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February 12, 2010

United Way gets its first Pride Council in Columbus

Columbus--The United Way of Central Ohio has launched the Pride Council, the first and only United Way affinity group in the nation for LGBT donors. United Way of America sees it as a model program to be replicated in other areas.

Gay Central Ohio United Way board member Tom Grote says the Pride Council will ultimately identify more LGBT contributors and direct more United Way money to LGBT organizations.

United Way giving fell out of favor among many LGBT contributors after a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision exempting the Boy Scouts from equality laws, based on the group�s claim that opposition to homosexuality is one of their core values.

United Way organizations continued funding the Boy Scouts. Some local United Ways made exceptions to their own non-discrimination rules in order to do so.

That led to additional anger over a second issue: very few LGBT programs got United Way funding. In some communities, progressive philanthropists set up competing agencies to re-direct their charitable giving.

The Central Ohio organization began to address this. While continuing to fund some Boy Scout programs, it also created a place on its board for LGBT representation in 2003.

That seat was first held by Mary Jo Hudson, who resigned in 2006 to take a cabinet post with Governor Ted Strickland. Grote has been in the seat since.

The United Way of Central Ohio currently gives money to the Kaleidoscope Youth Center and the Columbus AIDS Task Force.

They also gave an early $10,000 gift to help establish the Legacy Fund in 2001 and has provided leadership training to LGBT professionals. UW also funded the LGBT census in central Ohio, which helped to assess the needs of LGBT individuals and families.

Grote said the Pride Council, launched January 21, will build on this work. It is led by a 15-member steering committee of LGBT community leaders.

�The first goal is to aggregate LGBT money already being given,� said Grote. �People will be able to check a Pride Council box on their donor cards.�

Grote explained that doing this will let the United Way know how much money is coming from the LGBT community in the same way that aggregating political contributions tells politicians how strong their LGBT support is.

�If we can identify LGBT donors, it will be a powerful thing,� Grote said.

Grote said another goal is to provide opportunities for LGBT and non-LGBT people to interact, which will introduce more corporate leaders to LGBT people and facilitate more interaction between LGBT and non-LGBT community leaders.

�The other goal is to raise more money for the United Way,� Grote said. �People can designate their contributions to LGBT organizations.�

Grote said he expects that more United Way money will come to LGBT programs as a result of the Pride Council.

Grote said that United Way of America has contacted its central Ohio affiliate for guidance in setting up similar LGBT programs in other communities.

The Pride Council is online at and on Facebook.




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