LGBT Community Centers Are the Real MVP, But They Need Our Help

At a time when so many communities are feeling alienated, shunned, and discriminated against, having a place to go where you are welcomed and supported can be a huge relief, and even life-saving.  For many LGBT people, that place of refuge is LGBT community centers. Across the United States, LGBT community centers are a critical and sometimes only local source of targeted social, educational, and health services.

A new report released today from MAP and CenterLink shows the critical role LGBT community centers play in the lives of LGBT people and their families, serving more than 40,000 people each week and providing targeted referrals to nearly 5,500 people.

The report found that the 113 centers that reported 2017 revenue data have combined revenue of $226.7 million, with both large and small centers reporting an increase over the previous year. However, the report also found centers faced significant challenges, such as a lack of resources and paid staff—particularly among smaller centers. 25% of centers have no paid staff and rely solely on volunteers, and 32% have between one and five paid staff. As expected, small centers with budgets of less than $150,000 are much more likely to have few or no paid staff.

Strikingly, the report highlights that participating centers employ nearly 2,000 paid staff yet engage with more than 14,000 volunteers for nearly half a million volunteer hours annually.

That community centers provide a breadth of services including information and education, social programs, arts and cultural programs, legal services, and physical and mental health services despite being so under resourced is a testament to their sheer resiliency. Not only that, but 93% of centers are actively working to advance policy change at federal, state, and local levels.

Given the critical role of LGBT community centers in supporting LGBT people in all areas of the country—particularly areas with few other resources—and the invaluable impact centers have on shaping needed policy change, investing in community centers is one major way we can strengthen the LGBT movement and provide support for LGBT people living across the country. In other words, it’s a powerful way we can fight back.

Click here to find and support the center nearest you.