Queer Eye for the Straight Organization
When raising money in this community, it’s important to know that LGBT people — particularly in the major urban areas — love events. Fundraising professionals will tell you that events are the worst way to raise money (and usually they are), but at the risk of reinforcing stereotypes, many LGBT people crave community and love to get dressed up.
Look inside first
Depending on your development capacities and organizational culture, consider creating a special committee or enlist a couple of board members or volunteers who are connected to the LGBT community to draw on their connections and expertise. Like any fundraising efforts, the closer the people connection, the better.
Another critical check is to make sure your internal systems, donor database and acknowledgement letters are set up for same-sex couples. You can guarantee you won’t get a second gift from a gay couple who inadvertently gets a “Dear Mr. and Mrs.” thank-you letter. Similarly, use inclusive language consistently throughout all your communications — you can’t assume you know how your donors self-identify, even if you know the gender of their partners. Also, be aware that since the IRS doesn’t yet acknowledge same-sex partnerships, same-sex couples can’t file joint tax returns. Consequently, you can’t predict how they’ll want to be acknowledged for tax purposes. Some might prefer to have both names on the letter; some might wish to be acknowledged separately. Some might be closeted to their employers, neighbors or family. It’s best to directly find out how they wish to be acknowledged.
The different tax treatment for same-sex couples also is extremely important when it comes to planned giving. If your organization doesn’t have the capacity to learn about these distinctions in depth, I suggest you not delve into those solicitations until thoroughly briefed by a professional. Estate planning is very different for same-sex couples and their families. Almost all planned-giving resources for nonprofit professionals are based on a heterosexual model in which married couples can transfer vast amounts of wealth without any tax consequences. Since the federal government doesn’t yet acknowledge same-sex couples as married, the potential gift-tax consequences are significant and impact planned giving.