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, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the communities they call home. Over the past ten 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 LGBTQ movement, and look at what lies ahead for the future of the movement.

In Part 1 of State of the States, we looked at the leadership of our movement. For Part 2, 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.

This year brought many challenges for state-based organizations. For this post, we’re highlighting Equality Florida and the great work they have done this year:

On Sunday morning, June 12th, we all woke to the shocking news of the Pulse attack.  Equality Florida held an emergency all-staff conference call to first confirm that every member of our Orlando team was safe, and then to begin taking action to support our community.  The scale of the tragedy was just beginning to sink in, but we knew right away that a victims fund would be a necessary component of the relief effort.  We also knew we had no experience running a GoFundMe campaign or with victim funds.  But we realized that if we didn’t take action immediately, other funds would pop up within minutes, likely organized by individuals with far less accountability to the community or resources to run them well.  So within an hour we launched Equality Florida’s first ever GoFundMe campaign with a goal we considered audacious – $100,000.  We exceeded that goal in 90 minutes and within 48 hours as the fund surged past $3 million it became the largest GoFundMe campaign in the site’s history.  Eventually $9.5 million was raised from 120,000 donors  from more than 100 countries.  Every single dollar raised was sent to victims families and survivors, we even donated the interest earned.

It was an exhausting workload for our staff and we estimate we donated more than $150,000 in administrative support to this massive project.  But in addition to the tremendous gratitude we felt for being able to be there when our community needed us most, Equality Florida also benefitted greatly from the unprecedented visibility we gained statewide, nationally, and even internationally by leading the financial relief effort.   Our Facebook page added 12,000 new members in two weeks.  Dozens of major corporations and thousands of individuals have joined our network since the attack.  Twenty-five republican elected officials signed a pledge to help pass our statewide non-discrimination bill three weeks after Pulse and dozens more have joined them.  Our clergy network grew exponentially since Pulse and now has more than 700 faith leaders including a number of influential evangelical conservatives.  After the victim funds were disbursed, GoFundMe announced a $100,000 matching gift to support our future work, which we have now exceeded.  As we go forward our commitment is that the lasting memorial to those killed at Pulse will be to uproot the bigotry and hatred that fueled the attack.  The new allies and relationships we built by leading the relief effort will be critical to keeping that promise.

This is what our movement is all about — using the resources, connections, and people power we have to accomplish big goals. We are still a grassroots movement — we work on the ground and are finding new ways to support our work.

  • The estimated total aggregate budget of 37 Federation member organizations is $24,822,324.
  • The median budget is $300,000 and the average is $653,219.

Larger organizations, as well as those state groups running campaigns, report budgets ranging from $1 to $5.2 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, 16% reported having
fewer than 100 donors.*Note: 0% of organizations indicated that they had between 51-99 donors.

Larger organizations, like Equality California, Basic Rights Oregon, Equality Florida and One Colorado have thousands of donors. This is notable for all of these organizations, but especially for those who have continued to thrive and grow their donor bases even after winning marriage on the state level.
Along with major donor contributions, many groups still rely on foundations and funders to make up a large percentage of their budget, with 58% (22 groups) reporting they receive funding from the following national LGBTQ funders:

*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 44% of our members do not. Groups still rely on donations, and must find new and inventive ways to build their organizational capacity.

Funding a New LGBTQ Movement

In just the past year, we have seen the state-based LGBTQ movement transform. We are now at a place where marriage equality is the law of the land. However, over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced across the country. In this unique movement moment, many of our members have had to be on the defensive while others are asking themselves “What’s next?”

With the new presidential administration, we are surely entering a moment that will require us to go back to our roots as a movement, to be vigilant in protecting the rights of all LGBTQ people at all levels. Issues like healthcare, immigration, racism, and anti-semitism will cut across the country and certainly across our movement.

As we enter this new 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 38 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. Equality Federation has 40 members as of November 2016.

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Mel King

Mel King is the Development and Operations Manager for Equality Federation, the national strategic partner to state-based organizations working to win equality in the communities we call home. In this role, he manages the individual giving program and the donor database, as well as operations for the communications department and internal systems. He also serves as the board liaison.

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