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 Parts 1 and 2, we looked at some of the people who keep our organizations thriving — our Executive Directors and the funders. Now, in Part 3, we will examine the leadership and staff of our member groups to see who is doing the work on the ground.

One of the most surprising and impressive facts about our members is that they rack up so many wins and make great progress in their states with so few paid staff. The median number of employees for staffed organizations is three, but groups that are gearing up for campaigns or rolling off of campaigns, as well as larger organizations, have up to 24 staff, driving up the average to five.

From winning marriage to promoting healthcare, to working for safe schools and passing local nondiscrimination ordinances, our members do so much with so little. While a majority of our members (74%) have an Executive Director, fewer than half have other key staff members.

  • 21% (8) have a Communications Director;
  • 29% (11) have a Development Director;
  • 21% (8) have a Program Director;
  • 29% (11) have a Political/Policy Director;
  • 13% (5) have a Field Director;
  • 16% (6) have a Finance Director.

One reason our members are able to accomplish such great progress is that they have dedicated volunteers, including their boards of directors. These boards, at an average size of 13 members, govern, plan, strategize, evaluate, and help raise critical funds to support these organizations.

The Impact

In the first State of the States post, we focused on how the Equality Federation’s State Leadership Project has supported executive directors in the movement. The State Leadership Project also partners with states at all phases of organizational development — from groups run entirely by a board of directors to our largest staffed groups — to evaluate current impact, create strategic frameworks, and build out plans to help maximize the impact of their limited resources and infrastructure.

In discussions of intersectionality, many, if not all groups express the desire to move toward becoming more diverse when it comes to staff and boards. And in our work with members on the ground, we have seen the results of this work in progress.

In 2008, transgender and genderqueer people made up only 6% of staff and boards. Trans and genderqueer people make up 17% of boards and 16% of staff this year.

We still struggle with racial diversity in the leadership of our movement, and this is true too in our member groups: 15% of staff and 22% of boards are made up of people of color.

At the Federation, our commitment to organizational development includes increasing our members’ capacity for working at the intersections, recruiting and retaining diverse talent, and building strategic coalitions.

For example, Equality New Mexico, which revamped its entire board, remains committed to ensuring that its staff and board reflect the populations that the organization seeks to serve. To this end, they have developed strong, strategic partnerships with immigrant and people of color centered organizations like Enlace Comunitario, Young Women United, El Centro, and Somos Un Pueblo Unido.

Our members understand the need for diversity and intersectionality, not only in their work, but in their organizational structure. Through our State Leadership Project, we are committed to increasing this capacity. Whether is it through strategic planning, board trainings, or building coalitions across different issue areas, we are proud to work with our members toward a more diverse future.

In the years since we’ve been collecting State of the States data, we’ve seen steady growth in organizations’ budgets, but there is still a need for more funding so all groups can achieve their goals.

  • The current estimated total aggregate budget of all Federation members organizations is $23,572,324.
  • In 2016, the median budget of organizations is $300,000. Larger organizations, including Equality California and Equality Florida, as well as state groups running campaigns, report budgets ranging from $1 to $5 million.

Having the people to staff our organizations, as well as the funds to hire them, is imperative to our movement’s success. But we’re only as strong as our ability to mobilize, engage, and organize our community to make the change we want to see. Without the engagement of our online supporters and generous donors, our organizations can only fight so far for equality.

Over the past ten years, state-based organizations have dramatically grown their grassroots capacity — partly as a result of the Federation’s providing an online organizing platform. However, the growth has not necessarily translated to individual donors. 

  • In 2006, Federation members had a total of 346,637 online supporters. Currently, state groups reach more than 1.6 million people through email, nearly 800,000 through Facebook, and nearly 200,000 people through Twitter.
  • In 2006, organizations had 95,118 donors. Currently, Federation members engage 66,960 donors.

From steadily increasing budgets to exciting and incredible growth of our grassroots capacity, we have seen great achievements within our organizations. These internal achievements foster the success we have seen statewide in the LGBTQ movement over the past seven years.

Methodology
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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