Guest Blogger

Part 2: GetEqual responds again

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 03, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, The Movement
Tags: direct action group, GetEqual, Heather Cronk, HRC, Human Rights Campaign

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Heather Cronk is the Managing Director of GetEQUAL.Heather_Cronk.png

Bil and Bilerico community -- here is my response to Behind the Veil: Is GetEqual the New HRC?...just a few things I'd like to clarify, with an ask at the end:

"With any organization, whoever holds the pocketbook is who's in charge."

This assertion may be true in Bil's experience (I know he has an extensive nonprofit client list, though I don't know the full list of organizations or their relationships with funders), but it certainly sounds defeatist. In my experience, the power of funders is dictated by the extent to which EDs allow that power to be exerted. It is not a fact that the people writing the checks necessarily hold all power -- though I would love to know more about what in Bil's experience leads him to believe that. I'd wager that many organizations do often yield to funder wishes, but it's a fallacy to assert that this is a fact...much less that it is true in GetEQUAL's case with no clear evidence to which to point.

GetEQUAL is committed to running campaigns that come directly out of our experience in and with the LGBT community, and the door is open to ideas. We're in the midst now of figuring out some strategic next steps around both "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the long-promised and long-awaited Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And we're trying to plan out those next steps in consultation with activists, politicos, friends, allies, and -- yes -- detractors. We're learning from past mistakes and past successes, and we look forward to taking action with as many people as are willing to join us.

"Nothing says 'I have power over you' than 'I own the house you sleep in while you work for the organization I fund.' While the intentions are more than likely positive, the power dynamic is undeniable and uncomfortable."

I'm from the South, and we adhere to the principle of hospitality -- which is exactly what Paul and Donald, and many other GetEQUAL supporters, have offered up. This paragraph seems dramatic at best and libelous at worst. To my knowledge, Bil hasn't had a conversation with Paul about his "intentions" in offering up his home and extending hospitality to LGBT activists. I'd gladly do the same, as I hope that any member of our community would.

There have been several DC-based actions that GetEQUAL has planned, and we've tried to be good stewards of the resources we have. For those who have participated in GetEQUAL actions, coming together afterward in one place to feed off of one another's energy, to debrief and reflect, to coordinate messaging, and to break bread (and, for some, to share a tasty beverage) is a core reason why people come back and do it all over again. I'm glad for the generosity of seasoned activists, and look forward to building more relationships based in friendship and hospitality.

"Installing a handpicked board made up of large donors and fundraisers is the way many of the largest progressive orgs - HRC included - operate.... Will it be packed with cronies and allies or will it consist of a respectable and diverse mix of seasoned and new activists?"

I can't speak to HRC's board -- between the Board of Directors, the Foundation Board, and the Board of Governors, I only know one person personally...and I have no knowledge of how/why members of those boards were asked to serve. From where I stand, it would be irresponsible of GetEQUAL (or any other group) to name members of its board before those names are finalized. I don't know if other LGBT organizations' boards are "packed with cronies," as Bil asserts -- that seems like an unnecessarily blanket statement. Once GetEQUAL's board is finalized, we'll be happy to make those names public.

We'll also be glad to let folks know as much of our strategy and our plans as possible. As one commenter alluded to yesterday, football teams don't telegraph their plays to the other team when they come out of the huddle. (Forgive the sports analogy -- it's what I know.) We're happy to continue riding the line between being open/transparent with our community, while also using our best judgment when the time comes to keep things close to the vest. All we ask is that folks come at our work with openness and assume good intentions until given a reason to assume otherwise -- and to give us your thoughts/ideas about what we can do to move the ball down the field. (Again with the sports analogies...)

On the whole, this post raises some good questions -- I hope I've answered a few, and I look forward to answering more in the next month or two. I appreciate Bil's commitment to transparency, and to his readers' interest in the work that GetEQUAL is doing and plans to do. Please feel free to send suggestions, comments, questions, hate mail, or love mail to info [at] getequal [dot] org.


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And once again, it's all directly in response to what Bil wrote, and not so much as a mention of the issues concerning the rank-and-file in the comments.

Color me unimpressed.

JonathonEdwards | June 3, 2010 4:33 PM

Exactly, Rebecca. I stand by my previous position from her first post.

She writes:

"GetEQUAL is committed to running campaigns that come directly out of our experience in and with the LGBT community, and we're open to ideas."

Sounds good on paper, but when you a closed and secretive leadership cadre of insiders - no matter how scrappy their affect may be - what that really says is "we are committed to running campaigns we think are best and, if you can find a way to get your ideas to us, we'll consider them. We're not, however, going to go out of our way to solicit them."

If they were planning that, they wouldn't be creating a handpicked board but would be calling for participation in an open decision making process from any and all participants, not a private clique.

I'm with Alex (I think it was) who noted that until we have a democratically run and open membership organization where the person with no money has as much voice and access to the decision making apparatus as the very wealthy, GetEqual is just another HRC. They just wear t-shirts and jeans.

Kathleen of Norfolk | June 3, 2010 5:52 PM

Isn't the idea of someone or a small group forming a broadbased democratically run membership organization an oxymoron?

I can't take credit for someone else's ideas - that wasn't me. I think that was Bill P.

Huh. This is all quite interesting.

Bil writes posts that are critical of GetEQUAL's organisational structure, organising strategies etc. and you respond to each one.

Heather,

here's the problem(s):

You're placing your org in a defensive posture from the start. This is not transparency - which is achieved by other means, and not by blog posts. If you don't know what they are, that's the problem.

You write these posts supposedly rebutting Bil's points, but you did nothing to address, directly or otherwise, the questions and issues raised by those who commented on your last post. As of this moment, you've only really responded to one of the commenters - and, let's face it, as anyone familiar with these comment threads knows, that person is an easy target, for various reasons. You might well, now, return and respond to others there - but the time stamps will be a dead giveaway.

I'm hardly the biggest fan of either HRC or GE - but here's some unwanted advice: back out while you still can and end this sham of a response and clarification. That would at least be more honest. You're neither responding nor clarifying.

Also, with regard to: "In my experience, the power of funders is dictated by the extent to which EDs allow that power to be exerted. It is not a fact that the people writing the checks necessarily hold all power..."

You've written that with a number of qualifiers, which tells me you know the truth of how these orgs function: funders determine boards (and sometimes/often are the boards) - and EDs serve at the discretion of the boards. Let's not pretend that the ED of a non-profit is some brave, lone soul who can actually go against the wishes of funders and/or board members.

R. Conrad | June 3, 2010 4:59 PM

let's see some staff pictures!

if they are cute, maybe we can let this whole criticism thing go...

;)

Have to agree with Yasmin - I haven't seen many nonprofits stand up to their donors. I don't think I've ever seen that, actually. Not necessarily a bad thing, as donors are generous people and the customer is always right, but seriously, it's not like there's some divide between donors and directors and they ignore each others' actions while everyone supports the larger goal.

We aren't naive, starry-eyes queers here, Heather. You won't crush our spirits if you just say, "Yeah, we have donors and we can't function if we alienate them. Wanna make something of it?"

I agree with the consensus opinion that this is really a "non-response."

There are numerous issues that should have been resolved BEFORE launching the controversial, and for many "offensive" actions.

"Crazy shenanigans" aside, their is a reason we have laws regarding non-profits and there are minimum standards required of anyone who claims to exist for a charitable purpose. It is clear that GetEQUAL did not honor law or precedent in the formation of your "organization." No thought or preparation or even consideration was put into these important issues.

I'm not surprised - your rude publicity stunts seem to suffer from the same lack of forethought and careful consideration.

I would still like you - or any one in your group - to explain the rationale for these embarrassing stunts. Just share with us HOW these "radical, crazy shenanigans" (your words) help the LGBT Community and our struggle to obtain equality? HOW do they change minds or inspire people to join us?

P.S. - I don't respond to Yasmin, either.

Chris Daley | June 3, 2010 8:34 PM

Yasmin and Alex -

it would be helpful to me if you each clarified what your critique is around the relationship between funders and, let's limit it to, LGBT advocacy organizations.

For instance, is it your belief that all LGBT advocacy organizations have rich funders who exert undue influence over the organization (through controlling the board and or the management)? Or, is it that any LGBT advocacy organization that has one or more individual donors who give large amounts (let's say at least 5% of an org's annual budget) are inescapably controlled by that donor(s)? Or some other belief?

Thanks in advance,

Chris

Does the money control the organization? Fair question. Still unanswered.

But, I would suggest I must part ways with the fear that Jonathan Lewis may be "calling the shots" at GetEQUAL. So far, there is NO evidence of that. But, Lewis is an adult and I wish he was exerting control at GetEQUAL. If he was there may have been some forethought and consideration into the numerous issues surrounding GetEQUAL's offensive publicity stunts and their failure to complete even the most basic organizational responsibilities.

Grab the reins Jonathan. Clean up the kids mess.

Please.

I have to agree with Heather that funders don't always control an organization. I am an ED of an LGBT organization, and can't say that any of my major donors have the power to decide what happens in the organization (nor have they ever tried to influence it in any significant way). Of course, I run a small nonprofit, so I do not know what it is like for someone to write me a $500,000 check. Having said that, my DNA wouldn't allow me to run an organization that is dictated by the whims of donors. I am always willing to listen to their point of view, but I would like to think I would make what I considered the "right" decision.
But, even as a small nonprofit, the Board does have the authority to fire me at any time, so I do have to keep that in mind.

From what I have read, it seems like Kip and Robin are people who are willing to get fired or walk away if it conflicts with their values.

I agree that Get Equal needs to be careful not to create a structure similar to HRC. We already have an HRC,NGLTF,NCLR, etc. My hope is that Get Equal will be different.

Sometimes these things get off to a bumpy start. I am still hopeful that GetEqual will do some good work that the other national orgs can't do.

Chris Daley | June 5, 2010 9:18 AM

Kathy - that is my experience of running an advocacy org as well. I think a lot of us who have done so don't identify with this broad funding/control critique that Bil, Alex, and Yasmin are forwarding. It is a shame that none of the three of them seem interested in discussing their assertions, though.

Best,
Chris

Chris Daley | June 5, 2010 9:19 AM

Kathy - that is my experience of running an advocacy org as well. I think a lot of us who have done so don't identify with this broad funding/control critique that Bil, Alex, and Yasmin are forwarding. It is a shame that none of the three of them seem interested in discussing their assertions, though.

Best,
Chris

While I am excited to see a lively debate in the LGBTQ community about how our advocacy organizations are governed, what it means to be democratic with a non-profit board structure, and how to have more radical grassroots movement organizations, I am pretty shocked and appalled that all this aggressive criticism is directed at Get Equal. I'm pretty excited that they have raised a lot of money to fund a more action-oriented activist organization. I'll be even more excited when they come up with a membership structure that allows for accountability, radical action, and democracy.

They didn't "raise money" they were hired.

Please help me understand what "radical action" means to you. GetEQUAL described it as "crazy shenanigans." Plus, tell us how that helps change minds or create additional support.