  • 2% from fee-for-service/other

As we look towards the year ahead and the many challenges our movement may face, one thing is clear: the need to fund and build the capacity of these incredible organizations is more important than ever.

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, 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. We report both the mean and median scores to allow for most accurate understanding and use.


20 Groups Receive $ From National Funders

Top 9 Funders
% of Groups that Receive Funding

      1. Gill Foundation 45%
      2. Arcus Foundation 20%
      3. Ford Foundation 10%
      4. State Equality Fund 40%
      5. Haas Jr. Fund 20%
      6. Anonymous 10%
      7. American Unity Fund 25%
      8. Gill Action 25%
      9. NEO Philanthropy 10%
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.

Individual Donors:

  • 12% of groups have 0 to 50 donors
  • 10% have 51 to 99 donors
  • 29% have 100 to 499 donors
  • 22% have 500 to 1000
  • 10% have 1001 to 1499
  • 7% have 1500 to 3500
  • 10% have 3501+

 22% of organizations have fewer than 100 donors.

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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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