Donor Focus: Gays and Lesbians
The IGLSS study, which vetted the giving and volunteering patterns of 2,244 gay donors in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and San Francisco, found that the gay and lesbian community contributes roughly equal amounts of money to gay and non-gay organizations. The remainder (14 percent) goes to HIV/AIDS-related organizations.
What’s more, after controlling for differences in income, gender, age, race and education, the study found that gay people who are open about their sexual orientation to their family members and workplace supervisors volunteer more hours and contribute more money than those not “out” to their families and colleagues.
Can’t just talk the talk
Russell Roybal, director of training and capacity building for the Gill Foundation, a Denver-based grant-making organization whose mission is to secure equal opportunity for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, has observed a recent influx of mainstream charities courting gays but is not overly impressed with their approach.
“Certainly, nonprofits have seen the loyalty that gay donors have. These organizations have had gay donors forever, but now it’s a matter of recognizing that gays are within their ranks and making sure they are welcomed and accepted just like any [other] straight donor,” says Roybal, who also works with the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, a program of the Gill Foundation designed to build public awareness of the contributions gays and lesbians make to American society.
Roybal is quick to point out that up until a few years ago, database-software programs failed to recognize same-sex partnerships. When you entered the gender of a donor, the program automatically assigned a blank field for the opposite sex.
But while direct mail solicitation language has changed for the purposes of inclusion — “significant other” and “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” — Roybal stresses that in order to effectively target gays, a fundraiser’s intentions must first be genuine.