Some of the most ubiquitous images in the LGBT space are the products of LGBT-centric non-profit organizations. The yellow equal sign in the center of a dark blue background, for example, is arguably the most easily recognizable logo of the movement. It belongs to the giant and not-particularly-queer named Human Rights Campaign or HRC. Other megalithic LGBT organizations include The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
It’s very easy to see the names and easily recognizable logos of these nonprofits and open your checkbook and assume that an organization as one of the above has to be doing incredibly good work for the queer community. As lovely a sentiment as that is, it isn’t always entirely true.
It is easy to mistake the mission statement of a large LGBT nonprofit as doing work to help needy queer individuals in a direct, meaningful way. Before donating to any LGBT organization, it is extremely important to do your research. Go to the organization’s website; read the organization’s press releases and informational pages. See where their priorities are. Do they focus on the fight for marriage equality or do they spread their resources more equally between marriage equality, nondiscrimination, HIV-care, trans issues, homelessness, etc.? Are the priorities of the organization in line with your own? Are they primarily lobbyists or do they provide services to actual humans? Is that something you’re interested in?
In the United States, nonprofit organizations are required by law to publish their tax returns on their websites. This is important to know and investigate before donating money to any nonprofit organization. Tax returns are a vital part of being an informed donor, as they lay out exactly how much executives and employees are paid, as well as how many resources the organization dedicated to each type of action and programs the organization carried out in that year. It can be very jarring to see how much money some very large and well-known “advocacy” groups spend on galas and dinners for the rich and famous and how little spent on issues of actual interest to real LGBT individuals in need. Use caution when reading these forms; avoid destroying any breakable objects in your vicinity.
I’m writing about this early in Pride month because I know how adamant these organizations will be in their fundraising drives. Some of these organizations do very good work. Others do less than they say. As queer people, we are under no obligation to donate to any organization, but if we choose to donate to organizations that center on the LGBT community, we should be the best informed as to what our money will do.