The 5 Best Gay Charities

QUEERTY IN DEPTH — It’s not all doom and gloom. In looking at the worst charities for your dollar, we’d be remiss to not tell you about some other organizations that take your money and spend it wisely.

We know in these difficult financial times how you spend your money is more important than ever. The following groups, bastions of organization and efficiency that they are, won’t waste yours.

For a full understanding of how we made our decisions, please see the accompanying article on the five worst charities for your dollar. We used the rankings from independent site Charity Navigator to determine the results of the best gay charities in terms of their organizational efficiency and capacity. Our rankings weighted charities with larger budgets higher, and we excluded any group not specifically focused on LGBT issues.

In all instances we have reached out to the respective groups and asked them for a response and we will update the site as these responses become available.

5. Human Rights Campaign Foundation

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It’s no secret that Queerty has been critical about the focus of HRC’s programming, but you’ll get no argument from us that the nation’s 10,000-pound, gay charity gorilla knows how to raise money and spend it effectively. HRC has over a year’s worth of operating costs stowed away for a rainy day, and it’s making more money all the time, with an impressive revenue growth rate of 21 percent. The fact that programming expenses outpace revenue growth by 11 percent shows that HRC is putting their growing coffers to use. Another myth that needs bursting: HRC executive Joe Solomonese makes only $35,472/year from HRC. The rest of his >$200,000 salary comes from outside affiliates. That said, there’s still much room for improvement. In terms of organizational efficiency, HRC ranks among the lowest of all gay charities. Like many of the organizations on our worst five list, HRC spends far too much money and effort on fundraising; 22 cents of every dollar raised by HRC winds up going to fund more fundraisers. If HRC wants to move up the ranks, it needs to find ways to raise money more efficiently.

HRC President Joe Joe Solmonese responds:

“As someone said, these are both the best and the worst of times. The best in that our community has never had the opportunity it has now with a new president and a new Congress. But these tough economic times demand that we all do more with less, and that’s exactly what we plan to do at HRC.”

4. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

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A sprawling organization that provides healthcare and social services to the City of Angels, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is remarkably well-rounded, performing well – sometimes brilliantly – in every metric Charity Navigator uses to evaluate organizations. 82 percent f the money raised by the Center goes directly into programming expenses, which puts it in the upper echelon of gay charities. It also continues to grow at a healthy pace, with revenues up by 10 percent a year and programming expenses increasing by 5 percent. The LAGLC has been raking in cash at a good clip and could stand to keep a little more cash on hand as it only has three months worth of services squirreled away should money dry up. It would be a better use of the funds than spending it on more lavish fundraisers, a trap the Center has mostly avoided thus far, but which recent budgets show is beginning to creep in. All in all, President Lori Jean earns her salary of $241,923, which may seem like a lot, but is only 0.62percent of the annual budget, one of the lowest rates of any gay charity executive.

Jim Key, Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Center replies:

“To run so efficiently, while providing such a wide variety of services for thousands of LGBT people each month, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center squeezes value out of every donation and makes great use of more than 3,000 hard working and dedicated volunteers.”

3. The Point Foundation

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The final three gay charities listed rank not only as the best in the LGBT community, but the best of any non-profit charitable organization. Taking the bronze is national LGBT scholarship fund the Point Foundation, which not only provides financial support to at-risk gay and lesbian students, but does so through an innovative one-on-one mentoring program. 2006 was a banner year for the foundation and they wisely put that money to use the subsequent year, increasing program expenses by 70 percent. It’s this rapid growth that propelled Point to such a high spot on the list, but it remains to be seen if it can remain there. The group’s organizational efficiency is only average, and with two-years’ worth of operating expenses in the bank, Point could afford to take a second look at its fundraising and administrative costs in order to see where they might be able to squeeze out more money for its students.

Jorge Valencia, Executive Director & CEO of the Point Foundation responds:

“We are honored that Point is among the Top 5 gay charities. We believe this comes from our commitment to supporting our scholars and our responsibility to our individual donors and corporate and foundation supporters. We utilize the expertise of our Boards and executive staff to maintain the guidelines set forth by Charity Navigator and are consistently seeking ways to maximize support to our scholars.”

2. Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute

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Considering the size and scope of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute’s program, their ability to put the money they receive to use is nothing short of astounding. The Victory Fund, as it is better known, is tasked with tracking and training the future gay leaders of tomorrow. Currently, they’re actively focused on working with the incoming Obama administration to help identify qualified LGBT candidates for administration positions. All but six cents of every dollar you give to the Victory Fund will go directly to the effort. How do they do it? Well, President Chuck Wolfe doesn’t draw a salary and administrative costs hover at a barely perceivable 1.1 percent of the total budget. With such a high level of efficiency, the rapidly growing organization is able to channel its increased revenues directly into new programs. The Victory Fund is a lean, mean, gay politician-making machine.

And the best charity for your dollar?

1. Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

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With a progressive global reach, The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is the Clinton Global Initiative of the gay community. With a mission to “address the lack of funding for women-specifically lesbians and women of color”, the foundation awards a variety grants to individuals and groups, much of it in the world of the arts. By every metric available, Astraea uses the money it raises wisely. It appears to have used 2007’s revenues to build up a deep reservoir of two year’s worth of expenses and it appears historically that an increase in revenue equals a corresponding increase in grants. With 86 percent of all money raised going directly to grant award winners, Astraea is the most efficient gay organization in the world. A measly five cents of your dollar goes to administration and fundraising. The rest of it goes right to work.