A foundation retained by the D.C. government to award city funded grants to local non-profit organizations under a newly launched program turned down grant applications from six LGBT organizations and another three groups that provide services to LGBT clients.
The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region announced on April 16 that it had approved grants of up to $100,000 each for 58 non-profit organizations out of a total of 315 groups that applied for grants under the $15 million City Fund program created by Mayor Vincent Gray.
The six LGBT oriented groups – including the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Casa Ruby, and SMYAL – were among 257 of the 315 organizations applying for a grant that were turned down, according to information released by the Community Foundation.
Casa Ruby is an LGBT community center based in Columbia Heights that reaches out to the Latino and transgender communities. SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders) provides services for LGBT youth.
The other LGBT specific groups turned down for grants were the Center for Black Equity, which, among other things, coordinates black LGBT Pride events and sponsors conferences for the black LGBT community; the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign; Us Helping Us, an AIDS service organization that reaches out to black gay and bisexual men; and Whitman-Walker Health, the city’s largest AIDS service organization that provides health related services to the LGBT community as well as other communities.
Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), which, among other things, provides services for transgender sex workers; and Food and Friends, which provides home-delivered meals and nutritional services to people with HIV and other serious illnesses, including LGBT people, were also among the groups turned down for grants under the City Fund program.
“Today, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, the Center for Black Equity, Casa Ruby, SMYAL, Us Helping Us, HIPS, and the Human Rights Campaign expressed their deep disappointment that not a single local LGBT organization received funding under the City Fund,” a joint statement by the groups says.
“Currently, very few services specifically targeted to the LGBT community are publicly funded in Washington, D.C.,” the statement says. “This lack of targeted funding is particularly problematic as the LGBT community is dealing with a variety of challenges around HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and stigma; youth homelessness; healthcare access – including mental health services; disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse; and high levels of unemployment in the transgender community,” according to the statement.
“We are hopeful that the Community Foundation will take a hard look at this issue and urge the Foundation to learn more about the needs of the LGBT community,” the statement says. “A dedicated public funding stream needs to be made available for programs and services for the LGBT community.”
Ruby Corado, founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, said she has called on officials with the Community Foundation to meet with LGBT community representatives to discuss concerns that no LGBT specific groups were approved for a City Fund grant.
Terry Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, told the Blade in a statement on Monday that last week’s grant awards were the first of at least three rounds of grant awards that will be made this year and early next year.
She said the Community Foundation is urging organizations that weren’t approved in the first round to apply again for grants under the program.
“We received 315 applications totaling over $30 million in requests for this round alone,” she said. “We were able to fund 58 programs totaling over $3.5 million. That leaves over 250 applications that were unfortunately not accepted for funding in this round, including many wonderful organizations with important missions,” she said.
“The review committee carefully considered all applications and the process was highly competitive,” she said. “There are a number of reasons why an organization might not be funded. In some cases it’s because they do not fit with the guidelines or funding criteria or did not properly complete the application.”
Criteria listed on the City Fund website include a requirement an organization must have an IRS 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status; that it cannot be an “advocacy” organization; it must have an annual budget of at least $100,000; and it must submit an audited financial report showing financial stability.
At the request of Gray, the D.C. Council in 2013 approved funding of $15 million for the grant program. A write-up on the fund’s website says the program is aimed at supporting “effective non-profits that provide critical programs and services across the city.”
The goal of these programs, the write-up says, is to “grow and diversify the District’s economy, educate and prepare the workforce for the new economy; and improve the quality of life for all.”
At an LGBT Pride forum organized by the Blade last June, Gray urged LGBT organizations to apply for grants under the program, saying the criteria for awarding grants “are broad and certainly would include the kinds of issues we are talking about here tonight.”
But Freeman said in her statement on Monday that the mayor’s office directed the Community Foundation to limit the focus of the grants on seven “issue areas” that include the arts, education, environment, health, job readiness, public safety, and senior services.
“The fund was set up to target issue areas rather than specific populations,” Freeman said. “The issue areas were created by the D.C. government and provided to the Community Foundation to enact as the fund administrator.”
Freeman added, “Funding in each issue area is intended to serve as wide and diverse a population as possible, including District residents in the LGBT community.”
She noted that grants approved for at least two organizations – TrueChild and Metro Teen AIDS – will address LGBT-related issues.
Riki Wilchins, executive director of TrueChild, said the organization isn’t specifically LGBT oriented but specializes in educating the public on gender role issues and gender role discrimination that impact the LGBT community. Wilchins said the TrueChild grant approved by the Community Foundation calls for following up on earlier research by TrueChild to develop educational programs and “interventions” to prevent violence against trans women of color.
The program is aimed at changing the hearts and minds of young straight males who are most often identified as the perpetrators of violence against transgender women and LGBT people in general, Wilchins said.
Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro Teen AIDS, which reaches out to LGBT youth and other population groups through HIV prevention programs, said a $46,000 grant approved by the Community Foundation for Metro Teen AIDS will be used to expand an existing program called REALtalk.
According to Tenner, Metro Teen AIDS and a partner group will train over 60 young people “to make more than 5,000 contacts with youth throughout the city” to educate the youth on HIV prevention. He said LGBT youth will be involved in the program.
Community Foundation spokesperson Jenny Towns said the foundation doesn’t release its reasons for turning down grant applications and leaves it up to the organizations themselves to release such information.
In the case of the LGBT groups, Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center released to the Blade a brief summary sheet they received from the Community Foundation stating why their grant application was declined.
“Overall, the proposed program had a nice design and referenced a need in the community,” the statement said about the D.C. Center’s proposal. “A large portion of the requested funding was for a staff position,” it said. “There were questions over the sustainability of the project: What would happen to this position and the program if you did not receive funding next year? The amount of the request compared to the organizational budget was high,” the statement said.
In the case of Casa Ruby, the Community Foundation said in its summary statement Casa Ruby didn’t submit with its application an audited financial statement or a certificate of good standing required of all applicants, and submitted an “incomplete budget versus actuals” in connection with the group’s income.
Corado said she will check with the person who prepared the Casa Ruby grant application, but as far as she knows, everything requested was submitted with the application.
“I feel a grant giving organization would work with us,” she said. “They could have called us and worked with us to get all the information they needed. Any funder that really cares – they will work with you.”
She said she was troubled that the Community Foundation has turned down grant applications for all of the LGBT groups that submitted proposals, including Casa Ruby’s. She said the Casa Ruby proposal was aimed at helping trans people find employment in the city.
Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, said he is skeptical of the Community Foundation’s suggestion that LGBT organizations may not have been approved for a grant because criteria set by the city called for “issue” oriented grants rather than grants targeting a specific population group.
“That to me is not an excuse,” Fowlkes told the Blade. “We have a large LGBT population in the District and we have a large LGBT population that is very visible and has a great deal of community needs,” he said.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that none of us were funded,” Fowlkes said. “We’re kind of shocked that none of us were funded. And we all couldn’t have written bad grants.”
Fowlkes and representatives of the LGBT groups aside from Casa Ruby and the D.C. Center said they had not received information from the Community Foundation explaining why their applications were declined as of late Monday.
Paul Guequierre, spokesperson for the HRC Foundation, said the HRC Foundation proposal called for “engaging educators, families, and students in the community to decrease bullying and increase respect for diversity.” He said the program would focus on 500 educators and 30 schools in Wards 1, 7 and 8.
Shawn Jain, a spokesperson for Whitman-Walker Health, said Whitman-Walker applied for a $100,000 grant to boost its patient centered medical home program, which helps patients manage and organize their own care at the organization’s Elizabeth Taylor Clinic.
“We don’t know what the reason was,” he said, when asked why the City Fund declined to approve the grant. “We got a notice saying we have to call them to find out.”
Jain added, “We congratulate the organizations that received their grants.”