After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, new activist organization GetEqual has started hiring staff. National Equality March co-chairs Kip Williams and Robin McGehee will be part of the upper management and the New Organizing Institute's Chief Operating Officer, Heather Cronk, will leave her position with NOI to be GetEqual's Managing Director.
The New Organizing Institute is best known for their boot camp trainings for liberal activists. The group is holding an LGBT-specific Boot Camp in early August.
GetEqual was just given $250,000 by Jonathan Lewis, the son of one of the founders of Progressive Auto Insurance. According to veteran activist Larry Kramer, Lewis also paid for the activist retreat at the Highlander Research and Education Center in rural Tennessee in late January.
The organization currently employs five activists including Williams, McGehee, and Cronk. In an e-mail to journalist Michael Petrelis, Williams said that he and McGehee were making "less than $90K per year." He also said the group had spent around $180,000 "since December 2009 to create and launch GetEQUAL" and for the retreat.
The organization's structure still seems nebulous with both Williams and Cronk admitting that some framework still needed to be put in place. "We are putting in place a very diverse board of directors," Williams told Petrelis.
"We have three other staff to help with direct actions, outreach, planning and implementation, but everyone else is a volunteer--no one who has participated in an action that either risked arrest or were arrested were paid for their participation."
"The structure of GetEQUAL is constantly evolving, depending on what we need from staff/volunteers and what assets our staff/volunteers bring to the table," Cronk told me over e-mail. "We're in the midst of re-examining our structure now that I am on board, so that question will be better answered in a few weeks after an upcoming staff retreat."
"Most of the work that GetEQUAL has been able to accomplish has been at the hands of our network of volunteer organizers. GetEQUAL provides structure and support to those volunteer organizers, and will soon be launching an even more thorough system for empowering individuals to take action in their communities," Cronk said. "Of course, GetEQUAL organizes actions ourselves, as well, and will continue to do so in ways that are strategic and targeted in order to move closer to our goal of full legal and social equality."
Williams told Petrelis that the upcoming retreat would also address the issue of transparency.
While Cronk said that neither Williams nor McGehee were NOI Fellows, the site's website still lists Williams as focusing on "organizing activists online and offline to demand legal and social equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community." Since not-for-profit websites are often slow to update, Williams' presence on the site could just be an administrative mistake.
Williams told Petrelis that he and McGehee were on sabbatical from their regular jobs to do GetEqual work. Williams is also a Bilerico Project contributor.
Follow up questions sent to Cronk, Williams, and McGehee weren't answered by publication.