LGBT Philanthropy

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Human Rights
LGBT Philanthropy serves, advocates and celebrates the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. LGBT Philanthropy has brought about social change in the last fifty years including, marriage equality, AIDS education, public acceptance and support for the LGBT community itself through counseling and other services.

Authored by Katie Hunt


In order to define LGBT Philanthropy we must first understand the terms LGBT and Philanthropy. LGBT stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.” Payton and Moody define philanthropy as “voluntary action for the public good” (Peyton and Moody, 6). Therefore, LGBT Philanthropy is “voluntary action that serves the public good by serving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community.” This includes voluntary giving as well as voluntary service. LGBT Philanthropy refers to the organizations and people working to serve, advocate and celebrate the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people.


Historic Roots

The LGBT movement first began during the late 1800s. As social attitudes toward homosexuality became more hostile, social reformers began to work to defend homosexuality. Many of these social reformers worked in secret societies such as the Order of Chaerona. Because of the controversial nature of their advocacy, many of these organizations worked underground.

In the 1940s, a number of homosexual rights group came into being across the western world. The social movements of the 1960s such as the Civil RIghts, Women’s Liberation and anti-Vietnam movements lead the way for a more vocal LGBT movement. With this movement many of the organizations that serve and advocate for the LGBT community were born. The Gay Liberation Front formed in 1969 shortly after the Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community in response to a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York.

The 1980s and the emergence of AIDS helped to propel LGBT issues to the forefront of equality movements. The election of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials, gave hope to the LGBT community in a time when they faced more and more hate and discrimination. Milk believed that the government should represent all people, especially the LGBT community. He encouraged members of the LGBT community to come out to their friends and family and to get involved in the political process. Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, first civil unions and later the fight for marriage equality led the need for new types of LGBT organizations. After reaching marriage equality in the US, the American LGBT movement has been able to move into other issues of importance to the community such as, rights to raise children, equality in the workplace and counseling and support services.



Over the years LGBT organizations, volunteers and activists have been instrumental in the progress of key issues in the LGBT movement. The most important work has been done in the areas of social justice, diversity and inclusion. Organizations and volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring about marriage equality in the United States and continue to push for general inclusion and acceptance. Many LGBT organizations envision a world where all people, not just members of the LGBT community, can live free from prejudice and discrimination. Diversity and inclusion help our society develop. Our society cannot continue to grow if everyone within them thinks the same, acts the same and has the same interests.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

There are several types of LGBT organizations that exist in the sector today. These organizations include advocacy organizations, service providers, infrastructure organizations, grassroots organizations and arts and cultural organizations. Advocacy organizations lobby, offer legal aid and right for the rights of the LGBT community. Service providers help with counseling services as well as providing resources for people and families dealing with HIV/AIDS. Frequently, homeless LGBT persons have great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. Members of the LGBT community experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Organizations such as the True Colors Fund work to provide services to these individual. Through community organizing the True Colors Fund ensures that communities around the country have the tools they need to prevent and address LGBT youth homelessness. Infrastructure organizations conduct research or provide services to other organizations. For example, The Williams Institute, part of the UCLA School of Law provides research that can be used by organizations to help them better serve the LGBT community. Grassroots organizations educate the community on LGBT issues and work to bring the broader community together with the LBGT community. Arts and cultural organizations work to celebrate the culture of the LGBT community.

According to the 2014 LGBT Funders Tracing Report, 33% of the funding for these organizations comes from public and private LGBT foundations. The other 67% comes from a combination of community foundations, corporations, and non LGBT public and private foundations (2014 Tracking Report, 3).


Related Organizations

  • Funders for LGBTQ Issues – an organization that works with funders and LGBT organizations to increase institutional giving to LGBT communities

  • Horizons Foundation – A community foundation dedicated to the LGBT community.

  • Lambda Legal Defense And Education Fund – the largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work

  • Williams Institute – part of the UCLA Law School dedicated to research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy

  • Freedom to Marry - the campaign that fought for and won marriage equality in the United States and ignited a global movement.

  • GLAAD – a grassroots organization working to change the narrative of LGBT issues.

  • Human Rights Watch – An international organization working to defend LGBT rights around the world.



  • "2014 Tracking Report.” Funders for LGBT Issues. Oct. 2016.
  • "About Us." Lambda Legal. Web. Oct. 2016.
  • Cook, London and the Culture of Homosexuality 1885-1914, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • "Community Organizing." True Colors Fund. Web.  Nov. 2016.
  • “GLAAD’s Programs.” GLAAD. Web. Oct. 2016.
  • "Growing LGBT Philanthropy in Partnership with Community Foundations.” KBT & Associates. Web. Oct. 2016.
  • "Harvey Milk Official Biography." Milk Foundation.  Nov. 2016.
  • "LGBT Rights." Human Rights Watch.  Oct. 2016.
  • "Mission." Williams Institute. Web. Oct. 2016.
  • "Mission, Vision, Values.” Horizons Foundation Fueling the LGBT Movement Web. Oct. 2016.
  • Payton, Robert L., and Michael P. Moody. Understanding Philanthropy: Its Meaning and Mission. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2008.
  • Wolfson, Evan. "Winning the Freedom to Marry Nationwide: The Inside Story of a Transformative Campaign.” Freedom to Marry. Web.  Oct. 2016.

This paper was developed by students taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2017. It is offered by Learning To Give and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.