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Press Release

LGBT Movement Shows Strength Amid 20 Percent Revenue Fall

New Report on LGBT Movement Shows Stability, Efficiency, Despite Economic Downturn

March 2, 2011

DENVER, CO—Organizations working in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality are showing strong signs of financial health and operating efficiency in the face of a cumulative 20 percent revenue decline from 2008 ($202.7 million) to 2009 ($161.3 million), according to a first-of-its-kind report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).

The 2010 National LGBT Movement Report examines 39 leading organizations of the national LGBT movement comprising 69 percent of the budgets of all LGBT social justice advocacy groups. MAP found that organizations were highly adaptive in meeting the challenges of the difficult economy and have responded in part by scaling back their programs and taking other steps to reduce expenses to better match revenue.

“This report shows that the national LGBT movement is facing a tough fundraising climate due to the economic downturn,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “But the groups we analyzed are adapting well by taking steps to respond to the downturn and showing impressive financial and organizational stability as a result.”

The report follows two years of both advances (in federal administrative policies, marriage and relationship recognition, hate crime legislation, open military service and public opinion) and setbacks (in efforts to ward off anti-LGBT laws in several states, growing concern about youth bullying and violence, and a stalled attempt to pass a federal employment non-discrimination law) in the movement for LGBT equality.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The 39 participating organizations’ combined 2009 expenses of $165.6 million are only half of the combined annual expenses of just the 10 largest organizations working to oppose LGBT equality ($333.1 million).
  • Many organizations are scaling back their programs in order to align with available resources. Combined 2010 budgets ($135.4 million) are down 18 percent from 2009 expenses ($165.6 million).
  • General financial health remains strong. Organizations have good and rising average working capital (a measure of cash reserves), declining but still-healthy liquidity ratios (funds to cover current obligations), and steady cash and net assets (which speaks to institutional durability).
  • Movement groups are highly efficient in their fundraising and programming operations, with all 39 participants exceeding the efficiency standards of both the American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. An average of 79 percent of expenses is spent on programs and services, 9 percent on management and general expenses, and only 12 percent on fundraising.
  • Less than 4 percent of all LGBT adults in the U.S. donated $35 or more to these LGBT organizations. While organizations are generally effective at retaining smaller donors (those giving $35 or more) year over year, the number of larger donors (those giving $1,000 or more) is dropping and not easily replaced.
  • The staffs of participating organizations are diverse, roughly mirroring the broader U.S. population: 32 percent identify as people of color (12 percent African American, 12 percent Latino/a, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 1 percent Native American or other). Also, 46 percent are women and 6 percent identify as transgender.

Donors to the movement said this is an important time to expand support for ongoing efforts to achieve equality. “With organizations seeing revenue drop by a fifth, protecting LGBT Americans will require increased engagement with existing and new donors,” said Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation. “In the face of efforts to eliminate our freedom to marry, and with other anti-equality initiatives under way, we have the opportunity and the need to invest in organizations working to ensure equality. It is critical that more supporters step up, and we now have the data to help people do just that.”

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)—which is currently suing to overturn the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act and helping press for marriage and transgender inclusive non-discrimination protections in several New England states—notes that the economic pinch comes at a critical moment for the movement’s pursuit of equality. “Like most of our colleague organizations, we’ve definitely experienced belt-tightening in the past couple of years,” said GLAD Executive Director Lee Swislow. “The challenge is that we’re in a time of such great need for both legal advocacy and public education that this work simply has to move forward. We absolutely must be in Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, the federal courts and more, and with even greater capacity. Our ability to both bring in new donors and expand the support of those who already invest in this work will be crucial to sustaining and accelerating our progress toward equality.”

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Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Ineke Mushovic
Executive Director
Movement Advancement Project