Q and A: The Equality Fund

Since its founding in 2012, this growing fund has been expanding its work and building for the future. What should nonprofits know?

January 22, 2019

The Equality Fund at the Boston Foundation supports nonprofits serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community while establishing a permanent endowment that will benefit this often marginalized group in Greater Boston forever. Learn more about the Fund online, including upcoming deadlines.

Earlier this month, Lauren Vincent of The Giving Common sat down with Tim Smith, Senior Director, Philanthropy, and Elias Scanlon, Philanthropy Associate, who oversee the program to gain some additional insight on the Fund, as it closes out a new RFP for 2019 grants on January 25. 


Tim and Elias, can you provide our readers with some background on the Equality Fund at the Boston Foundation?

Equality Fund LOGOThe Equality Fund was established in 2012, thanks in large part to the efforts of TBF Directors, Catherine D’Amato (emerita), who is President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, and Scott E. Squillace, Esq., Principal and Founder of Squillace & Associates, P.C. As long-time TBF partners and donors, Ms. D’Amato and Mr. Squillace saw an opportunity to address the unmet or under-met challenges facing LGBTQ+ communities in Massachusetts by leveraging the time, talent and treasure of the donor community –ensuring a robust resource for the LGBTQ+ population over the coming decades.

The Equality Fund was created with two main goals: to make high-impact grants to nonprofits serving the diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community; and to create a permanent endowment that will benefit the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Boston in perpetuity.

In technical terms, the Equality Fund is a field of interest fund that sits within the Foundation’s Permanent Fund for Boston. In the beginning, the Fund’s grant-making dollars were raised from individual and corporate donors each year, and 100 percent of those funds were granted out that same year.

Since that time, we have cultivated an endowment that, once fully established, would support the grant-making efforts of the Fund. The Fund has already documented some $5,000,000 in testamentary gifts, with the goal of reaching $10 million by 2020. This will ensure that grants will be available to nonprofits to respond to the evolving needs of the LGBTQ+ community for decades to come.


Tell us about the Equality Fund Advisory Committee

The Equality Fund Advisory Committee is instrumental in both raising funds to build the Equality Fund’s endowment and grant-making capacity, and in promoting the overall visibility of the Fund. More broadly, the committee sets the strategic direction of the Fund, and makes annual grant recommendations to TBF’s Board of Directors. The committee leverages the expertise of TBF’s program and donor services teams in making its recommendations.

The committee has grown quite a bit over the past few years and is currently composed of 14 members. The diverse range of lived experiences, backgrounds and sectors (private, public, nonprofit) represented on the committee help us truly reflect the community the Fund serves. Committee members are deeply passionate and excited to supporting the LGBTQ+ community in both their personal and professional lives.


You mentioned that the Equality Fund looks to support organizations that are addressing unmet or under-met needs, issues or problems facing LGBTQ+ populations in Massachusetts. Can you give some examples of what those current issues and needs might be and where folks can learn more?

The Equality Fund was established in such a way that whatever the most pressing issues are – whether that’s now or in 40 years – the committee guiding the grant-making has its finger on the pulse, and can help leverage TBF and other resources to anticipate and respond to the needs expressed by the community.

Equality and Equity coverIn 2018, we worked with The Fenway Institute to commission a first-of-its-kind report on the state of the LGBTQ+ community in Massachusetts.

The report highlights three key areas of lasting and ongoing need: transgender discrimination, elder services and youth programs – especially youth of color. That report was an extraordinarily helpful resource to inform the Equality Fund’s grant-making last year (2018), and will continue to inform our decisions this year. While not required, it could be valuable for nonprofits to refer to this report when crafting an application to the Equality Fund.


How would you describe the impact the Equality Fund has had on the LGBTQ community in Massachusetts, since the Fund’s launch in 2012?

The Equality Fund has been instrumental in providing a stamp of approval and leverage for nonprofits exploring early ideas for new programs serving LGBTQ+ populations. The Fund has supported several organizations that do not primarily serve LGBTQ+ populations; but want to shape their programming to be more inclusive or develop their organization’s cultural competency to serve that community better.

The Fund has additionally played an advocacy role for the community in Massachusetts, especially through the research of the Equality and Equity report. This report helped to elevate the visibility of obstacles faced by particular groups within the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the report notes that transgender Massachusetts residents experience higher rates of poverty than people who are not transgender (sometimes referred to as cisgender people). The report also shined a light on trends like the severe symptoms of depression reported by LGBTQ+ youth in Massachusetts, among other topics. While it is meaningful to highlight the strength, resilience and progress of the LGBTQ+ community in Massachusetts, it is equally crucial to lift up the work left to do.

From an outcomes perspective, we have granted out about $600,000 to nonprofits – the vast majority of that was in the past three to four years, as the fund has grown. The Fund is now giving out around $115,000 per year.


How does the Equality Fund complement the overall mission of the Boston Foundation?

The Equality Fund helps the Boston Foundation bring people and resources together to solve Boston’s big problems. The Fund exemplifies each arm of the Foundation’s mission: making grants to nonprofits that will impact the LGBTQ+ community in Greater Boston, and serving as a civic hub via donor and grantee events and forums, such as the previously mentioned report. Furthermore, the Fund acts as a platform for donors interested in supporting LGBTQ+ causes in a variety of ways including through planned giving.

The Equality Fund is additionally a natural extension of TBF’s overall commitment to LGTBQ+ communities in Greater Boston. TBF is listed as the fifth most supportive U.S. community foundation giving to LGBTQ+ issues in 2016, according to a report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues.


What advice do you have for organizations that are considering applying for this Equality Fund grant-making cycle, with a January 25, 2019, deadline?

Definitely read the Equality and Equity report. The strongest proposals will come from organizations or programs addressing one or more of those three key needs: transgender discrimination, elder services and youth programming.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, in terms of size, grantees have ranged from very small budgets to larger statewide organizations. On the website, you can find grants from 20182017 and previous years– check those out for examples of projects and organizations we have funded in the past.

Also, don’t rule yourself out before you apply. One misconception is that only organizations with specific missions to support the LGBTQ+ community can apply. But organizations with a broader scope are also eligible to apply, as long as the program or project is serving LGTBQ individuals in Greater Boston. Organizations based outside of Massachusetts are also eligible to apply, as long as their proposal directly serves individuals in Greater Boston.

Finally, organizations are eligible to apply for – and receive funding from – both the Equality Fund and Open Door Grants.

This post was oringinally shared and posted on the Giving Common. Learn more at givingcommon.org.