Alex Blaze

HRC doesn't make the grade

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 08, 2007 2:14 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Guidestar, HRC, money, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the task force

According to Charity Navigator, the Human Rights Campaign isn't using your money all that efficiently (h/t to The Daily Dish). About 56% of their budget is devoted to "program expenses", the rest to fundraising or administrative costs. The HRC got one star over all (which means "Fails to meet industry standards and performs well below most charities in its Cause") and zero stars for efficiency (which means "Performs far below industry standards and below nearly all charities in its Cause"). Check out the above link to get more financial information on the HRC.

It's interesting that GLSEN got three stars for efficiency and three overall and that they use only 5.6% of their funds for administration, all with a budget that's about one fifth the size. You can navigate around the website to find out how our advocacy organizations are using our money.

On the flipside, the AFA has assets worth about five million dollars more than the HRC's, and they got a four-star efficiency rating. (Maybe because their CEO is paid about one-third of what the HRC's CEO is being paid.) Focus on the Family also got a four-star efficiency rating, with an insanely huge budget.

I tried to look up the biggest anti-gay groups, but many of them aren't rated on Charity Navigator nor do they have an IRS form 990 for to upload. The Eagle Forum and NARTH were nowhere to be found. But according to the copies of IRS form 990 that has available, the 2005 total budget for The Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, and the American Family Association was $177,430,425. Compare that to the total for the HRC, the Task Force, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights at $17,075,593. It's nowhere near a fair fight.

Which can go far to explain why the political debate on GLBT trights is so far behind where people actually are. We have already won the logic debate and we've already won the values debate for full equality, but we haven't won the one important debate in America, the money debate.

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Allen J. Lopp | March 10, 2007 12:45 PM

I have long suspected that HRC is an inefficient org --- however, there are two problems when one complains: (1) insiders accuse you of "eating your children" (i.e. attacking your friends and allies) and "pissing on the trees" (i.e. encouraging political turf wars) instead of "focusing on the real enemy," and (2) as bad as HRC is, it is the best organization of its type that the nationwide GLBT population segment has produced to date --- or at least, in recent decades.

Publicly criticizing a GLBT organization in an attempt to encourage it to be a better organization takes great tact and skill, and apparently we have few leaders who know how or when to pull out that particular tact/skill toolkit. I tried to do that several weeks ago when I commented on the February 19 statehouse rally hosted by IE --- basically I said (or meant to say) that IE did a worthwhile job, but there are acres of space for improvement when our community does a statehouse rally the next time --- and, BTW, why should we wait another year instead of doing these rallies quarterly?

(Hint: IE is famous for wanting to do the whole show themselves; however, statehouse rallies are ideal occasions for true coalition-building, both inside and outside the GLBT community per se. This in itself is a paradox: IE, which is supposedly a coalition of statewide and regional groups, still leaves many geographic areas and population sub-segments uncovered. The coalition is good, but incomplete. I want to wholeheartedly support IE, but I also feel compelled to push for them to become an even better organization than they already are. Or push the community to form additional groups that fill in the gaps. For me to push for this is hardly GLBT treason.)

Back to HRC: The leadership in HRC should rightfully be taken to task when a (hopefully) objective outside group finds them "below industry standards." With only one-tenth the funding enjoyed by the opposition, we cannot afford to use our scarce funds inefficiently.

(Actually, our total funding being only one-tenth of our opponents is not that bad if you consider that GLBT people are only one-tenth, more or less, of the general US population. But our efficiency problem at how we are utilizing these funds is very real.)

As my HRC membership renewal letter is sitting in my physical in-box at this very moment, you can be sure that HRC will soon receive a copy of this post, as well as a letter stating that if they expect me to renew, they have some explaining, and maybe some soul-searching, to do. I hope that everyone who sends them $100 minimum per year just to appear on their membership roster will do the same thing. These groups, and the individuals within them, appoint themselves to be our community's leaders, and they should not be allowed to operate as such without at least a minimum level of accountability.