photo of lgbt people holding hands
The LGBT Equality Fund was established at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation in 2000 with just $5,000 and now – following many sizeable gifts – stands at almost $800,000.

More than $410,000 through a total of 70 grants has been awarded to area nonprofits that promote equality and celebrate appreciation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community members who live, work, and raise their families in Kalamazoo County.

"The work this fund supports is emblematic of who we are and what we see as an important part of the community," says Jessica Aguilera, Community Investment Manager for Initiatives at the Community Foundation.

Building on this success, the Community Foundation and a committee of community volunteers began working with Kalamazoo-based Badlands Strategies earlier this year on a six-month project to find ways to increase donors to the fund and the number of grant seekers.

The findings were completed in October and confirmed that the size of the fund is inadequate to meet the needs of the community.

Jon Hoadley, president of Badlands Strategies, says that "potential donors and recipient organizations would benefit from more clearly defining the goals and priority populations the fund serves."

The process, which involved community input, included an assessment of internal and national data, a SWOT analysis of the fund, and a community needs assessment. "This process has demonstrated the depth, richness, and dedication of the LGBT and allied community in Kalamazoo," says Hoadley. "There is a clear mandate to revitalize the fund."

Recommendations scheduled for implementation in 2013 include:

  • Increase the number of grant seekers by re-launching the fund by partnering with grantees in communicating the Fund’s purpose and capacity.
  • Increase the number of donors by demonstrating the low threshold to becoming a donor with a stated minimum gift and increasing the fund’s presence at major LGBT events.
  • Increase the fund’s visibility so the impact and availability are widely known throughout the community, including outreach efforts.
  • Revitalize the fund’s supporting committee.
  • Communicate the revised vision, mission and goals as recommended by the committee.

According to Aguilera, the committee "wanted to transition the Fund from promoting education and respect for LGBT issues to a more active advocacy and appreciation role." Committee members felt that the Kalamazoo area was beyond "just tolerance" and wants to see the fund "engage projects that move others to full acceptance."