South Florida’s only LGBT community foundation honored 18 non-profit organizations at the Our Fund Foundation’s Fall Community Grant Program, held Tuesday night at Fort Lauderdale’s New River Fine Art Gallery. More than $120,000 in grant money was given out.
One such organization that received a grant included Freedom Fund, which helps LGBT people who are incarcerated or in immigration detention because they can’t afford bail.
According to Freedom Fund’s Founder, Scott Greenberg, LGBT people are much more likely to spend a night in jail. LGBT people are three times more likely to be incarcerated. Black people are five times more likely than white people to be incarerated.
“If you spend a night in prison, your future may be impacted by that single event [loss of job, income],” Greenberg said. Freedom Fund received a $5,000 Our Fund grant which Greenberg will put to use providing bail, following up with HIV testing, recommending social services assistance and developing more effective communication about the disproportional criminalization of LGBT residents who have fallen upon tough times or were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Another organization receiving an Our Fund grant, “Thou Art Woman,” focuses on raising the profile of LBT women and their allies through performance and visual art. The event’s founder, Ghenete “G” Wright Muir, said she wanted to create an alternate space for LBT women and allies to connect on a deeper level. “I had recently come out and was new to the LGBTQ community. There were limited places to socialize with other women.” “G,” as she is known to her friends, launched Thou Art Woman in 2016. The first event drew 50 people. Now, more than 100 attend. “Immediately,” said “G,” “there was great racial and age diversity. We grew to three events a year, started charging a small fee and used social media to promote the events.”
Thou Art Woman received a $7,500 grant to expand the organization’s performance and visual arts program into a 3-day social event of visual and performing arts, mixers, and other inspiring and entertaining experiences.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from people as far away as Orlando, Atlanta and New York,” said G, who added the timing of the event also coincides with Women’s History Month. G is already looking ahead to further expansion.
“I feel I’ve been called to do this work. I could never have imagined producing an event for women.”
Established in 2011, Our Fund has quickly become one of the largest LGBT community foundations in the U.S. Its $10 million endowment ranks third, behind longer-established foundations in San Francisco and Seattle. Our Fund President David Jobin said the number of organizations applying for grants has tripled over the last few years, due, in large part, to the Foundation’s expansion into Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
“For the first 4-5 years, most applications came from Broward, but in the last couple of years our profile has expanded. Now we get 60-70 applications a year.”
Jobin said applicants have to go through a rigorous vetting process, which takes place twice each year. “We interview each applicant, then rate and score them. Usually, we come up with 15-20 that are strong enough and their program is so vital.” The vetting process includes making sure the applicant organizations are stable, that they have legitimate 501(c)3 non-profit status, conduct regular audits and have boards of directors.
Unlike traditional foundations, Our Fund raises the money for each application cycle by soliciting donors for each project. Jobin says that’s when the really difficult process begins. “We go out and solicit these programs to our donor base to find the best match between an agency’s programming with our donors’ priorities.”
It takes several months to complete the process. “We coach the agencies through,” Jobin said. “We’re local, so we’re on-site. I personally review the applications, so I know where our Foundation board has questions and concerns.”
Jobin said grant applications can pose as hurdles to get over. “We want to support the agencies, so they come forth with the most likely application that can get approval.” Agencies can receive a grant once in a 12-month period. It can take several cycles for an agency to receive a grant. Jobin says, “often times, the next round goes better, because we know them better.”
Our Fund is not a traditional community foundation. Its goal is to build a base of support. “Our endowment is now $10 million, and our ultimate goal is to be a $30 million endowment, so we don’t have to fundraise,” Jobin said. The Foundation also has between $50-$60 million in estate pledges, as more donors include Our Fund in their wills, many of whom support or designate gifts for specific projects.
Visit Our-Fund.org for more information.
2018 Our Fund Fall Community Grant Program Recipients
Broward Education Foundation:$7,500 for expanding Safe and Supportive School Environments for LGBTQ Youth
Kids In Distress:$5,000 for LGBTQ Family Foster Recruitment
Miami Children’s Museum: $5,000 for Rainbow Families Day 2019
Alzheimer’s Association: $10,000 to enhance scope of services to support LGBT caregivers
SunServe: $10,000 for continued access to counseling, assistance and resources to LGBTQ senior adults
Sunshine Cathedral:$7,500 for Sunshine Cathedral Food Sharing Program
Pride Center:$10,000 to Enriching Women with Pride, a healthcare initiative for LBTQ+ women.
Thinking Cap Theatre: $5,000 for production of “coming out” plays by queer women.
Thou Art Woman:$7,500 for expansion of performance and visual art event celebrating queer women.
Aqua Foundation: $5,000 to support for the annual TransCon conference.
Urban League of Broward County:$5,000 to Support the Men’s Health and Wellness Conference
ARTS & CULTURAL
FAU Foundation/Theatre Lab:$10,000 to commission plays by emerging LGBTQ+ playwrights.
FIU Foundation/Frost Art Museum:$5,000 for educational programming inspired by the Art after Stonewall exhibition.
OUTShine Film Festival:$8,000 to mitigate funding loss.
Freedom Fund Network:$5,000 to expand capacity of bail program targeting LGBTQ people
Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services: $5,000 to build inter-agency capacity on LGBTQ refugee issues.
Ujima:$5,000 to support black same gender loving men through workshops, community service, and an annual conference.
The Pet Project:$5,000 to help clients’ pets with emergency health care.