gift giving

Which LGBT Rights Groups Are You Rushing to Make a Tax-Deductible Donation To?


Guess how we know New Year’s Eve celebrations are right around the corner? When 11th hour email pleas from groups like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for year-end donations land in our inbox. Aside from negotiating discriminatory estate tax laws — where “spouses,” but not unwed partners, enjoy tax breaks when leaving their worldly possessions to their surviving lovers — it’s that pesky income tax you’ve got to worry about. And depending on your desire to engage in checkbook do-gooding, and your means, you might be interested in tossing a few bucks to your favorite LGBT (or civil liberties) non-profit to score a tax write-off before the ball drops in Anderson Cooper‘s lap. So we want to know: Have you made, or are you planning on making any year-end donations to LGBT-oriented non-profits?

If you are, and you’re willing to share, tell us:
• Who you’re sending money to
• Whether it’s a new donation or one you make every year
• Whether the tax-deduction plays a factor in your decision
• Whether you’ve changed your giving this year, or in recent years, to direct funds to different groups

If you aren’t making a charity donation, tell us:
• Whether it’s because of a financial situation, or if you just haven’t found a non-profit you want to support
• Who, in a perfect world (with disposable income for charities), you would donate to

And remember: Current federal tax code lets any person give an individual up to $13,000 without any gift tax penalty, which means you’re free to donate low five-figures to a loved one who’s battling a monstrous healthcare bill, who just lost a job, or who just needs some holiday cheer. Maybe you’ll go this route instead?

(Note: We are not qualified tax professionals! Consult one before making any donation or gifting decisions.)

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  • Qjersey

    Please donate to your local LGBT community center or organization, many are suffering due to reduced donations. HRC and the other national organizations are in no danger of going belly up like too many of our local grassroots organizations.

  • Fitz

    None of those. I sponsor a small yearly grant at the GLBT organization where I got my undergraduate degree. Yes, it is tax-deductible. I do it every year. I pay a small amount monthly. I had hoped to increase the grant, but I am not feeling secure enough to do so. I also give a small amount to the SFSPCA, and I donate items to “out of the closet.”

    I have issues with the charities that I recognize above. NCLR handed over a prop 8 loss by insisting on being pleasant, HRC rolls on it’s back, GLAD shoots it’s wad on unimportant issues, and the ACLU insists that I allow hate speech.

  • Chris

    (Disclaimer 1: I am employed by the ACLU as a fundraiser.)
    (Disclaimer 2: I am also a regular donor, and was for almost 10 years before I took this job.)

    First off, in reply to Qjersey, I don’t know how HRC is organized, but the ACLU has affiliates in almost every state, DC, and Puerto Rico. Many affiliates have offices in several cities – in PA, for instance, we have offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and a one-person field office in Allentown. Small affiliates get substantial support from nationwide fundraising, but about half of all affiliates are entirely dependent on donors in their own states to sustain their operation. Though ACLU is a major nationwide organization, we are also local, and VERY dependent on local fundraising – for many reasons, but perhaps the largest being that we must have attorneys who are licensed and have passed the bar in each and every state if we wish to file suits there.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t support your local community center, but don’t cut off your major national organizations simply because they don’t appear to need it. Support both. Sure, money’s tight, but you can skip a few drinks at the bar each week and give the extra $100 to charities that are fighting for our rights.

    As for need, the ACLU lost a MAJOR national contributor this year due to his own financial circumstances. His gift accounted for more than 20% of the organization’s national funding. Rather than go on about it here, I’ll link to Glen Greenwald’s plea for supporters to help support the organization in a time of need:

    I am personally doubling my own giving to the ACLU this year. I don’t make enough to itemize, so the tax deduction is a moot point for me. As for changes in my own giving, I’ve been giving to more charities recently, but I’ve been doing much more research to be sure my funds are going to actually advancing rights, and not primarily to promoting the organization.

  • Mike

    I spread out $1500 to gay groups each year.

    HRC will be getting $500 (first time)
    Stonewall Dems will be getting $500 (I do this each year)
    The remaining $500 will go to local gay orgs here in Chgo.

    I also give $500 to Children’s Memorial…the cancer center.

  • Charles Merrill

    I prefer to go right to the people or politician with donations. A homeless shelter providing meals or an out LGBT politician. If a candidate doesn’t have our issues on their website, then no money. I don’t need an org to give away my money having given to HRC in the past and they in turn sponsor republican candidates I disagree with.

  • Jay Squires

    Disclaimer. Like Chris, I’m a little biased. I run the Gay Community Center of Richmond.

    So that being said, Qjersey has an important point. Our national organizations are important, and do good work. Still, I strongly believe that our local and state organizations are the ones best suited to make real, immediate impacts on the lives and well-being of LGBT people. When I think about the process of changing hearts and minds in a socially conservative place like Virginia, I realize that we cannot advance without empowering ourselves and developing relationships with our neighbors – and that’s just what a community center does.

    So, what to do? Most community centers can’t afford slick and repetitive direct mail, so they don’t have the brand identity of NGLTF, GLAAD or HRC. But you can find one close to you – one that’s working every day to make life better in your home town – by visiting CenterLink, the Community of LGBT Centers, at

    Happy New Year!

  • Robert, NYC

    I donate only to politicians who believe in and support full equality. I no longer spend on HRC and others, especially in NYS where I live and having seen an overwhelming majority of conservative democrats vote my rights away, no gay organization could have stopped that from happening with any amount of money. HRC is too comfortable buying into the delay tactics emanating from the White House which will get us nowhere. None of them hold the party accountable, until that happens, they won’t get one more penny from me, ditto the DNC.

  • Alan

    I give to a local AIDS charity (AIDS Resource Council in Rome, Georgia) and to a local environmental organization (Coosa River Basin Initiative). The national level Gay Inc groups don’t seem to spend money as efficiently as my local ones do.

    I used to be a pretty big Democratic donor, but I’ve asked them not so solicit me anymore, since that’s good money flushed down the toilet as far as gay rights goes.


    Do not donate to HRC. Choose a better national organization, or better yet a struggling local nonprofit that serves queer youth for your larger donations. The smaller organizations need your largest donations!

  • Brad

    LifeWorks Mentoring! They mentor LGBT youth in the Los Angeles area.

    We’ve stigmatized our youth as damaged, at-risk, and troubled enough. Time to just help them be the best they can be.

  • terrwill

    I am so damm torn on the political side of this issue. The frightwing-nutbag lunatics can raise mega dollars every time they say “Gay”. While I wish to penalize the Dems for giving me zero return on my 2008 donations, I don’t want to endure the provibial jumping into the fire from the frying pan by not donating to the Dems and encouraging others to do the same. Thus giving the Repugnatican party a better chance of gaining an even larger wins than I am ascared they are already destined to do so in 2010 and 2012.

    Whilst I ponder that dilema I continue do give to the local Gay center here which provides services for Gay seniors and has youth progams for Gay teens……..

  • Fitz

    My partner reminds me to mention LYRIC in SF. They do great work for queer and trans teens. We have both sent people there, and they have done good work.

  • LukasP

    I contribute to the GLBT Community Center locally and in my hometown. I try to target specific programming where possible (such as peer counseling, substance abuse treatment, nutrition, outreach). I gave up on two Nat’l orgs about 5 years ago when they couldn’t explain how money was being used or wouldn’t allow gifts to be applied to specific programs. I need to reconsider that decision in 2010.

    I plan to donate some money to a political candidate if I think s/he is viable and shares some core beliefs– but won’t give to a party. I support NPR and the local PBS affiliate. ‘I also donate time each year to a SBA mentoring program for entrepreneurs.

    My income was, let’s be honest, reduced this year due to the economy and a family illness, so I’m giving a little less money out a lot more carefully.

  • Denis

    I try to be Mormon-like, this is, donating 10% of my gross income to LGBTQ organizations and gay friendly politicians. So far this year, it’s as follows (including spending at events and auctions):

    NGLTF $5,000
    Trevor Project $4,300
    Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center $4,000
    Democatic Party candidates $1,000
    ACLU $500
    HRC $0(ever since they supported D’Amato back in ’98)

    I’ll probably cap off tomorrow with another $2,500, just tying to figure out to who.

    My advice is first, if you make more than $100k a year, you can donate 10%. Be grateful you’re doing so well, and give back some of it.

    Second, National or Local, if you’re only donating $1,000 per year total, put it into only ONE organization! When you give them $35, they sell your name to other non-profits and make money from the sale. Suddenly you’re getting junk mail from similiar organizations that youve never contributed to before. If you give them $1,000, they DON’T want the other non-profits to know, so you don’t get the junk mail. More importantly, once you give $1,000 to an organization two years in a row, you’re assigned to the “Major Donor” department, can call the organization, and the President will call you back that day. You don’t want to throw your weight around (they are the professionals, after all), but it’s nice to know you can if you need to.

  • Alyson

    This year was the first year I had any money to give. I gave to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) because of their tireless efforts fighting for LGBT equality. A true bunch of heroes.

  • Fitz

    Denis, the Mormons did not invent tithing.

  • Chris

    Denis, your philanthropy is greatly appreciated, but to respond a bit to your post: if you want to avoid junk mail, you can always send a note or place a phone call to ask the organization not to share your information with others. There are very strict ethical guidelines for nonprofit organizations that stipulate we must either respect the donor’s instructions to the letter or decline the gift. Google “Donor Bill of Rights” if you’re curious.

    I should also note that most non-profits do not “sell” their membership lists to other non-profits, we trade. This is seen as mutually beneficial because it helps organizations identify donors who are likely to support their cause. ACLU members, for instance, are more likely than the general population to be supporters of Amnesty International, and vice-versa, so we exchange mailing lists to our mutual benefit. No money changes hands, and any donors who request privacy are left out.

    According to standard practice the recipient organization never actually sees the addresses it receives. The list is sent directly to a third-party mail house preparing the mailing, used once, and then destroyed. This means you don’t have to call each organization sending you mail – just call the one who is sharing your name, and the mailings will stop. In fact, calling the orgs who sent the junk mail rarely does any good because they never had your name in any of their records to begin with.

    ACLU is especially careful about letting our donors know that we trade lists (being that privacy rights are one of our top priorities) and all of our fundraising materials offer the donor a chance to simply check a box and opt-out of list exchanges. A donor can also call us at any time to opt-out, or to tailor which mail they get from us and how often.

    Every major non-profit I’m aware of observes these practices, so if you’re bothered by the junk mail, write or call the orgs you support, and they’ll make it stop.

  • schlukitz

    No. 7 · Robert, NYC

    Co-sign all of your observations.

    All of the highly-folks you mentioned are too much into self-promotion and back-scratching.

  • schlukitz

    Typo: “highly-organized folks”

  • Brian

    HRC has already received $550 million of our money and they have nothing to show for it. It’s time to retire them – including Joe Solmonese and his $350,000 salary, plus a $100,000 expense account.

    HRC is ineffective. Please do not donate to them – find someone or something real, and help them out.

  • Fitz

    The ACLU has worked very hard to make sure that Fred Phelp’s church can show up at funerals to harass people. Fuck them.

  • schlukitz

    No. 21 · Fitz

    The ACLU has worked very hard to make sure that Fred Phelp’s church can show up at funerals to harass people.

    It’s the absolute pits, isn’t it?

    Those dumb fucks can’t tell the difference between hate speech and freedom of speech.

    I guess the ACLU is ok with also yelling “Fire” in a full movie house, even when there isn’t one?

    Grey is obviously one of the shades that people like ACLU are color-blind to.

  • Denis

    Fitz and Schlukitz –

    Along with supporting the right of Phelp’s people to protest, the ACLU also supported the rights of Nazi’s to protest in Skokie, Illinois in 1978 (center of a heavily Jewish population). It’s not because they’re “dumb fucks”, it is because they are highly principled individuals who believe that our Constitution belongs to EVERYONE, even us. The ACLU (at least in Southern California) has been supporting gay rights since 1962! Name another non-gay advocacy institution that has been doing that for so long. Hell, name another GAY advocacy institution that has been doing that for so long.

    I don’t agree with the ACLU 100% of the time (maybe 75%). But you will not find a group of heterosexuals out there fighting harder for our rights, period.

    Besides, their Director for LGBTQ issues (Matt Coles) is one of the sharpest and clear-headed strategist out there.

    By the way, thanks for the tithing clarification. My bad.

  • Brian

    ACLU and HRC both receive $50 million a year. ACLU does a lot with their money, HRC does not. ACLU has accomplishments, HRC does not. ACLU has a purpose, HRC does not (well, except raising enough money for their salaries and perks).

  • Sam

    No money for HRC. They are ineffective.

  • FakeName

    The ACLU (at least in Southern California) has been supporting gay rights since 1962!

    The ACLU’s willingness to (sort of) defend homosexuals dates to January 1957, when the national organization issued a (namby-pamby) policy statement that while sodomy laws were outside the province of the ACLU and treating homosexuals as security risks was just dandy, expressed its awareness that “homosexuals, like members of other socially heretical or deviant groups,” were more likely to be subject to persecution, due process violations and entrapment and so the ACLU would support and defend on that basis and would also support the repeal of registration laws requiring people convicted of a gay sex offense to register. By no means a perfect position but considering that as little as two years earlier it was a struggle for a gay man to even find a lawyer willing to take on such cases, pretty remarkable.

  • Molly

    First, I do want to say up front that I work for GLAD, but they are also on the top of my list for year-end donations. I am so proud of the work GLAD does and grateful to do my small part.

    The heart of our work at GLAD is fighting discrimination by changing the law – to ensure that all people are treated equally. We file carefully crafted lawsuits that result in improving the lives of so many people that have been affected by the discrimination faced by simply being who they are – part of the LGBTQ community.

    I encourage you to visit for more information.

    I also donate to my local NPR station – WBUR, The Special Olympics of Massachusetts, and the EMA Fund.

    Happy New Year Everyone!

  • Sam

    * not to be confused with GLAAD, of course. They’re just as ineffective as HRC.

  • Tom

    Nobody has said anything about Lambda Legal. They have fought and won some pretty important human rights cases for our community. They are one of the charities I support annually.

  • Mark Reed Dallas

    HRC’s donations were down 40% in 2009. That’s a good thing.

    No money for HRC – it’s a big wasate.

  • Michael Letterman

    Not a single one of them however I have donated a great deal of money to counter much of their actions.

  • Brian S.D.

    The LGBT Equality “movement” is over.

Comments are closed.