Bil Browning

The Finances Behind the National Equality March

Filed By Bil Browning | November 05, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: budget discrepencies, Cleve Jones, EAA, Equality Across America, National Equality March, NEM, unused funds

National Equality March leaders have discovered they have money left over after paying all the bills. Organizers raised approximately $260,000 to put on the event in Washington DC that dollarsign.pngdrew 200,000 activists.

March leaders budgeted $282,000 for the event - including all March, administrative, and contingency costs. Treasurer Chip Arndt renegotiated several contracts and brought the total price down to $156,000. By reducing costs to less than $1 per attendee, Equality Across America is able to save approximately $90,000 to use for future endeavors according to Jones.

Some online donations and merchandise sales have not been included in the total since those numbers aren't yet available. The group is still accepting donations on their website.

The organization plans to release a full accounting soon. Requests to see the official reckoning were declined until the organization puts out a press release about the finances.

Since EAA is a project of the Tides Center, organizers are not free to use the funds without approval from the fiscal sponsor and could not have donated the money to any of the recent political campaigns.

Where Does the Money Go?

EAA's lack of bylaws, mission statement and budget has been a source of concern for many in the community, but since the group is a project of Tides Center, they operate under the fiscal sponsor's umbrella and Tides provides most of their administrative services and monitors all expenses.

In an e-mailed statement, former Equality March co-director Kip Williams explained, "Equality Across America is a fiscally sponsored project of the Tides Center. Legally, the Tides Center has a Board of Directors, but Equality Across America does not. EAA does have an Advisory Board on record with Tides, of which Cleve Jones is currently the only member.

Money left over from the Equality March, however, does not go to Jones. Since the Tides Center is the fiscal sponsor, all money goes directly to it and they hold it on behalf of the organization. Expenses are verified by the center and must be directly related to the project's stated goals.

"The [National Equality March] Executive Committee is a totally unofficial body with no official power...or responsibility/accountability," Williams said. "One of the next steps for EAA will be to develop an official Advisory Board. In the meantime, Cleve is solely responsible."

The new EAA advisory board would replace Jones as the officials responsible to Tides Center. Tanner Efinger was recently elected interim Project Director by the National Equality March executive committee to handle the transition from grassroots organizers to established organization after Williams resigned.

The Future of Equality Across America

According to Jones, organizers will be deciding soon whether or not to form an actual organization. If no organization emerges, the money would go to Tides Center.

"We're still not sure this is a viable organization," Jones said. "It's still not clear to me that EAA is going to happen yet. There needs to be a working group to take EAA forward. I'll be inviting [the March's] steering committee and executive committee members to participate."

Equality Across America does not have the $100,000 on hand. Some donors made pledges, but not all the obligations have been paid yet.

Arndt's role as treasurer ended on October 31 when the Equality March executive committee disbanded. He has not indicated that he will be continuing his role with Equality Across America.

After Williams and co-director Robin McGehee resigned last week, several executive and steering committee members have said they would not be continuing with the organization. Some of the organizers have planned a conference call this weekend to discuss the future of the group.

Full Disclosure: I was a member of the National Equality March Executive Committee. I voted in favor of appointing Tanner Efinger to the interim Project Director volunteer position.

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I still would like to see EAA go on, but I'd like to see something happen too. With all of the repetition of the "NOW!" meme, they've been extremely slow to act after the march. Everyone has had time to catch their breath, its time to move. People who went to the march are losing interest. They want to act now, they're not willing to wait forever. Let's Get our buts in GEAR!

All politics, arguments, opinions aside on the NEM and the future of EAA: The NEM organizers were financially responsible and prudent and should be applauded for that fact.

I hope they can find a way to resolve their issues for the betterment of the community. If not, I hope Tides Center uses the money for the benefit of the LGBTQ community.

Some corrections.

Tides center is not a foundation. It's a fiscal sponsorship organization. Tides Center and Tides Foundation are different entities.

Tides' finance teams monitor expenses, but they don't have to approve every expenditure. The reason they couldn't donate money to the Maine or Washington battles is because it's not legal for a 501 (c)(3) to re-grant donated income to a 501(c)(4) or other lobbying group.

it is, however, legal for 501 (c)(3) orgs to do lobbying themselves, on ballot initiatives.

A fair point on the use of "foundation," k. I wasn't thinking about the separate Tides Foundation when writing it. I've changed my casual use of the word "foundation" to "fiscal sponsor" to keep it clear.

I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, and this level of transparency is refreshing. Would we have gotten this sort of candor from NLGTF or HRC?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 5, 2009 7:09 PM

It would have been smarter for the organizers to have spent some money to hire an additional person or two to focus on the NEM which would have freed someone like Kip WIlliams up to focus on building the infrastructure for EAA.

It does not make sense that they spoke so much about what would happen after the NEM without putting resources and thinking into developing a strategic plan for after NEM.

Agreed Michael, and that's what has bothered me about this org from the start. Yes, they managed to get the March together (though they could have done a far better job on planning and logistics IMHO), but as far as I know they have never had a clear plan for what to do after the March was over.

While I think more activists and orgs advocating our issues is almost always a great thing, I also have to question if EAA is a wise place to invest donations and activist time if they have no real leadership or organizational agenda to make of those resources.

The LGBT community who DIDN'T go to the march had little good to say about the organization, and now those who went to the march are disgruntled... can we assume this is going to be an uphill battle for them to win us over again in the future? It might be a perfect time to look for a graceful exit, and to share their contact list with established organizations who know how to mobilize people effectively.

They can take that last 100K and spend it doing some blanket recruiting (since they can't donate it directly) and marketing for all of the bigger lobbying organizations, and in turn, help establish some benchmarks for them to reach out and support local grassroots LEADERSHIP in the future (not just show up and take over, P.S.).

I'm perplexed why so many gay people are surprised that the organizers of the NEM are a one-hit wonder. They telegraphed their ineptitude early on. I refused to support it, even after asked to by Dan Choe. It didn't feel right. These recent articles are validating my suspicians. And, people seem to dismiss me as being a ranting trannie. With age comes wisdom, so you can say I'm an "Old ranting trannie." Excuse me while I unfold my walker so I can go home.

The DC Host Committee for the march continues its work as "Full Equality Now DC" to support continuation of the activist spirit evoked by the march. For example:

Several of our members testified on behalf of the gay marriage bill now before the DC City Council.

After the defeat in Maine we organized a protest in DuPont Circle, which was attended by over 120 supporters. There are several videos of the event, with speeches and crowd shots on the Metro Weekly web site:

We meet every Wednesday at the Metropolitan Community Church at 5th & Ridge Streets (between M&N). We meet at 7PM.

This is a great place to come to find out what other LGBTQ grassroots activists in the DC area are doing and what opportunities are emerging for service.

What sort of service? We provide "boots on the ground" to help implement LGBTQ political action locally and through our relatively convenient access to the Federal government.

We are the people who led the nation on October 11 to demand full civil equality in all matters before the law. Our demand is simple and absolute. We demand that our government live up to the high principles on which our nation was founded--freedom and liberty--equality for all.

Join us in this major civil rights movement for the new century.

Come now, or you will miss out on the fun of helping form a newborn grassroots movement. This is the time to meet fellow activists and develop the bonds of friendship that will enable us to work successfully as individuals, team members, and team leaders through the great social transformation that is finally underway for our community.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | November 6, 2009 2:19 PM

It seems to me that now is perfect time to call a national conference of activists who can act for our communities by being independent of front groups for the two bigot parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

What we need to reverse all these losses and begin winning is a group that expresses the will of activists instead of people who front for the Democrats, who have a mass action perspective and who are agreeable to operating with a thoroughly democratic internal structure that operates as much as possible without paid functionaries, with a leadership elected on the basis of their political perspective, subject to easy recall and paid a modest stipend, one more like a Ford Escort than a Lincoln Navigator.

It’d be best if that conference were called by the EAA, and if not we’ll just have to wait on events to call one. In any case all this circling of vultures waiting for EAA to give up and die is unseemly.

The tremedous energy, youthfulness, and exuberance of the folks that made it to the NEM was an awesome sight to see. The night before, Cleve Jones explained his hopes for this new movement to a group of hundreds who gathered at Busboys and Poets. I was on the staircase listening as best I could.

It would be a great pity if our "old guard" were to fail to embrace the promise of a new generation of Q activists, while cynically discounting EAA. Stop trying to compare it to the "establishment" organizations. It is something entirely different, and our failure to recognize and harness this will be to our own detriment.