Arcus gives Triangle $500,000 grant

Funds to be used to strengthen infrastructure, strategize for future

by Jessica Carreras

DETROIT - The LGBT advocacy organization the Triangle Foundation announced on July 21 that it is the recipient of a $500,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation. The Kalamazoo-based organization is one of the nation's largest funders of LGBT issues and works globally to achieve social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and race.

The grant to Triangle will be dispersed over the next two years, and will be used for general operating support to strengthen the effectiveness, leadership and administrative infrastructure of the statewide organization. More specifically, the grant will be used to hire essential personnel, develop a policies and procedures manual and support strategic planning and board development.

One of the largest projects will be to re-create and maintain an organizational presence in west Michigan in addition to Triangle's southeast Michigan headquarters.

"We are pleased the board of the Arcus Foundation has shown confidence in the Triangle Foundation by awarding this grant," said Executive Director Alicia Skillman.

"The grant is a significant step in securing renewed strength and sustainability for the Triangle Foundation, which has a well-earned reputation as a credible leader for change regarding LGBT issues in Michigan."

Skillman also pointed out that while the Arcus Foundation grant is significant, it will represent 29 percent of the organization's overall annual operating budget in 2009 and 2010.

"While this grant will strengthen and enhance our infrastructure we will need the continued support of our valued donors and new engagement from the LGBT community and its allies to achieve our goal of securing freedom from violence, intimidation and discrimination for LGBT persons throughout Michigan," she said. "It's an exciting time for Triangle and a dynamic moment in time for the LGBT movement. We believe we are well-positioned to forge new partnerships to meet the challenges faced by our community in Michigan."

The Arcus Foundation spoke proudly of Triangle, stating that the grant was necessary to move the already stellar organization forward. "Since the 1990s, the major advances earned by the LGBT movement have been won by state and regional organizations. Triangle has been at the forefront of working to change policy, build alliances and mobilizing support for the civil and human rights of LGBT people in Michigan," said Johnny Jenkins, program director of the Michigan LGBT Rights Program at the Arcus Foundation. "We have every confidence that ... the Triangle Foundation will use their knowledge and experience in grassroots organizing and civic engagement to strengthen Triangle and the LGBT movement in Michigan."

The grant, though exciting for the Triangle Foundation, begs the question of where this leaves Michigan Equality, which received no funds from the Arcus Foundation this year so far. In past months, both organizations have been forced to cut programming and staff, which Triangle will now be able to reinstate. Currently, they're hiring a victim services advocate, as current Director of Victim Services Melissa Pope prepares for a possible move to west Michigan to head up the program there.

Michigan Equality, however, was vocally supportive of the grant. In a statement released to the public, Board of Directors President Doug Meeks said, "Michigan Equality congratulates the Triangle Foundation on its recent grant from the Arcus Foundation. The Arcus Foundation's commitment to Michigan's LGBT community continues to be overwelming generous and this recent grant will be a step forward to helping achieve equality in Michigan. Michigan Equality continues to look forward to working with the Triangle Foundation and Arcus to achieve equal rights for all of Michigan's LGBT citizens."

Co-Chair Michelle Brown spoke on the matter as an LGBT citizen, maintaining that her ties to Michigan Equality do not stop her from supporting Triangle's success in obtaining the grant. "We cannot change the things affecting our community with good intentions. It takes money, and that's real," she said. "Triangle has been there as long as I can remember being out, so I'm happy. These are hard times for all of our organizations ... and we have so much work left to do.

"At this point, I don't look at it as Michigan Equality," Brown continued. "I look at it as a person who's gay in Michigan who can still be fired for being gay, who, if I have a kid in school, they can be bullied, and also as someone trying to make it as a woman here in Michigan. This is an organization that is out there looking out for my rights."

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