January 22, 2020
Budget Cuts Has LGBT Nonprofits Relying More on Volunteers

September 4, 2009 — Massachusetts nonprofits serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, under strain due to the recession and state funding cuts of 26% in the current fiscal year means many are relying more on volunteers while working overtime to handle more clients.

Jacob Smith Yang, the chair of the Massachusetts Commission of LGBT Youth, said, "We did the best we could to preserve funding for LGBT youth." The Commission receives funding from the Department of Public Health.

The 2010 budget is different from previous years’ budgets in that it says the Department of Public Health may spend money on GLBT youth initiatives, but doesn’t specify how much. Last year, the budget stated that a certain amount of money must be spent, but for 2010, there is no specified amount for how much must be spent on youth initiatives, a change Yang calls disappointing.

"I have to say the department did give their best effort," said Yang, despite the cut in LGBT commissions. "[Department of Public Health Commissioner] John Auerbach is very committed to GLBT youth, and it’s reflected in what Department of Public Health is doing," said Yang.

The Commission is now focused on working with the Department of Education and Department of Public Health to make sure they include GLBT youth services in their budgets and planning for the next year. The two departments reach out to primary and secondary schools to provide information, suicide prevention, promote zero-tolerance bullying policies, and give grants to high schools and conferences.

Nonprofits have found themselves relying more on volunteers as budgets plummet. Many cannot afford to hire new staff or even to keep on current staff. At the Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP), the number of volunteers has stayed stable, but the organization’s clientele has gone up 20 percent.

Like many other nonprofits, GMDVP’s executive director Curt Rogers has not been able to hire more people to deal with this influx of clients. "We haven’t had the resources to hire more people. We just do more with less, unfortunately," he said.

The Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project receives money from the state, the federal government, and individual donors. Rogers said the budget is down "significantly" as a result of a drop in state funding and private giving.

Rogers said that this year there is a smaller overall revenue stream from grants, but he is projecting that the grant revenue will stay about the same. The organization is not as reliant on grants as other nonprofits, he said, as such he hopes GMDVP will not be as "exposed" as other organizations may be. "I realize that foundations are a vulnerable place right now for organizations," he said.

Yang is also involved with the Massachusetts Asian and Pacific Islanders for Health (MAP for Health), which he said is definitely relying more on volunteers. "Luckily, GLBT adults were interested in doing things, so that’s the good news," he said. "These GLBT youth come in with issues of housing, rejection from family, and they have a high level of service needs...the GLBT-specific and the more basic ones," said Yang.

MAP operates through government grants, private foundation support, and individual donors. "Like many nonprofits, we try to have as diverse funding as possible, but often end up over reliant on government resources," said Yang, which puts the program in a "difficult position."

On the bright side, however, GMDVP has not had to lay off any staff members. "We are hopeful we’ll go through economic challenge without laying off staff. I will consider us lucky if we don’t have to do that," Rogers said.

As for other nonprofits, "different agencies are in different places," said Yang. "We’ve been able to recoup about two thirds of the cut in the current fiscal year." The losses mean that there is an impact on services provided.

The Commission has had to have layoffs, and Yang said a big issue is staffing. "We were handed a diminished budget," said Yang, and they had to figure out how to sustain services. "The revenue for the state kept plummeting quarter after quarter, so it was a moving target and very different year for the Commission because we had to determine what we needed in the budget. It was a very difficult environment to make that happen."

Every year, the GMDVP turns away about 100 people from the safe home due to lack of beds, and this holds true whether there are budget problems or not, but Rogers said they never turn anyone away from the community-based services. "We just don’t turn anyone away. We have to spend less time with each client, but we never turn anyone away when they’re in crisis like that," he said.

Republished with permission from Bay Windows.

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