Recession, lack of progress on LGBT issues took toll on advocacy groups in 2009, report says

Thirty-nine of the largest LGBT equality groups saw their revenues fall by an average of 20 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Movement Advancement Project, a Denver-based think tank. According to a CQ Weekly article about the report posted on Congress.org, the groups’ combined revenues fell from $202.7 million in 2008 to $161.3 million in 2009, falling short of total expenses by $4.3 million:

Final revenue figures for last year are not yet available, but the report says the 39 groups responded to a bad 2009 by slashing their budgets last year to $135.4 million, 21 percent lower than in 2008. Among the groups participating in the survey were stalwarts of the gay rights movement such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“The revenue drop reflects two things: the economic climate and some frustration at the pace of change in 2009,” says Ineke Mushovic, the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director. She expects that the burst of policy gains in late 2010 and early 2011, combined with a recovering economy, may create a better picture when the report is next updated.

Below are some other key findings listed in a press release about the report. Download the full report by going here:

• The 39 participating organizations’ combined 2009 expenses of $165.6 million are only half of the combined annual expenses of just the 10 largest organizations working to oppose LGBT equality ($333.1 million).

• Many organizations are scaling back their programs in order to align with available resources. Combined 2010 budgets ($135.4 million) are down 18 percent from 2009 expenses ($165.6 million).

• General financial health remains strong. Organizations have good and rising average working capital (a measure of cash reserves), declining but still-healthy liquidity ratios (funds to cover current obligations), and steady cash and net assets (which speaks to institutional durability).

• Movement groups are highly efficient in their fundraising and programming operations, with all 39 participants exceeding the efficiency standards of both the American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. An average of 79 percent of expenses is spent on programs and services, 9 percent on management and general expenses, and only 12 percent on fundraising.

• Less than 4 percent of all LGBT adults in the U.S. donated $35 or more to these LGBT organizations. While organizations are generally effective at retaining smaller donors (those giving $35 or more) year over year, the number of larger donors (those giving $1,000 or more) is dropping and not easily replaced.

• The staffs of participating organizations are diverse, roughly mirroring the broader U.S. population: 32 percent identify as people of color (12 percent African American, 12 percent Latino/a, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 1 percent Native American or other). Also, 46 percent are women and 6 percent identify as transgender.

—  John Wright