After 15 Years of Progress, Gay & Lesbian Fund to Re-Evaluate Strategic Direction, Will Continue Funding Current Grantees Through 2012

The Gill Foundation announced today it is embarking on a strategic re-evaluation of its Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado to determine the best way to have the biggest impact in Colorado going forward.  During this assessment, all of the 2011 grantees of the Gay & Lesbian Fund will receive funding in 2012. In addition, the foundation is making staff changes and moving Gay & Lesbian Fund operations to its Denver office.

“Fifteen years ago, the Gay & Lesbian Fund first began operating with a simple goal of supporting nonprofits that are working to build a better Colorado for everyone. We hoped that in the process of supporting those worthwhile nonprofits, we could demonstrate to our friends and neighbors in Colorado that gay and lesbian people care about the same things as everyone else and that we can make even more progress for our state when we all work together,” said Tim Sweeney, President and CEO of the Gill Foundation.

“In the years since we launched, the Gay & Lesbian Fund has invested more than $27.6 million in nonprofits all across the state. During this period, Colorado has become a much more inclusive and welcoming state while the economy and needs of Colorado have changed.

“Given the changed landscape, we believe it is time for us to evaluate how to make the greatest impact in Colorado going forward,” Sweeney said. “People’s attitudes have changed and we need to change to keep up with the new challenges and opportunities. The organization will spend 2012 determining the best way to move forward.

“Our commitment to improving lives in Colorado and across the nation is unwavering.  Colorado programs outside of the Gay & Lesbian Fund, including the funding of our progressive allies, our LGBT and HIV service and advocacy organizations, and our anti-bullying work will continue on their current trajectory and will not be directly affected by this re-evaluation.

“Despite declines in our endowment due to the economic environment, we have increased our grantmaking and charitable activities since 2009 and we expect to continue at these levels, further increasing our grantmaking to more than $12 million annually.”

The Gill Foundation’s total grantmaking was $9.4 million in 2009, and $11.8 million in 2010.
The Colorado portion of this grantmaking was $3.2 million in 2009, and $4 million in 2010.

Sweeney also announced as part of the restructuring:

Changing Perceptions
“Since we started 15 years ago, the Gay & Lesbian Fund, its grantees and partners have played a major role in helping Colorado become a more accepting place for LGBT people,” said Mary Lou Makepeace, Vice President of the Gay & Lesbian Fund. “There is a lot of work yet to do and it is appropriate for the organization to take stock of the successes and determine how best to move forward.”

In 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, an amendment to the state constitution that made it illegal for cities, towns or counties to pass any law that would give gays and lesbians the same rights as other people. At that time a significant percentage of Coloradans said they didn’t know anyone who was gay.

Four years later, the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado began operations with the mission to create greater awareness and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Colorado, and to demonstrate that we all care about the same things and we all want to help create a better Colorado for everyone.

Attitudes in Colorado toward gay people have changed dramatically in the 15 years since the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado was founded. This shift is evident through public opinion polls and through approval of statewide policies.

A 2010 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner research poll of 1,006 adult Coloradans shows a dramatic shift in public opinion from the days when Amendment 2 was approved:

And since 2006, six state laws have passed that provide protections for LGBT people:

In addition, in the 2011 legislative session a bill that would have legalized civil unions was passed by the State Senate with bi-partisan approval and garnered the support of editorial boards across the state before being voted down in a House committee.

The shift is also evident in the fact that when the Gay & Lesbian Fund started giving out grants in 1996 there were organizations that refused to take money because they did not want to have to acknowledge they received funding from a gay organization (one of the requirements of receiving a grant). “It was actually hard to give money away,” said Makepeace. “But in 2011, we had to turn away more than 100 organizations that requested funding.”