Our Fund was created out of pure necessity. With a community as large as South Florida’s is, it is important that LGBT service organizations are given the money needed to fund long-term projects and better serve the people in the community. A recent survey found that just one quarter of one percent of every $100 donated by grants was given to the LGBT community. Our Fund was born, and in the last few years it has grown to become the largest LGBT public funders in the country.
I spoke to the President and CEO of Our Fund, Anthony Timiraos, about the organization and asked questions that people may have about its aims.
How vital is it to the LGBT community in South Florida that an organization like Our Fund exists?
To give you a little bit of history as to why it was set up initially, we started a little over four years ago, and the reason was because there was very little, if any, funding going to LGBT non-profits that were providing services for our community…very little funding coming from foundations. So as you can see, there’s a dramatic need for funding for LGBT issues and there was nothing available for foundations.
The purpose of Our Fund is similar to the missions of many community foundations that have been established throughout the country, and that’s to unite the resources of donors together to provide a greater impact on the community. The mathematics are very simple: when you pool your resources together, you make a much bigger impact than when people try grant-making on their own.
We have grown from our beginnings, bringing donors together and introducing them to the non-profits that serve the LGBT community, and I’m happy to say they are responding. Philanthropists will contribute if they are asked, as long as they know where and how they are investing their money. That’s a key element in attempting to bring resources together in a community that’s as large as ours.
I see many people support LGBT organizations with cash donations all the time. How is it a different arrangement from donating directly to a service organization?
We always encourage direct donations to the organizations. We feel that’s very important because those donations help pay for the electricity and keep the payrolls current. Running gifts through Our Fund is a little bit different because we’re able to provide grant-making on specific projects in much larger amounts.
We’re also the conduit for legacy gifts. If a donor has $1 million in their estate, say they sold their house or something like that, they can donate that money when they die to five or six different charities. We’ve had donors give real estate to us, and we’ve sold the real estate and turned the money into a donor fund, and they can then do their charitable giving from that fund.
We have many options for donors in addition to the donations they can do directly. For example, people can be part of the Founders’ Circle at The Pride Center, and we have many donors who do that, and they also donate through their fund. We also have had people who have expressed their intent to donate to The Pride Center, among others, through their estates.
The iGive Society Challenge Grant competition is going on through June 30. How can people help these organizations earn this grant, and how do you decide which organizations are eligible for the grant?
The iGive Society Challenge Grant came together through the help of our donors who give to us on an annual basis. Half of the money goes to a special fund that we give to agencies. We have a separate Grant Committee that’s made up of nine individuals. Two are board members and the rest are individuals who are active in the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach communities. We send a request for proposals out, and the organizations fill out grant applications for specific projects. The Grant Committee reviews the applications and selects the ones that are most important.
Part of the appeal of the iGive Society Challenge Grant is that we’re only giving half of the money needed to fund the various projects. Each organization has to raise an equal amount within a three-month period to get our grant. These donations have to come from new donors or they have to build on existing donors. The reason why we do that is that we want to bring more donors to the table. By doing the challenge grant like this, it helps each of those agencies reach out to the people.
How can people become involved with Our Fund?
A lot of people like to do their research and see what we’ve done. People can call us, they can visit our website where we have outlined the work we’ve done, and they can talk to other donors. We have many events hosted by donors and it helps people to network.
For more information on Our Fund, visit our-fund.org.