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Apaltry 23 cents out of every $100 of philanthropic giving goes to support LGBTQ-focused causes, says Funders for LGBTQ Issues. For 23 years, the LGBTQ+ Alliance Fund has dedicated its own fundraising activities to pushing that amount higher.

Its continuing effort, including issuing its biggest grant distribution ever this year and expanding its endowment, has earned it the 2022 Outstanding Foundation Philanthropist Award.

The stakes are high for this kind of annual support, which funds health, anti-discrimination, educational and other services for LGBTQ+ communities. “We’ve made significant progress … but our work is far from over,” says Andrés Cano, director of the Alliance Fund. Each year brings even more requests to fund programs.

Community Foundation for Southern Arizona created the fund in 1999 to answer a call to action by the National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership. The partnership saw the need to fund local organizations fighting for gay rights. Marriage equality wasn’t the law of the land yet and grass-roots groups struggled to find support in traditional philanthropic circles. CFSA, which won National Philanthropy Day awards in 2020 and 2018, felt this was “the perfect place for us to encourage philanthropy and donors of all walks of life,” Cano says.

The fund, governed by a volunteer advisory board, taps gay and straight individual and corporate donors, endowment funds and a few fundraising events. “Our donors in Southern Arizona … know the work of our grantees are intersectional and critical,” explains Cano.

So far, the Alliance Fund has awarded more than $1.1 million in 219 grants to 75 nonprofit groups. They include Tucson LGBT Chamber of Commerce Foundation; the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance; and Camp Born This Way.

Grants also go to organizations whose missions do not focus exclusively on the LGBTQ+ community, but nonetheless provide services. Those include El Rio Health Center Foundation’s programs on HIV prevention and its youth transgender health program, as well as specialized legal services for LGBTQ clients of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

This year marks the Alliance Fund’s biggest annual investment: $103,500 in grants to 12 regional nonprofits whose efforts include housing, health services, the arts and commerce. For the first time, grants extend over two years, providing stable funding for deserving programs.

Southern Arizona Senior Pride, which received funding this year, credits the Alliance Fund’s multi-year support for turning its group of volunteers into a staffed nonprofit.

“Supporting diverse groups and causes … is a tremendous strong suit of the Alliance Fund,” observes Senior Pride Association Director Keith Ashley, “often locating, encouraging and supporting scrappy startups with inspiring missions.”

Providing support through its ever-growing endowment is another Alliance Fund milestone worth celebrating, Cano says. A year ago, endowment funds totaled $300,000. Now it’s nearing the $1 million mark.

It’s still a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of funding all the needs identified for Southern Arizona LGBTQ advocates. But the Alliance Fund follows a steady course. Jenny Flynn, CFSA’s president and chief executive officer, concludes, “This long record of targeted funding to a historically underfunded population has been a lifeline for many in our community.”