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The Rising Tide:
Philanthropy & Volunteerism in the LGBT Community
(click for bio & past articles)

Philanthropy Is Part of the Maturing LGBT Community
By Jeff Lewy

Note:  LGBT Community leader Jeff Lewy will be an on-going contributor to our new column on philanthropy and volunteerism, The Tide Rises All Ships: Philanthropy and Volunteerism, introduced by the column's founder Jody Cole.  This month Jeff contributes the first in his series authored especially for Betty's List.

Hello to Betty's List Readers.

I'm convinced that philanthropy is already an important part of the LGBT community - and its size and value are only going to grow.

Let's start with a look at the word "philanthropy."  It's an intellectual word for a concept basic to human beings - "giving."  Most of the time, I like "giving" better.  Giving is part of who we are, who we can be and who we want to be.  There is great satisfaction in giving, knowing that your gift is needed and makes a difference.  That's one reason why there is such an outpouring of support for tsunami relief.

But giving should also be done thoughtfully and with a clear purpose, not just when we are asked.  And that's where the word "philanthropy" makes sense to me.  Philanthropy is giving strategically - knowing where the money will go, what it will do, and often with the intention of eliminating or reducing the need for future giving.  As the old saying goes, teaching people to fish, rather than just giving them a fish.

So, how does this relate to you and me and the LGBT community?

I came out in 1960 in my college years - in what now seems a "galaxy far, far away."  I knew I couldn't be the only one, but back then it was difficult to find other gay people, and the risks of coming out, even to other gay people, seemed huge.  As time has passed, the LGBT community became larger, more visible and more central to many of our lives.

Now we are marking an important milestone - a time when the community includes people of all ages in all stages of life.  Like members of every community, we may need social support and special care at various life stages - during youth, schooling, family creation, health crises and elder years.

The social service organizations that meet these needs are supported in every community through philanthropy.  And this philanthropic support is community based - whether the community is one of faith, culture or in our case, sexual orientation.  Who else will provide a roof for runaway, homeless youth who come to San Francisco to make their own lives?

The LGBT community has a second set of needs - for our civil rights and equality.  Until we achieve them, we need organizations to fight for them and to mitigate the damage done in their absence through homophobia and discrimination. 

And these advocacy organizations are also supported through community-based philanthropy.  Who else will make sure we have the best advocates for our rights in the courtrooms and legislatures throughout the country?

As we expand our lives and our community, we must develop our philanthropic institutions.  Since Stonewall, we have created many of these institutions - from scratch.  Some are now celebrating their 20th, 25th or even 30th anniversaries.  But even these "elder" agencies are small and relatively fragile, compared to other mainstream institutions.

Because these organizations serve our needs, they deserve (as well as require) our support.  But they are not getting as much support as they need. 

The results of a recent sampling here in the San Francisco Bay Area indicate that only 1 in 200 (one-half of one percent) of LGBT people give to any organization that supports the LGBT community.  And the numbers are even lower for gifts to LGBT organizations from non-LGBT donors.

So, in addition to being less-established and smaller, the agencies serving us and fighting for our rights are seriously underfunded.

Two things you can do to help support your own community and your own interests:

  1. Support your community in the same way that communities of faith and communities of culture do.
  2. Learn to give and give wisely, so that the LGBT community can have a brighter, more stable and stronger future.

In future issues of this column, I'll discuss our institutions and some of the ways you can help strengthen our community.  In the meantime, if someone you know asks you to support a cause you approve of, say "yes" with your checkbook!


Bio & Past Articles

Past Articles

Betty's List Philanthropy & Volunteerism
Columnist Jody Cole

Jody Cole is a donor and philanthropic activist who was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She moved to the Bay Area in 1984 and lived in San Francisco for 18 years before moving to her ranch in Mendocino County. She has spent the past 15 years focusing on human rights and animal welfare. She also encourages women, especially lesbians, to become more philanthropic.

Jody has supported non-profit organizations, special projects and LGBT candidates for elected office. Her fundraising experience includes serving as Capital Campaign Co-chair for the San Francisco LGBT Community Center Project, helping raise $15 million dollars to build the Center; Annual Giving class agent for her alma mater, Converse College in Spartanburg, SC; and fundraising leader for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Human Rights Campaign, Community United Against Violence, Lesbian Health Research Center at UCSF, and Woman Vision's “All God's Children” project directed by Dee Mosbacher.

She has also raised funds for election campaigns of Assemblywoman Carole Migden; Assemblyman Mark Leno and Hon. Roberta Achtenberg.

Currently, she is the Chair of the Board of Directors for The Pride Alliance Network in Mendocino County. Additional board experience includes Recovering Information Services, Inc. (1994); Resourceful Women (1994-1997); Community United Against Violence (1994-1998), and Community Center Project of San Francisco (1998 – 2002).

Jody has received numerous awards for her community work.

Additionally, she has served in volunteer and advisory capacities with ICON Newsmagazine, Carole Migden, Horizons Foundation, the Lavender Think Tank for the Reelection of Mayor Willie Brown, Pets In Need, and the Marine Mammal Center. She was co-producer of the Hopland Women's Festival from 1994 - 2004, a well-known women's music, comedy and crafts festival in Hopland, California.

In her spare time, she travels to Africa and has begun leading private trips to Sub-Saharan countries for those interested in a safari experience of a lifetime. Her highest achievement to date is successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (19340') in 1998! She can be contacted at Wild Affair Productions, Ukaih, CA, via e-mail:

Contributing Author Bio

Jeff Lewy has been active for more than three decades in the San Francisco Bay Area LGBT community as a donor, board member and activist for LGBT rights.

He is currently a member of the Board of Horizons Foundation, serving as co-chair for the organization's 25th Anniversary Gala.  Horizons is the San Francisco Bay Area's LGBT community foundation.  Jeff also serves on the Board of Continuum, a provider of health care for persons with HIV in the Tenderloin.  He has previously served on the Boards of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

Jeff is also actively involved with Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Frontline Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality California and other nonprofits and civil rights organizations.

A thought from Jeff:  "It is clear to me that the elders of our community are my parents, and the youth of our community are my children.  I want to do all I can to see that they have the financial and social backing to be full, happy, productive members of society."

Jeff Lewy can be reached at