Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues

Celebrating 36 years of mobilizing
        philanthropic resources for the LGBTQ community.
1982 – 2018

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Research Methodology

When Funders for LGBTQ Issues began collecting research on grantmaking by U.S. Foundations, we knew that it would be impossible to survey the entire universe of grantmakers that support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer organizations and projects across the country. Two barriers prevent us from this undertaking. First, there is no uniformity in the grants classification systems used by grantmakers. For example, some foundations classify LGBTQ as a population and others as an issue. Further, many do not use LGBTQ as a category in their classification systems and have no way of identifying these grants in their databases. Secondly, with more than 90,000 foundations comprising American philanthropy, it was not feasible for us to conduct a comprehensive search of all grants made by all grantmakers.

Based on these factors, we were left with two options as we proceeded in doing our annual reports. One option was to select a random sample of foundations to survey. The advantage of this methodology is that it would provide a statistically representative sample and the ability to generalize about the overall state of LGBTQ funding in the country. The disadvantage is that, given how few grantmakers fund LGBTQ issues in addition to the grants classification limitations described above, the data would be limited to generalizations and miss the richness of detail about the names of funders, their preferences, etc. The second option was to create a purposive sample that would target grantmakers known to us as funding, or being open to funding, LGBTQ organizations and projects. We chose the purposive sampling method, believing that both the quality and quantity of the information would provide greater insight and information about the state of LGBTQ philanthropy.

Population Surveyed Requests for information are sent grantmakers each year identified through Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ online directory of LGBTQ grantmakers, the Foundation Center’s database and from funders’ lists of LGBTQ organizations. All foundation types were surveyed, including independent, public, community and corporate foundations, and nonprofit organizations with grantmaking programs.

Information is obtained on the grantmakers through self-reporting by foundations, a review of 990s, and annual reports posted online and in the Foundation Center’s online database.

The reports represents information from the grantmakers we identified as providing support for LGBTQ projects and organizations in year surveyed.

Criteria for Inclusion Our overarching research goal is to ensure that the data we collect focuses specifically on LGBTQ issues and organizations. Therefore, the data does not include grants to organizations or projects that are generally inclusive of LGBTQ people unless they explicitly address an LGBTQ issue or population. For example, a women’s organization that’s given a grant to develop a sex education curriculum for girls, welcome to all girls, including LBT girls, would not be included in the data. If that same organization was funded to provide sex education specifically to lesbians, it would be included. A statewide human rights advocacy organization that’s given a grant specifically to fight an anti-gay marriage amendment would be included. However, if that same group was given a general support grant, it would not be included.

HIV/AIDS Because of the lack of consistency in grants classification systems, it is difficult to identify HIV/AIDS grants that explicitly support LGBTQ communities and MSM populations. In addition, while many funders track HIV/AIDS grants, they often do not track LGBTQ issues within those grants. In addition, many HIV/AIDS grants support the broad range of people affected by the pandemic and not particular sub-groups.

Regranting To avoid double counting dollars, this report allocates regranting monies to the organizations responsible for regranting (and not the original source of funding). This method provides better information about the purposes of the funding, which captures both the intent of the primary funder and the regranting institution. The downside to this approach is that it does not accurately present the full funding by those institutions providing the original regranting money. To address this issue, we provide information about the dollar amount of those grants.

Classification System In addition to recording basic information about the grantmaker (name, city, state and type of foundation), the grantee (name, city, state, country), and amount of the grant, the reports also describe the following five areas:

  • Geographic Focus (local, state, multi-state, national, international) of the grantee
  • Population Focus (e.g. children and youth, people of color)
  • Type of Support (e.g. general, program, research, scholarships, capital campaigns)
  • Strategies Used (advocacy, public education, culture, community organizing, litigation, leadership development)
  • Issue Addressed (civil rights, community building, health, religion, homophobia)

While these categories are mostly self-evident, some need further explanation.

The Population Focus category indicates the targeted audience for the grant. Because our criteria dictates that all of the grants target or serve the needs of LGBTQ people, our goal for this category was to identify the specific constituency or group (youth, seniors, people of color, general population, etc.). For example, a grant serving LGBTQ seniors of color would be coded to indicate that the primary population served was Seniors and People of Color; a grant addressing LGBTQ people in the military would be coded to indicate that the primary population served was People in the Military; a grant working for the human rights of LGBTQ people would indicate the population being addressed or served as LGBTQ; and a public education campaign to create greater acceptance of LGBTQ people would designate the General Population as the primary audience being addressed.

For Strategy Used and Issue Addressed, several factors impact our ability to assign categories. First, the differences in grants classification systems, as well as the philosophical and political approaches of foundations, means that there is no uniformity in the labeling used by reporting foundations. This requires that we make a subjective assignment in order to best fit the grants into our classification system. Second, in many cases, the grants lists we received did not provide any information other than the name of the grantee and the type of support. In these cases, attempts were made to research the work of the grantee to make an assignment. When an assignment was not possible, the grant was coded as “unspecified.” Finally, many grantees use multiple strategies, such as litigation, advocacy and public education, to achieve their goals.

Time frame Our reports are based on grants authorized during the calendar year, which means that if a foundation’s board of directors met in December of the previous year and authorized a grant for work to be undertaken in in the year in review, we did not include that grant, as it would have been included in the previous year's report.

Although we are working with the calendar year, there is a sub-set of grantmakers that operates within a different fiscal year and that were only able to provide grants data based on their fiscal years. We decided to allow for this inconsistency with the understanding that we would remain consistent with the future reporting of those grantmakers over time. This consistency is important to prevent future double counting of grants or to prevent losing some grants data by changing time frames.

Multi-year grants are listed only in the year in which they were authorized, with the full amount of the grant listed in that year, together with the duration of the grant. The advantage of tracking all funds authorized in a year is that it best reflects a foundation’s priorities in any given time period. The disadvantage is that it could present an inflated or under-inflated commitment to an interest over time.