The first definition of “incredible” in Merriam Webster’s dictionary is “too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.” And that pretty well describes the kind of progress that the LGBT movement has been making lately. Simply incredible. So rapid that few of us would have predicted it even a few years ago. The stunning momentum of marriage equality. Sea changes in public opinion about LGBT people. President Obama’s signing of the Executive Order protecting LGBT employees of government contractors. Trans rights on the cover of TIME magazine.
We have a lot to be proud of and many reasons to feel optimistic about the future. But we’d be deluding ourselves to start thinking “we’re done.” For starters, we haven’t even won full legal equality and, in at least some places both in the U.S. and around the world, that day doesn’t look like it’s coming soon. In the majority of states, you can still be fired for being LGBT . Seventy-six countries still criminalize same-sex relations.
In short, we’re not finished yet.
Even if we do round out our legal victories in the U.S. over the next few years, that won’t be enough. After all, Brown v. Board of Education didn’t end racial injustice. Roe v. Wade didn’t end attempts to restrict reproductive freedom. Many in our community – including transgender people and LGBT people of color – continue to experience unconscionable levels of discrimination, poverty, and poor health. Thousands of workplaces remain unsafe for us. Many thousands of LGBT youth still find their schools and homes places of fear and danger, just as many thousands of our elders lack the support they need.
To win legal equality and create the kind of accepting, affirming world that LGBT people have worked toward for so long, we have to do more than just keep up our commitments: we have to step them up. That means volunteering, voting, advocating in our workplaces – and money. Money isn’t everything in a movement (of course) but it’s absolutely necessary.
But here’s a problem: research shows that less than five per cent of LGBT people in the U.S. contribute to LGBT organizations, which drive almost all our progress. This is documented in Horizons Foundation’s report, Building a New Tradition of Philanthropy. Think what we could accomplish if even two or three more per cent of us were donating. Think how many more youth could be helped; how many more court cases could be brought; how many more families could be supported; how many more schools could be made safe; how much more we could do to educate non-LGBT people about our lives.
We know that some people simply can’t afford to give. But an awful lot of us who don’t give really can give, or we can afford to give more. What many of us don’t realize is how simple – and how deeply rewarding – it is to give to our community. Many of our workplaces offer matching gift programs, allowing us to double or triple the impact of our gifts. Many of us also can – and many Out & Equal members already do – advocate within our companies for corporate support of LGBT organizations and causes. Even though many corporations aren’t likely to fund the most cutting-edge, high profile litigation or advocacy on their own, they will support LGBT issues closer to home, especially those their employees care about.
Giving for the long term
There’s another way to give that can have a big impact – and have essentially zero effect on your current finances. That’s by including an LGBT organization (or an LGBT community foundation such as Horizons Foundation) as a beneficiary of your 401(k) or your IRA or the life insurance policy that your company may provide. More information on how to go about this can be found in Horizons’ Guide to Planned Giving for LGBT People. You don’t have to designate it all for LGBT charitable causes either. You can simply give a percentage to a favorite organization, and leave the majority to loved ones and/or other causes. If enough of us did that – even if we put down only 10% for LGBT causes – the impact would be enormous, especially on future generations of LGBT people.
One more thing. Giving is about more than providing fuel for LGBT organizations. It’s not only a matter of doing our share. It’s more than that. It’s about building connections and community, something that most people – and most LGBT people – value highly. And it’s equality, justice, and community that the LGBT movement has always been about.
To find our more about LGBT Philanthropy visit Horizons Foundation
To advance workplace equality and create a world where people are evaluated on their work and are not judged according to sexual orientation or gender identity, click here to make a tax-deductible gift to Out & Equal