Later today, Horizons Foundation’s board of directors will be presented with a slate of recommendations – made largely by a panel of community members – for what we call “Community Issues” grants. It’s a high point of the year, and an annual tradition stretching back to Horizons’ origins 32 years ago.
This year, our mailbox piled high with applications, as more than 90 came in. A stack that tall renders the task of selecting awardees excruciatingly difficult. Never, of course, as hard as it is to wait to hear if your own application is funded – that’s always tougher – but hard nonetheless. There’s always way more that merits funding than there are dollars available.
This annual process does something else, too: it serves as a kind of informal barometer about what’s going on in the community. Every application tells a story. It may be a story about a need in the community, like the area LGBT community center promoting mental health or an organization’s plans to run a “friendly visitor” program for isolated LGBT elders. It may be a story of art and pride, such as that of the performing arts group for LGBT people with disabilities, or a story about the deepest roots of homophobia and a high-level research project to understand – and change – them.
Then there are the “meta-themes” that seem to run through the application pool. A loud – if unsurprising – meta-theme, sounded in dozens of applications, is how even solid, hard-working nonprofits are coping with unprecedented financial challenges, especially those that have depended significantly on government and/or foundation funding. Another meta-theme: the number of non-LGBT nonprofits that do – or want to – serve our community. It’s a far cry from the past, when many such groups wanted nothing to do with us.
But what most comes through to me, every single year, is the immense creativity, commitment, and spirit that suffuse every single application. Yes, of course, some are stronger than others. But each one is powered by a potent desire to do something to make the world a better place for LGBT people, be it through advocacy, service, the arts, or something else entirely.
It’s that shining variety – and the fierce spirit behind every application – that’s the greatest meta-theme of all.