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    A Queer Agenda: Thanking and Giving
A recurring column
by Andre Perez
2013-11-20


With the holidays approaching, it's time to be thankful for what we have and giving with our plenty.

If you're anything like me, you lay awake at night agonizing about gift giving—How do I show that I care? Is it better to be practical or whimsical? What's the right emotional note to strike? End-of-year giving isn't just for friends and family. It's a time many choose to say thanks through charitable giving.

Money speaks. It's up to you to decide what your money will say. Which causes matter to you? Which organizations do you want to support? What do you hope to accomplish by giving? Giving money is a small but crucial step in creating new possibilities in the world. As public funding for non-profits has taken a nose-dive, the decisions we make are critical. Clarify for yourself what your values around giving money are.

You might be thinking: What's so complicated? You could pick a cause, type it into Google, and donate to the first organization you see. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that popular organizations will share your values or spend your money well. If you scratch the surface a little more, you'll find smaller organizations that don't have the funds to spend on marketing and promotion. Nonetheless, they may walk the walk more than their flashy counterparts. There is no better way to know about an organization's work than to see it in person. The second best thing is to talk with people who are directly impacted by your cause. The third best thing is to talk with friends or family who work in non-profits. They aren't the ones who would benefit from your donation, so they are less biased than you might assume. They will probably enjoy talking your ear off about who is doing work that they respect, admire, and trust.

Next, ask yourself—Where will my donation have the most impact? The smaller an organization's overall budget, the more valuable your donation is because it increases their capacity to act. Also, consider where the organization gets the majority of its funding from. If you donate to a well-funded group, your hundred bucks is a drop in the ocean. I always prefer to donate to member-driven organizations or groups that do grassroots fundraising because an influx of capital can make or break a project. Even relatively small amounts of money can help an organization take their programing or services to a totally new level. If you want your dollars to really count, then give them to someone who is doing a lot with a little.

Being the first can be scary but powerful. Emerging organizations struggle to find their first funders because no one wants to take a risk. However, risk is necessary for innovation in all fields. By donating to an emerging organization, your dollar is worth more than its face value. It's a vote on the success of their ideas and leadership. If you are truly inspired by a fledgling group and feel like they have an idea that can work, then put your money where your mouth is.

Read more story below....

Every person needs to answer these questions for themselves. In going through the above process, I recognized that I cared about supporting youth, housing, LGBTQ issues, and fighting racism. Within those causes, I placed a lot of value in how the work was done, not just on the results. I wanted to promote intergenerational community building in LGBTQ communities, to help create housing opportunities that help prepare people to live independently, to help trans people have more of a voice in issues that impact the community, to support leadership development in communities of color, and to support organizations developing unconventional models.

After discussing with friends and family, I decided to give money to Project Fierce Chicago, Trans Oral History Project, Orgullo en Accion, FreeGeek Chicago, Young Women's Empowerment Project, Freedom Lifted, and a few personal campaigns for transgender community members. The first three are groups that I organize with on a regular basis, and I see financial contributions as a natural extension of my volunteering. I chose others because they do work that is too unpopular to be funded through grant money, because I trusted people working on the projects, and because they work from an intersectional analysis. I donated to personal campaigns for transgender leaders to get surgery or get trained because I am inspired by how many trans people are giving their time and energy generously despite being under incredible pressure. I want to reward that spirit, and do whatever I can to make those contributions more effective.

May we all be lucky enough to experience generosity as givers and receivers.

André is the founder of the Trans Oral History Project, co-founder of Project Fierce Chicago, and a working board member of Orgullo en Accion. When André is not rabble-rousing, educating, or building community, you can hire him to photograph events and portraits by contacting him at andrealanperez@gmail.com .

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