Deena FidasPost submitted by Beck BaileyDeputy Director of Employee Engagement

In June, Deena Fidas, director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program, joined other community leaders for the panel “Moving Against the Tide, Until You Turn It: A Historic Year for LGBTQ Equality” at the Council on Foundations Philanthropy Exchange, an annual conference for the philanthropic community including foundation leaders, impact investors and social entrepreneurs.

Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Arcus Foundation, moderated and kicked off the session with an overview of the movement and funding over the last 30 years. Panelist Ben Francisco Maulbeck, president of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, reviewed data pertaining to sources of funding of LGBT causes, and Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom To Marry, reviewed the Freedom to Marry history and strategy on funding. Gabriel Fostergave an overview of the Trans Justice Funding Project, a community-led funding initiative that supports grassroots, trans justice groups. Gabriel is a Co-Organizer of the project and gave a compelling run-down of the success of this new and innovative project.

The HRC Foundation’s Deena Fidas spoke on the history of corporate engagement in the LGBT movement and specifically the gains made over the last 12 years or so in securing workplace non-discrimination policies and equitable benefits for LGBT people. Fidas noted how corporations initially viewed the LGBT community through the lens of its substantial market-based purchasing power and as a new source of revenue. Later, realizing they could not capitalize on the market without better serving the embers of the LGBT community within their organizations, they began to movement towards workplace quality driven, in large part, by the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, as well as corporate interests involving talent recruitment and retention. Over time, internal “employee resource groups” made up of LGBT employees and their allies, continued to spur corporate interest not only in internal equitable practices for LGBT employees but also influenced corporate philanthropy to LGBT causes. Increasingly, companies are financially supportive of pro-LGBT causes and have even withdrawn support of entities that are openly anti-LGBT, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

The panelists underscored the importance of a diverse portfolio of funders – individual, grassroots efforts as well as foundation and corporate giving – to the success of the LGBT equality movement.

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