As more gay and lesbian groups face closure due to financial woes, two international donor organisations will soon launch a new foundation to find local funding for LGBTI projects in Southern Africa.
Named the Other Foundation, the initiative is backed by The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) and HIVOS South Africa, who will both be providing seed money to get the foundation off the ground.
The foundation’s core function will be to raise funds, mostly sourced directly within the region, for LGBTI organisations and initiatives in the Southern African Development Community.
“The idea is to shift reliance from northern donors to local resources, principally the LGBTI community and corporates. That will be done via a series of campaigns profiling the issues faced by the community and targeting the community for support,” said Gerald Kraak, Programme Executive for Reconciliation and Human Rights at AP.
AP, which will be contributing R45 million over a five year period towards the foundation’s start up, has been the largest funder of gay and lesbian projects in South Africa. Since 2002, it has invested R85 million into the LGBTI sector. These projects have included LGBTI festivals, books, organisations, research and other initiatives to strengthen our rights and empower and enrich our community.
AP is now, however, aiming “to break the cycle of dependency of the organised LGBTI community on international donors and foundations”. Put simply, that means we need to start taking care of ourselves.
The timing of the foundation’s creation is significant. AP’s policy is to provide funding for targeted sectors over specific periods of time and for LGBTI projects in South Africa that funding came to an end in March. Numerous organisations and projects, such as the Out In Africa Film Festival, will be affected.
Sharon Jackson from Out In Africa told Mambaonline that 2012 was the last year that the festival received funding from AP, putting the event in a precarious situation.
“It’s pretty frightening and scary. A lot of LGBTI organisations, such as Behind the Mask, are falling by the wayside,” she said.
Kraak noted that “our experience has been that organisations have struggled with sustainability. The sector has failed to get to grips with being so reliant on international donors”.
He added that while some groups faced financial difficulties due to “a combination of withdrawal of funders from South Africa and the impact of the recession, it also reflects on quite poor governance by some organisations”.
“We are assuming that the foundation will succeed based on experience elsewhere. But it is an unproven assumption at this point …”
The foundation aims to draw on a combination of fundraising strategies. These include some international donor support but primarily investments by regional gay-owned and LGBTI-supportive companies, as well as donations by LGBTI people and other individuals.
Jackson praised AP for driving the Other Foundation initiative and sees it “as a fantastic initiative.” She expressed concern, however, that “the foundation will have its work cut out for it in raising funds for the community. It’s incredibly hard to do that here. People don’t understand the challenges that we face.”
Kraak agreed that there are no guarantees. “We are assuming that the foundation will succeed based on experience elsewhere. But it is an unproven assumption at this point and it will rely on us being able to convince LGBTI individuals to give,” he said.
But is South Africa’s LGBTI community capable or even willing to contribute towards its own future? Unlike what is the case in countries such as the US, there is no significant culture of gays and lesbians donating to LGBTI causes. Kraak believes that it is possible to raise funds locally to match the money AP previously injected into the sector.
“We are not talking about a huge amount. If we can convince a few thousand people to contribute R500 a year, we can achieve the target,” he said.
“The community has to decide to what extent does it own the sector. Do people see the connection between the rights they’ve gained and the work that organisations have done,” he asked?
In addition to raising funds, the foundation will also broker relationships between LGBTI organisations and other donors and foundations.
“The Other Foundation will thus not only be a repository for donations and grants, but a catalyst for relationships to substantially increase the total pool of resources available to the Southern African LGBTI sector as a whole,” Kraak said.
Kraak expects the foundation to be launched early next year and revealed that there is some programme funding in place which could start being allocated by 2014.
Atlantic Philanthropies has called for nominations for individuals to sit on the board of the Other Foundation. These should be people, not restricted to South Africans or to LGBTIs, who wish to serve the LGBT community, gain professional experience and additional skills and broaden their professional networks.
For more information, including criteria for board membership and submitting a nominee for the board, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date for nominations is 28 September 2012.
Will the Other Foundation work? Would you be willing to contribute towards funding LGBT community projects and organisations? Tell us your thoughts below.