Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues

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A Profile of the LGBTQ Funder Who Has Long Funded Gun Violence Prevention

In the wake of the horrific massacre of LGBTQ and Latinx youth in Orlando, FL, a growing number of LGBTQ organizations are embracing gun violence prevention as an LGBTQ issue. But will the funding community follow suit? To explore funding gun violence prevention, we spoke with Michel Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation.

When the David Bohnett Foundation was founded in 1999, gun violence prevention and LGBTQ issues were two of the original funding priorities and they remain priorities for the foundation today. But if you could go back in time to 2000 when Michael joined the foundation, and you were to ask him, “by 2016, do you think we will be more likely to have passed common sense gun laws or achieved marriage equality?” his answer would have been “we’ll have common sense gun laws.” That is not how things have worked out – we have marriage equality and common sense gun laws continue to evade us.

Currently, only a handful of grantmakers are willing to engage in the gun control debate. Just as LGBTQ issues were once seen as too political for grantmakers, Michael notes “guns and gun control have long been seen as too political for foundations.”

So will the tragedy in Orlando move LGBTQ funders to invest in gun violence prevention? If it does, what do funders need to know?

First, interested funders should know that guns and gun violence intersect with just about every funding priority. Michael suggests, “think of areas you already fund in and think of the intersection with gun violence.” You might not need a new funding priority; you might just need a slight shift in thinking. If you fund safe schools, could common sense gun laws help you realize that goal? If you fund public health and are interested in reducing homicides or suicides, might funding gun violence prevention help you achieve your vision? In Michael’s words, “gun violence takes a horrific toll on every community it touches – in the case of Orlando it was our LGBTQ community – in any given day it can be communities of color, those impacted by poverty in this country, any community.”

Secondly, any grantmakers interested in gun violence prevention should be prepared to make a long-term investment. Michael warns, “The fight for common sense gun laws won’t be won tomorrow – or the day after. Odds are it won’t be won at the federal level, it will be won at the state and local level.”

Finally, Michael would tell any interested funders, “there are a bunch of terrific groups already on the ground doing work in the gun control space.” There are funders like Bohnett, the Joyce Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation who have been doing this work for quite sometime. There are also national organizations like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, and Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions as well as strong local groups depending upon where you live. There are a lot of ways to get engaged, the question is will you?

For those interested in having a deeper conversation and getting more information on funding gun violence prevention, please consider contacting David Bohnett Foundation Program Officer Paul Moore at paul@bohnett.com.