World Vision Shows Us That Positive Change Can Be Fickle

This past week has been a roller coaster ride for the LGBT* non-profit community. This past week World Vision announced that they were going to immediately recognize the same sex marriages of their gay and lesbian workers. They were quoted as saying

 “It’s been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church. It’s tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We’ve got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity.”

World Vision is one of the largest  faith driven organizations in the world, working in almost 100 countries. This move wasn’t an endorsement, but it certainly had the potential of creating positive waves in the aid / relief community. Unfortunately World Vision backed out of this decision from overwhelming pressure and bullying from the political evangelical community. I probably should have seen this coming;I didn’t have dreams of grandeur. I didn’t think an acknowledgement of same-sex marriages would lead to every faith-based group to reevaluate their perception of the LGBT* community.

This could have been beyond huge. For too long Christian (and secular) organizations in the non-profit sector ignored or separated themselves from acknowledging the LGBT* individuals in their workforce. Challenging that separation through open acknowledgement would force people to at least look at their understanding of what it means for a queer person who is working toward similar goals. This could have been a time where Christian non-profits to look at itself, its staff, and its volunteers; World Vision had the chance to say that LGBT* workers are just as impactful as their straight counterparts, and should have equal footing.

Instead, we are shown that with enough negative pressure, positive change can be reversed. What could have been a great leap forward towards equality in the non-profit sector has become another example of discrimination and homophobia. World Vision’s mission is to “[work] with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice”. They had a chance to fix an injustice within their own organization. I hope someday that revisit this, and I hope that organizations while acknowledge that LGBT* aid workers fight poverty and hunger, work for quality education, and advocate for those who do not have a voice.

As a  diverse community, we need to focus on WHY we are doing what we’re doing. That is our commonality – what unites us toward making the world a better, happier, and brighter place.

How To: Write a Grant

Grant writing can be a very subjective process. Many funders are very specific in what they are looking for in proposals. While there is no one way to write a grant, there are a few basic components that most foundations / corporations require. My list may or may not include aspects, to make sure – READ THE DIRECTIONS FIRST.


1. Introduction + Organizational Information

Who are you? What do you do? Why are you so awesome that an organization or company should give you funding? This is where some non-profits are tempted to change their mission statements to fit the grant they  are applying for. DON’T. As tempting as it might be, it just isn’t sustainable in the long run, and it is hard to explain to your constituents why you decided to change you mission. There are ways to frame your mission in a light that lends itself to the funding without changing your entire direction.


2. Need Statement (Summary)

This is probably the most important section. It’s necessary for a non-profit to write out exactly how the funds are going to be used. Use percentages to show much of the money would be used for administration, project implementation, etc. This is also where you need to stress why you really need this money. If you have data, show how the implementation of your project or program will, for example, reduce hunger, promote civility, or help clean up the environment.


3. Goals and Objectives + Program Design

This is where you need to break down the program implementation plan. The more detailed your program design is, the easier it will be to identify goals and objectives. Bullet points and logic models will show short and long-term goals. It is important to be as specific as possible – phrasing is crucial. If the funders focuses on youth empowerment, show how the objectives of your program will lead to  increasing youth empowerment.


4. Evaluation

No funder wants to throw money down the drain; they want to know tat the program they are giving money to is using it at optimum capacity. List how you collect data on your program: surveys, people served, etc. If you have the materials that you are using to evaluate, you should attach them as an appendix.


5. Sustainability

If the funding lasts for two years, a foundation or corporation doesn’t want to see the program fail in the third year. Will you try to obtain other grants? Larger individual donations? The funders want to see how their investment will succeed beyond their funding.


6. Budget + Financials

Break down the project costs line by line. Every expense needs to be accounted for. Sometimes funders will ask for a full organizational budget, or sometimes a proposed budget using the proposed funding. They also might ask you to included your IRS tax exemption letter in your appendix. Don’t include unasked for financial documents. Many of these foundations are receiving a plethora of applications, and extra information will be seen as a negative.


7.   Sending it off!

Whether you are sending your proposal through the mail or electronically, you want it to look put together and professional. A short note in the body of the email or in the envelope will help introduce you in a professional manner before anyone reads your proposal. If sent by email, make sure all attachments are clearly identified and organized. If you are mailing it in, a binder with tabs looks professional and organized. If your appendix has many sections, include a table of contents at the beginning of the proposal.


Good luck and happy writing!

You Need to Be a Better Person Than the Westboro Baptists and Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps was excommunicated from the Westboro Baptists and died this past Thursday; it has been rumored that his excommunication stemmed from a change of heart about Westboro’s message. Whatever the reason, they are various opinions on how the LGBT* community should react to Fred Phelp’s recent passing. While some call or a celebration, I hope the queer community falls more in line with George Takei’s message:

“I take no solace or joy in this man’s passing. We will not dance upon his grave, nor stand vigil at his funeral holding ‘God Hates Freds’ signs, tempting as it may be. He was a tormented soul, who tormented so many. Hate never wins out in the end. It instead goes always to its lonely, dusty end.” 

I know that the urge to dance on Fred Phelp’s metaphorical grave is extremely tempting. His group has been the face of hate throughout the United States. I attended a counter-protest of the Westboro Baptists at my Graduate school; Fred wasn’t there, but seeing the group across the street was enough to creep me out. While I don’t believe  in Christianity, I do know that the Westboro Baptists do not reflect peace and love that is supposed to be central in the Christian faith.

We just have to be better people. As a non-profit / aid works, do we ever get sustainable positive gains through being vindictive and cruel? Without love of what we do, our passion would fizzle out or be corrupted. We became humanitarians to put good back into the world. We need to be better people in all of this. Being joyous about someone’s death only brings more hate into the world.

We don’t gain anything from hate. Yes, there might be some initial joy after mud-slinging, but after that where does that leave us? Our hate does not change what Fred Phelps or the Westboro Baptists have one, and I doubt it will change what they decide to do in the future.

We are not Fred Phelps. We are not the Westboro Baptists. We are loving, caring, passionate LGBT* individuals who help our local and global communities.

At the end of the day, we are responsible for what we put back into the world. Let’s choose love over hate.

So You’ve Fallen in Love with a Non-Humanitarian

My girlfriend is terrified of going on airplanes, she absolutely loathes them. She certainly doesn’t understand how I fly 20+ hours at a time for my organization, or why I would that fly that far, or why I am so passionate about my cause. When it comes to a powerful news story, I’m the one crying and she’s the one looking at me strangely. I’m not saying she is apathetic and heartless, she is a very caring and loving person to her friends, family and me. Honestly anyone compared to me would appear at least mildly apathetic. Really, I am hyper emotional and empathetic.

Honestly, before I started dating her, I thought my ideal woman would be very much like myself- someone in the aid or non-profit sector, probably working in education development and/or with kids.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m not saying that two humanitarians couldn’t have a successful romantic relationship, I’m sure many do. (I’m in no way shape or form an expert on other people’s relationships.)

I could write a 10 page essay on all of the things about my girlfriend that I love – but I will spare you (you’re welcome) and list out a few reasons why being with a non-humanitarian makes me better at what I do.

  • She balances out my emotional tendencies – which helps me think more objectively about my work and the world.
  • She challenges my worldview. We can debate and discuss global and domestic issues; we might not change each other’s minds, but perspective is definitely expanded.
  • She cares because I care. My work is important to me, so it’s important to her.
  • She tries to understand what I do. I can talk about my day and she is truly interested and asks questions.
  • She respects my passion. No, she doesn’t get it all of the time, but she respects that part of me and allows me to feel how I feel.

Like in any relationship, balance and respect is essential. Could I have found that with a humanitarian? Sure, but other humanitarians will have the same emotional hangups and the manic bouts of passion towards a cause. Which could be good for some people (again, not a relationship expert), however, I would not be great at it. Really, I just imagine us being in separate corners curled up in the fetal position.  How could we be emotionally supportive of each other if we were stuck in our own heads, worrying over the state of the world?

What makes being with a non-humanitarian so special is that she cares in spite her worldview. I get a peek into a different worldview and so does she. She helps me draw myself out of my head. She is my rock and my balance. I wouldn’t be the humanitarian I am today without her.

Help ALL of the People…?? Don’t Burn Yourself Out

I tend to over think things a lot. I won’t go into detail about my neurosis (you’re welcome), but one of my struggles within the non-profit sector is making sure that I don’t stretch myself too thin and burn out.

For example: In most states, the state that I live in is working toward marriage equality. I have tried getting involved and volunteering for the cause (actually have attempted to get involved in multiple states), but I never feel motivated to follow through and put all of myself into it. My head says DO IT while the rest of me resists. This dichotomy makes me feel extremely guilty – how can I not feel motivated to participate in winning my basic civil rights?

I would think that those who work in the non-profit sector outside of the LGBT* arena would  also feel guilty if they are not actively working toward their rights.  Should we feel guilty? Definitely not. We are more than just our orientation, and we have many different passions. There is no need to get burned out because we feel like we should be spending our energy on multiple issues. I’m not Super Man, and just because I am a lesbian does not mean I have to be an activist. If you want to delve 100% into education, water development, homelessness or anything else – you should! If you want to commit yourself to just queer issues – do it!

LGBT* rights are obviously extremely important, and participation is essential. But we need people who are fully dedicated to the work involved, not people who feel like they need  to participate to keep their gay card.

To be our best selves, we need to follow our hearts. We are educators, humanitarians, aid workers and volunteers. We are a complex group of individuals who are passionate about a plethora of issues. We are all working towards a common good – and weighing good deeds against each other gets us no where.

Working in Anti-LGBT* Countries

With the Prime Minister of Uganda  signing the anti-homosexuality bill into law I feel like I need to talk why I work in a country that isn’t friendly to LGBT* individuals. The country outside of the United States that I work in is not on the same level as Uganda or Russia, but it would be hazardous to be openly gay there.

It’s a complicated issue. I have heard professors, teachers, and friends refuse to financially support organizations that are working in anti-gay countries like Uganda and Russia. Which is very understandable.

I’m lucky in the sense that the country I work in isn’t extremely anti-LGBT*. Yes there is a culture of homophobia, but I cannot personally draw a line in the sand and say I’m not willing to work there.

Is there a line that we as gay humanitarians have to draw? I’ll give/volunteer/work in country X only if the government doesn’t discriminate against the LGBT* community and if there isn’t a culture of homophobia? Does a country like that exist?

Sometimes, it is hard to justify working in a homophobic country (especially to myself). Why work in a country that would kick me and my organization out if they knew I was a lesbian? For a lot of the LGBT* community – they wouldn’t participate, and that makes a lot of sense. Supporting your own discrimination does seem counter intuitive.

For me, my reasoning lies with the people I am working with, the constituents. I have an emotional connection to the families, children, schools, and communities. I am constantly reminding myself that the people are not the government, and the government is not the people.

I won’t be outing myself there anytime soon. I don’t want to find out whether people would still like and accept me regardless, and I don’t want the government to kick my organization out of the county. I guess that is cowardly.

Maybe I’m also naive – but I believe someday I’ll be able to talk about my girlfriend to the people I work with here and abroad.

Will I be donating to a Russian or Ugandan aid organization any time soon? Probably not. Will I give up my organization? Definitely not. What is driving me despite everything is the emotional connection I have to the people, the country, and the mission.

We all have to draw our line somewhere.