by Monica Simpson
A dear community organizer, Shane Windmeyer, wrote an incredible guest commentary (“Imagine: $700,000 for local LGBT advocacy & support,” March 21), in which he raised the question as to why the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) does not give money back to local communities. He stated that over $700,000 (approximated figure) was raised by HRC during our Carolina dinners held in Charlotte and that we do not see that money locally.
He raised many great points and ventured further to say that even if some of this money would come back to us on a local level, that many of the organizations who struggle financially could be able to do the work that they need to do in community.
Although I have had my many issues with HRC in the past, I still respect and honor them for the national work they are doing for our community. Yes, it would be awesome for the HRC to bring money back to local communities, but I feel they are doing exactly what they were created to do — national political work. They also realize that in order to create a movement you need the support from local communities. Honestly, I respect them for being ultimate fundraisers who make their stuff happen.
But there seems to be a bigger question that needs to be asked. Can we imagine a local community that supports itself?
Let’s be honest. We are talking about fundraising, right? Well, it always baffles me as to why we are so quick to look to the outside for what we need instead of reaching in to cultivate what we already have. It would be easy to sit back and let big corporations, non-profits or other large foundations give us the money we need to do the work in our local communities, but would we then have true “ownership” of our community?
Most of the time our local organizations are not willing or are too burned out to do the work that is necessary for community mobilization. I began to wonder how diverse are our local LGBT groups? How often do we collaborate? How often are we intentional about working across lines of difference to get different perspectives for our work?
I am beginning to think that our local community is spoiled, and to a certain extent, not interested in really doing grassroots work. It is at the grassroots level where relationships are created and the first rule that you learn as a fundraiser is that fundraising is all about relationships. So, as an organizer or organization, ask yourself, what types of relationships do you have in this community? Do you have the same “Circle of Five” like Alltel? If so, how do you expect to grow or raise the funds that you need to do the work you desire to accomplish?
I could care less whether HRC gives us money locally. If I decide to pay $175 for an HRC dinner then I have to expect that my $175 will go toward what HRC needs to get done. HRC is not a foundation. It is an organization just like our community center who has an operating budget that allows them to carry out their plans each year.
But, our community gives to them. Why? Well, if I could be completely honest, I would say that I believe it’s because we like to look good and show off and this dinner gives us the opportunity to flaunt the fact that we have that much money to spend. But, there may be a few that really care about what HRC does!
It’s time that we begin to make our local organizations as attractive as HRC. Another thing that HRC does well is create spaces for people to come together, a lot of times for free, so that it is not always about the money. If more of our local groups created space to bring people together, then maybe more people would give. If people saw the accomplishments of our local groups, maybe they would give more. If people trusted our local groups, maybe they would give more. If people were not hurt and abused by some of our groups, maybe they would give more. If people did not feel segregated by some of our groups, maybe they would give more.
It’s time to stop looking to the outside people. Imagine us believing that everything we need to have a vibrant LGBT community right here in Charlotte is already here. Imagine real organizers — not just those looking to have their name in lights or in history books — doing work on the ground with integrity. Imagine there being an abundance of resources of time, talent and money right at our fingertips. I could ask the question “Can you?” But, I believe the more important question is “Are you willing to?”
— Monica Simpson is a community artist, activist & organizer in Charlotte.
Q-Notes strives to provide the Carolinas LGBT community with an open forum for discussion and commentary. The views of guest commentators do not necessarily represent the official views or positions of Q-Notes, its editorial staff or publisher.