Invest in LGBT+ communities, don’t just fund them

Alongside the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), Consortium were part of a research project commissioned by The National Lottery Community Fund exploring how all funders can better support LGBTQ+ organisations. It is encouraging to see this research helping to better understand the landscape and seek change to funder working practices.

One of the core pillars of Consortium’s work over the last few years has been the sustainability and resilience of our LGBT+ voluntary and community sectors. We purposefully don’t just talk about the need for funding of organisations, but rather investment in—which I am pleased this research reaffirms.

We all know the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and the way we need to think as we rebuild out of it. Equity quickly became a focus of attention, but I hope there doesn’t turn out to be a sense of irony over this. We have seen an increase in attention on diverse communities, but equity doesn’t concern being flavour of the month or short-term focus. Equity is rooted in systemic change, so those most affected by inequality have access to the resources and opportunities needed to achieve an equal outcome. Funders talking about equity must deliver on their promises, and work alongside us and in partnership with us, to achieve this. Consortium’s previous research, as does that of many of our member organisations, highlights that LGBT+ people want specialist services. They feel safer using them, they give them more confidence of positive outcomes and the results from having accessed specialist services can be life changing and transformational. Imagine what could be achieved if longer-term investment, funding and support was given to our LGBT+ sector.

The opportunities are live to create this systemic change. LGBT+ communities are diverse and intersectional by their very nature and the pandemic has shone a light on a much broader cross-section of LGBT+ services and support. We need to encourage funders to embrace this intersectionality and not think of funding and investment as single-issue focus. Whilst as LGBT+ organisations our primary focus will be just that, the secondary, tertiary, focus of intersectional organisations is equally important. Those working in racial justice or those engaging in disability issues for example do so because other services within those communities cannot offer the specialist support and lived experience LGBT+ people want and expect. The interweaving of broad LGBT+ focus organisations alongside that of specialist intersectional organisations provides the golden opportunity to partner and collaborate for real change.

Trust in our communities to know what works for those most affected by inequality. Those emerging organisations working with diverse and intersectional LGBT+ people and communities do so because they understand what others are going through. Most diverse organisations in our sector are small in size. Some want to remain small and grassroots focussed, which should always be encouraged. Support alongside funding is what is needed the most in these cases. Others want to grow and expand, something funders should be investing in. However, with the majority being volunteer led, those professional fundraising skills found in larger staffed organisations are less likely to be present. How then, can we expect them to be able to submit funding applications that can compete—we can’t and we shouldn’t. The statistical evidence funders crave is also less likely to exist the more intersectional focus an LGBT+ organisation has. With this in mind, we need to find new ways of ensuring that funding, development and support gets to these organisations. New ways of doing funding has to emerge which challenges those more traditional models.

What the research with NatCen has shown is there is so much willingness to want to do better and this makes this a very exciting time. It also highlights some practical suggestions for creating this change. As an emerging specialist funder, as well as a key support mechanism for LGBT+ organisations, our door is open to supporting other funders in their equitable endeavours. Let’s work together, alongside those LGBT+ organisations, and put action against the recommendations from the research. Let’s invest and not just fund so can achieve long term sustainable change.

Nathan Hudson from NatCen has also written a blog about the research, which you can read here.

You can access the research here.

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