Editors' Note: Guest blogger Greg Varnum is the Executive Director of NYAC, the National Youth Advocacy Coalition.
As news of marriage equality in New Hampshire dominated the headlines, I got word of another story unfolding in New Hampshire that is just as significant, but not likely to get nearly as much attention. Seacoast Outright, a local LGBTQ youth-serving agency serving the New Hampshire area, announced that they might be forced to close their doors by the end of June. Making NH youth the latest victims in a new crisis developing within the LGBTQ community. While marriage equality in NH is fantastic, the youth who may lose their "home" and resources they need are more focused on if they'll ever reach a point where they can actually enjoy that right.
Thanks to the community's response to this news, there may still be hope for Seacoast. However, the same is not true for Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS), one of the largest LGBTQ youth-serving agencies in the country. GLASS provided important services to youth in the Los Angeles area and was known nationally for their amazing work with foster care youth. Our community lost GLASS to bankruptcy this past April. We've lost other local organizations and if things continue as they are - we will lose more.
I've received calls, emails and letters of great concern from leaders of LGBTQ youth-serving organizations, HIV/AIDS agencies, LGBT health outreach centers and other services and programs important to the survival of members of our community in need. The economic crisis has been particularly tough on many of the people they serve, whose numbers are increasing. However, the funds available to the organizations serving those in need has decreased. Not just from individual donors and private foundations - but from local, state and federal government as well. Organizations that were once able to survive solely on government funding are no longer able to even offer their most basic services with the funds provided by the government.
The economic climate we're in is certainly playing a major role in this problem. However, our community's strong interest and recent successes in public policy efforts are also creating an unintentional competitor that some service organizations have been unable to compete with.
Now, let me be clear, I strongly believe that there are enough resources in our community to not only support both our service and policy efforts, but do so in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way. While those resources may exist, many of our organizations have been unable to tap into them. As their situation gets worse, they have less resources to allocate towards cultivating those new relationships.
Many of my colleagues at policy organizations are quick to point out that they're not trying to pull funds away from other organizations and that they're aggressively going after "new" donors. However, a recent report by the Movement Advancement Project shows that 30% of our organizations cited Proposal 8 as a factor in their inability to meet fundraising goals. We may have the ability to support both, but we're not doing it.
So what's the solution? In truth, I think it's far more complicated than I have space for to offer my thoughts. NYAC, other organizations, and individuals are tackling various aspects of this problem. However, our efforts alone will not be enough.
Our community needs to wake-up and realize the financial turmoil many of our organizations are in. If these organizations are worth protecting and saving, and I assure you they are, then it's our responsibility to decide for ourselves what we can do to help. For some that might mean opening their checkbooks and for others it might mean making sure that their organization's local fundraising efforts help support, benefit or bring attention to local organizations providing important services.
Whatever stepping up and helping keep these organizations open means to you, I hope that you do so before it's too late.
The National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC) is a national social justice organization working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people to strengthen the role of young people in the LGBTQ rights movement. Celebrating its 16th anniversary, NYAC's full-time professional staff supports local, state and national organizations working to engage LGBTQ youth. NYAC is committed to representing the voices of young people--the largest living generation--within the broader LGBTQ and social justice movements. Through capacity building, advocacy and youth engagement, NYAC is building a generation of impact. For more information visit www.nyacyouth.org