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Movement Advancement Project

Linda Bush and Urvashi Vaid
Photo courtesy of Ray Ng


Until now, the movement to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans has operated all over the map.

MAP-the Movement Advancement Project-aims to change that, providing research and analysis to help everyone involved collaborate more effectively. In 2006, MAP led nearly 40 organizations in a pilot project in which they reported financial and operating data in a standardized form to one another, accounting for a total of $108 million in LGBT organization revenues.

Participants learned a variety of interesting things along the way. For example, movement organizations perform very well on standard nonprofit financial benchmarks such as percentage of fundraising costs, though the turnover of donors was high, the dependence on a small number of donors is substantial, and the movement's resources are concentrated in a few large organizations. At a chief financial officers conference, top money managers from 14 organizations used the research to learn from one another and chart a more collaborative future.

"We're providing funders and organizations with the first real opportunity to see in one place an analysis of the movement's operations and finances overall," executive director Linda Bush says.

MAP was created by the Gill Foundation and other funders in early 2006 to broadly analyze LGBT issues and the LGBT movement for equality, independent of particular organizations. It's intended both to attract more funds to the LGBT movement and to help donors and organizations deploy funds more effectively and efficiently.

MAP also performs in-depth research in selected fields to help identify strategic funding opportunities.

Urvashi Vaid views MAP as a valuable new resource--a think tank for funders that helps them make smart investments and collaborate effectively. At the Arcus Foundation, where Urvashi serves as executive director, MAP will help inform specific funding for the work on religion and values that Arcus had previously identified as a top priority.

In 2006, MAP conducted its first two in-depth issue area studies, one on responding to anti-gay religion and a second on supporting LGBT youth. The religion study was presented to key leaders and at conferences. It detailed work underway in denominations, seminaries, clergy coalitions, and the media to counter religious opposition. The study revealed funding challenges, for example comparing budgets of $1.4 million for the two largest anti-LGBT United Methodist groups to $327,000 for the two largest pro-LGBT groups.

The report suggested a range of specific ways funders could counter widespread anti-gay religious ideology and promote greater equality, from work with denomination-based welcoming groups, to supporting seminaries, to building coalitions with LGBT and straight faith-based allies.

"It is a tremendous resource," says Urvashi from her foundation's New York office. "A set of smart people are using a methodology that is research and evidence-based. They reflect back what they learn from the field and make recommendations."

MAP will help Arcus develop its multi-pronged strategy on funding work involving religion and values, Urvashi said, not only through its written report but also because the authors can serve as a resource.

In 2006, Arcus made grants to a number of denomination-based groups working to promote acceptance of LGBT people, including the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns. Arcus also supported a Faith In Action network of pro-LGBT allies in Michigan that is organized by the American Friends Service Committee, and helped support specific projects seeking to promote understanding for LGBT people within a wide variety of faith traditions, including Muslim, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and evangelical Christianity.

Part of MAP's goal is to attract new funders to the work of advocating for equality, particularly funders that aren't primarily focused on LGBT rights. MAP developed a presentation for such institutions that explains the movement, the issues, the history, the types of organizations, and the work they do. Urvashi, who previously worked at the Ford Foundation, notes that program officers at such organizations don't have time for major research into new areas. "But if someone is educating them and presenting them with data, it's sometimes as basic as that. The case has to be made very clearly and there is a lot of good work we can expose them to."

"I would like to see MAP over the next three years demonstrate it helped bring new foundations into the LGBT funding arena," Urvashi says. "That would be a fantastic outcome. And I would like to be able to say MAP enhanced program development in places like Arcus and Gill by helping us be better informed and smarter in the grants we are making."

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