Fundraising in the Trans Community

by Nancy Nangeroni

Monday May 18, 1998. 6:23pm

I returned from my recent west coast visit to bad news: while I was gone, we ran out of money.

This is not earthshattering news, it happens to us regularly. Actually, it's the first time that this has happened since we managed, with the help of some very good people, to extract IFGE from a financial crisis last November. It happened this time in part because I was distracted from fundraising while reorganizing magazine production.

With that task behind me, things should improve. But meanwhile, we need contributions and membership. I've given the matter some thought. Asking for money is not one of my favorite things to do, and I figure I need some convincing arguments to get people to part with their hard-earned cash.

One thing I know is that, with IFGE, you get a lot for your money. Our total income from contributions and membership last year was something like $60,000. That would be enough, if you stretched it carefully, to fund an office with a single employee. And yet, we were able to leverage that investment by our donors and members last year into a budget of over $350,000 and an office with 5 full-time employees, two part-timers, dozens of volunteers, an excellent bookstore and a high quality magazine.

Half of the $60,000 came from a small handful of generous donors, which means that IFGE took only $30,000 from the rest of the community.

What were we able to accomplish with that money?

We ran a successful convention that was the first major Trans convention in Toronto; that brought together a community previously isolated in smaller groups; that presented valuable and groundbreaking seminars and workshops; and that even stimulated the formation of a new support group.
We made available to you, through our bookstore, the finest selection of books about transgender issues available anywhere.
We published our widely respected magazine, the only one that inclusively promotes the welfare of a diverse transgender community while presenting a highly professional and accessible face.
We created a top-notch web site providing useful information for a broad community of questioners.
We answered countless inquiries and provided referrals for people ranging from crossdressers and trans youth to helping professionals and the media.
We repeatedly represented our community to the media, other organizations, and the medical and psychological professions, while at the same time providing a point of contact for people not yet familiar with our community.
All the while, we strove to maintain high standards in all our work, scrupulously avoiding attacks against individuals, challenging instead only ideas and organizations. We set a conscious example for intercommunity relationships and dialogue, and advocated strongly for greater cooperation and collaboration. We mended fences with other organizations and individuals around our community, building towards more effective collaborations in the future.

Surprisingly, our greatest obstacle -- other than our own mistakes -- has not been the religious right, or the media, or the law. Rather, it's been vicious attack from within our own community. Because they come from within, these attacks are extraordinarly discouraging and counterproductive. I'm no psychologist, but I suspect that they happen because of our self-esteem issues. Or maybe it's just that we all care so much about this movement, and can't bear the thought of a leader taking us astray. I can't bear that thought either, and we at IFGE rely on you to help keep us on track with your suggestions and feedback.

When it comes to funding the efforts of those of us willing to do the work, I think we can do better. Surely we can raise more than $30,000 a year from our community, for our community. Just last Saturday I sat at an HRC fundraising dinner in Atlanta, attended by over 1,000 people who paid $175 each to attend. That one dinner raised more money than we've raised from our community, including all sources of donations and membership, over the last two years.

So tell me, what is wrong with this picture? Why is it that we regularly hold fundraisers for other charities at TG events, but fundraising events for our own organizations like GenderPAC, It's Time, America, IFGE, and other deserving efforts, are almost unheard of? Why do we resent being asked to fund our own liberation? Is it that we just can't do without one more dress or tie, or is it that we still can't bring ourselves to trust one another? Are we still seeing each other as the perverts we still, in some deep, dark place in our souls, believe ourselves to be?

I call on the transgender community to empower those willing to work, with the means to do the job well. It's time we became good at fundraising. Let's follow the example of the good folks at last year's Southern Comfort, or the last "T" Party, or the Hero's Journey Conference, all of which gave generously to IFGE and enabled us to turn this organization around. Imagine what could be done if we really mobilized the generosity of our community!

Some lucky transfolk are enjoying greatly expanded freedoms of gender expression and identity. More cities are passing Trans-protective ordinances, employers are following suit, and media coverage has been exceedingly favorable. But too many trans people still fall victim to hate crimes, employment discrimination, and the loss of their families. We can make a difference for them, but not without your help. Please, help us do what must be done. Help us help those that are in need. Don't put it off. Help us today, because if you don't we may not be here to help them, or you, tomorrow.

Please send whatever you can afford - no gift is too small.