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BEQ Today

Is Volunteering the Next Step in the LGBT Business Movement?

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Following major gains in the business world, LGBT professionals look for ways to serve our community outside the office

Today the LGBT business sector is organized like never before.

There are over one million LGBT-owned businesses in the United States, and we have made powerful strides toward greater LGBT inclusion in supply chains and workplace environments.

As we continue to make progress within the business sector, LGBT business owners and employees have begun to ask how we can leverage our skills and resources to support the LGBT community as a whole.

“We have done a lot of great work to develop the LGBT Business Resource Group within our company,” said Brett Murphy, Co-Chair of the LGBT Business Resource Group at Deloitte’s San Francisco Office. “We are now looking for ways to support the LGBT community outside our offices.”

There is no shortage of opportunities.

Across the United States, a vibrant infrastructure of nonprofit organizations supports the many parts of our diverse community. In cities large and small, thousands of organizations work to house homeless LGBT youth, prevent HIV, fight for trans rights, provide care for LGBT elders, promote mental health, support queer artists, and archive the histories of our communities.

While these nonprofits provide indispensible services, many of them do so without adequate support. Less than a quarter of 1% of foundation funding goes to LGBT causes, and only 3% of LGBT adults have ever donated to an LGBT nonprofit.

“Without the funding base enjoyed by more traditional organizations, LGBT nonprofits are forced to stretch our resources to extraordinary lengths,” said Tiffany Woods, manager of Transgender Services at Tri-City Health Center in Fremont California. “Staff members routinely burn out doing the jobs of three or four people, and still we don’t have the capacity to meet the true scale of community need.”

LGBT nonprofits need our help, and LGBT professionals want to get involved. However, most of us have no idea where to start.

Until now, there have been no resources designed to connect volunteers with LGBT causes. VolunteerMatch consistenly ranks LGBT causes near the bottom of their available opportunities, and more specialized services like Taproot and Catchafire are focused on one-off projects—not ongoing volunteer needs.

Enter TurnOut: a new web and mobile platform for connecting volunteers, interns, and pro bono professionals with LGBT causes.

“TurnOut allows you to find volunteer opportunities at LGBT nonprofits that match your skills, interests, and availability,” said Jack Beck, Founder and Executive Director of TurnOut. “Once you’ve found an opportunity, the platform allows you to sign up and manage your engagement through completion.”

Designed in collaboration with LGBT Business Resource Groups (BRGs), the platform aims to meet the needs of LGBT business and employees who wish to leverage corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to serve the broader LGBT community.

“Each BRG we spoke with wanted a way to volunteer as a team,” said Beck. “And each team wanted a way to track their engagement. As a result, the platform allows employee groups to track their collective hours, including the value of hours contributed in a pro bono professional capacity.”

“At the end of each quarter, these groups have a clear snapshot of their contributions to local LGBT causes, presented in metrics used by human resource departments and CSR specialists.”

As part of CSR initiatives, many companies offer to match employee volunteer hours with fixed dollar donations. However, more than $10 billion in matching grants go unclaimed each year. The TurnOut platform also works to track matching grants, helping to channel matching grant funds to the LGBT infrastructure.

“The LGBT business sector is now at a pivotal moment,” said Beck. “LGBT professionals are more organized than ever, and they are seeking a greater role in caring for our community. The opportunities are there – we just need a way to connect them. That is what TurnOut is designed to do.”

Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.