When my colleague Philip Rojc mused in August about numerous claims of underfunding in the nonprofit world versus the comparative lack of data about the amount of money actually being moved to those causes, Movement Advancement Project LGBTQ Program Director Naomi Goldberg tweeted in response about MAP’s 15 years of data collection on trends in LGBTQ+ giving. 

“Good data is out there, but it takes serious funding and time to collect,” she said. 

There are at least three entities that conduct research and issue reports on giving to LGBTQ +causes: MAP, Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Giving USA. Candid’s Foundation Directory Online and ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer are available for researchers with the time, funding and staff to mine them. However, a close look at the available facts reveals that no one really knows how much money is being moved to LGBTQ+ causes. 

Combining the best data available reveals knowledge gaps large enough to drive a bus through. And while a quick glance through the news makes clear the huge and urgent needs LGBTQ+ communities face, the best anyone has been able to do is provide an educated guess about how much money is being moved to address those needs. No one has tried to estimate how much money LGBTQ+ nonprofits need to fully serve their missions. Attempting to answer these questions does, however, provide some important lessons in the difficulty of assessing disparities and monetary needs in the nonprofit world. 

Tallies that rely on 990 data are generally at least a year behind the times and often incomplete. Giving by DAFs, LLCs and individuals can be done mostly, or even entirely, under the radar. Those issues alone make it virtually impossible to get a complete picture of support for LGBTQ+ causes — or any nonprofit cause, for that matter. But a closer examination shows that even those high hurdles are just the beginning.

Different reports, different focuses: none of them complete

Comparing the three reports that attempt a national tally of LGBTQ+ philanthropy reveals three different approaches — none of which provides a complete picture of the giving landscape, let alone of the field as a whole. 

Read the full article about data about funding for LGBTQ+ causes by Dawn Wolfe at PrideSource .