Charlotte’s LGBT community has grown by leaps and bounds since activists first began their nascent organizing in the 1960s and 1970s. Stretching as far back as the 1940s, our local community began to find spaces and places in which to socialize, be it first at a hotel bar in downtown or later in early gay clubs. In those many decades, we’ve grown from hiding in the comfort of safe but secret locations to marching down Tryon St., thousands participating in each year’s Charlotte Pride parade while tens of thousands — including straight allies — look on with applause and cheer in support.
Especially in the last decade, the LGBT community, its organizations and its leadership have grown more professional, more ready to tackle our unique challenges and more responsive to community advocacy and well being.
Much of that success can duly be credited to one organization — a truly brilliant gem in the beautiful rainbow-hued crown that adorns the queer Queen City. That organization is none other than the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund. Founded in 2003, it is now the largest local philanthropic, collective giving fund devoted to the LGBT community in North Carolina. Other similar groups across the state include the Guilford Green Foundation and Adam Foundation. But where other cities had an early start, the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund began much later, starting small and growing into the treasured community resource it is today.
The growth of the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund in many ways mirrors the growth of Charlotte’s LGBT community. For myriad reasons — blame it on corporate culture, church culture or whatever you like — Charlotte just simply got a late start on organizing for its LGBT community. For years, we had no LGBT center, even as smaller towns like Columbia opened community centers as early as 1993. For years, we had no major public LGBT event like a Pride festival. Though we had picnics and the such, we had nothing to match the largess of events like NC Pride, once the largest Pride event in the state. We settled year after year with anti-gay politicians and only in the past few years finally began to pass LGBT-inclusive policies and protections already present in cities much smaller than our own.
Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund Grants 2015-2016
Campus Pride, $11,900
Charlotte Pride Band, $4,200
Charlotte Pride, $5,000
Charlotte Royals Rugby Football, $6,200
Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, $7,200
One Voice Chorus, $12,000
One World Dragon Boat, $4,500
PFLAG Charlotte, $5,000
The Freedom Center for Social Justice, $9,000
Time Out Youth, $25,000
Programs and Projects
Alzheimer’s Association, $4,000, LGBT caregiver and community education forum
Campus Pride, $3,200, Summer leadership academy
Charlotte Black Gay Pride, $4,000, Tenth annual Pride event
Charlotte Pride Band, $2,000, Band re-branding
Charlotte Pride, $4,500, Transgender Pride and outreach
Charlotte Royals Rugby Football, $2,700, Queen City tournament
Community Building Initiative, $4,500, LGBT engagement in leadership development
Equality NC Foundation, $2,100, Moral Freedom Summer outreach
Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, $3,000 Steve Grand school tour
One World Dragon Boat, $1,500, Dragon Boat picnic and paddle
PFLAG Charlotte, $4,000, LGBT and families in faith conference
Time Out Youth, $4,500, LGBTQ youth marketing and outreach
Yes, Charlotte, we’re a late bloomer. But we’ve grown up and we’re becoming the strong, vibrant community our early leaders worked so tirelessly for in the 1970s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.
The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund has been an essential catalyst in that growth, granting thousands of dollars each year to support the important, community-empowering and sometimes life-saving work of organizations in our burgeoning, local LGBT non-profit community. Since it began granting, the Fund has supported local groups with more than $800,000, with over $130,000 in grant funds alone this year. In total, 147 individual grants have been bestowed to 31 organizations.
The kind of work supported runs the gamut — from youth support and elder care to the arts, social justice advocacy and LGBT sports. More importantly, the Fund has supported local organizations’ operations budgets, providing support for less sexy but nonetheless essential expenses like rent, utilities and staff salaries — all the things that keep a local organization running smoothly and effectively.
But what has struck me most has been the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund’s insistence on making local organizations as strong and as healthy as possible. Their board members and stakeholders go out of their way to attend local events throughout the year and visibly, proactively support the organizations which receive its grant funds. They meet with community leaders, constantly looking toward the next need, hoping to fill the next gap.
And there are big gaps. On May 13 at the Fund’s eighth annual The Happening, their annual fundraising luncheon each spring, Fund leaders stressed the importance of continued giving to ensure even more need can be met. In just the last five years, explained grants committee chair Darryl Logsdon, organizations have requested $950,000 in grant funding. The Fund has only been able to support the groups’ requests with $590,000 in grant funding. That’s a $360,000 gap — a $72,000-per-year hole through which God only knows what community needs are falling.
I’m a big believer in this community. I firmly trust in our power to make effective change and create better, safer, more inclusive, more affirming, healthier and more positive spaces for us, for our elders, for our youth and for everyone who will come after us. If I had the privilege and opportunity to become an annual stakeholder in the Fund, I would. Instead, all I can do is encourage you to continue supporting the work of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, and I’m taking the opportunity to do so now.
If you’re like me, and don’t have the ability to give, make sure you spread the word about the good work the Fund is doing. Support them when you can, even if it might be a small donation at any of their upcoming community socials — new community activities the Fund has recently begun to host. If you do have the ability to give, consider joining the Fund as an annual stakeholder. It takes just $1,000 a year (or $1,250 at their new Stakeholder Plus level; $250 going to the group’s growing endowment) to ensure that organizations like Time Out Youth, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, PFLAG Charlotte, the Freedom Center for Social Justice and so many more continue to receive the resources and stability they need to continue serving the community.
The Fund’s model of collective giving is exactly the kind of community-wide action that can lead to waves of change and progress in the Queen City. When we all join together — with our voices, our presence, our time, talent, financial resources or whatever else you have to give — we can ensure that life for LGBT people today, tomorrow and many years from now will be better, fuller, richer and more complete.
Learn more about the Fund at fftc.org/clgf.