An online space for queer, questioning, lesbian, bi, trans and everything else in between women at Yale

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Chary with Your Charity

Reading the Friendly Atheist blog, I found Hermant Mehta's endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign's Valentine's Day fundraiser.  Here's HRC's pitch:
Instead of wasting that money on one day’s worth of superficial gestures, we are pledging to donate the amount we would have spent to achieving lasting equality for everyone.

We are choosing to donate to the Human Rights Campaign. From their website: “HRC seeks to improve the lives of LGBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans through innovative advocacy, education and outreach programs.”

Sounds good? It gets better!
"For $35, your special someone will receive a cuddly, Rainbow Equality Bear."

I'm going to assume those bears are bought cheaper wholesale, but that's still a non-negligible portion of my donation that's being spent not on activism and advocacy, but on the chintzy, superficial gestures I was trying to avoid.  And that's on top of any normal overhead costs.

A lot of charities and advocacy groups get slammed for the small proportion of donations that go to support the cause.  According to leaked internal documents, HRC spent only five percent of its budget on lobbying efforts, and, in the eyes of gay Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, that lobbying left a lot to be desired.

Supporting the movement is great, but it's important to make sure the money you give goes as far as possible. We have to do due diligence on the priorities and practices of the advocacy groups we support.  HRC gets a lot of coverage, but their 'activism' tends towards merchandising and parties for Democrats who aren't really scared they're going to lose the gay vote any time soon.  If you want your money to do good, give it to state campaigns for referenda get out the vote in the style of Maine's No on Prop 1 or help fund the groups funding gay rights lawsuits (and don't forget that that includes the ACLU!)

So next time you reach for your wallet. skip HRC and donate to Lambda Legal.


Alexandra said...

Right on Leah! I would add to this that compared to many other groups that work on LGBT rights, HRC's politics leave a lot to be desired. Wasn't too long ago that they were willing to throw trans people under the bus with ENDA. Some groups I really like that I would add to your list are the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force.

Alexandra (again) said...

Oops, sorry, the national gay and lesbian task force. Oh name orders! So trick to remember! www.thetaskforce.org :)

Leah said...

Great suggestions, Alexandra!