© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

LGBTQ+ nonprofits seeing revenue bump post-pandemic as attacks on transgender community mount

Stonewall Columbus

Some of Ohio's major nonprofits serving the LGBTQ+ community have seen a significant revenue bump since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaleidoscope Youth Center, or KYC, brought in over $2 million from grants and donors last year, quadrupling its revenue since 2018. KYC serves and supports thousands of LGBTQ+ youth and young adults with a drop-in center and behavioral health services.

At Equitas Health — the leading LGBTQ+ healthcare provider in Ohio — revenue has grown by nearly $10 million a year since 2017. But, Equitas' new CEO said expenditures in the healthcare industry and a decline in individual and corporate donations are causing the agency to make cuts.

And after a steep decline in revenue in 2018, Stonewall Columbus brought in over $1 million for the first time since before the pandemic. Stonewall Columbus organizes Columbus' annual Pride Festival and Parade, which brings in over 750,000 visitors annually.

Stonewall Columbus did not respond to a request for comment.

Kaleidoscope Youth Center director says growth shows LGBTQ+ supporters back nonprofit's mission

Over the past decade, KYC has increased its revenue since 2018 from just under $500,000 to over $2 million. As the 30-year-old organization gets more funds it is also expanding its operations.

KYC provides its services at no cost to young people and their families.

KYC's executive director Erin Upchurch said she attributes the growth mostly to government, private and corporate grant funding, which makes up 70% of their revenue. Upchurch said the community is also giving generously to Kaleidoscope.

According to the nonprofit's annual impact report, Kaleidoscope brought in over $500,000 in individual donations.

Upchurch said the uptick in revenue is — in part — a direct response to the Ohio Legislature restricting transgender medical care.

Upchurch said the publicity around a drag brunch event last year at Land Grant Brewing Company in Franklinton that was disrupted by neo-Nazis also brought in revenue. Upchurch said within two weeks of that event $60,000 in donations flooded in from around the country. These were mostly small dollar donations of $3 to $5.

Upchurch said the support shows people support their mission because their support is not directly solicited.

"People have our back and they want to support the work we're doing. They believe in the work that we're doing. I think it demonstrates to the folks who are anti (LGBTQ+), that we're not going to stand for this," Upchurch said.

Back in 2018, Kaleidoscope brought in $150,000 in direct donations out of $475,000 in total revenue.

Upchurch said the nonprofit now has 23 people on staff and they hire more social workers and people who have that mental health lens when they're working with people ages 12 to 24.

"We've always been a statewide organization, but the increased budget has definitely allowed us to cement our place, I think, as a statewide organization," Upchurch said.

Upchurch said she is thankful that other LGBTQ+ nonprofits are also thriving.

"We're all part of this ecosystem trying to uplift our community and make sure that we all can thrive. We all have our niches and we're all extremely interdependent on each other to really build up the communities here. I think it's been nothing short of celebration for that growth," Upchurch said.

Equitas Health faces financial struggles in healthcare industry, lack of donors

CEO David Ernesto Munar says Equitas had to lay off dozens of workers. He said they've also had to cut back on education and advocacy as the LGBTQ+ community faces threats, particularly at the Ohio Statehouse.

The nonprofit has seen tremendous growth in revenue over the past 10 years. In 2013, Equitas brought in just over $8 million in revenue. That grew up to $72 million last year.

Munar said most of the revenue Equitas gets comes from insurance payments from their 16,000 patients across their five clinics statewide. A big portion is also pharmacy revenue, which includes a partnership with a health center in Dallas, a sister organization that Equitas provides the pharmacy services for while that organization renders the primary care.

Equitas still gets donations and grants, but Munar said donations in particular are declining.

"We have seen in the last several years a decline in corporate and individual giving. And really since the COVID bubble, where there was actually an increase in philanthropic and individual charity, we have seen a steep decline in those categories," Munar said.

Equitas is also a substantial recipient of federal pass through dollars for HIV-related services from the state of Ohio and city of Columbus.

Equitas Health's Workers' United ratified its first contract with the healthcare provider in April of this year. Thirteen employees in Ohio have already been laid off during Equitas' restructuring and another 13 positions will eventually be eliminated.

Munar said no "patient-facing roles" were eliminated and many were back office administrative roles and management.

"(We) really did it surgically, to make sure that we could protect our patients facing clinical services, pharmacy services, dental and mental health services. None of those areas were affected by this small group of workforce reduction," Munar said.

Munar said Equitas has spent the past several years deficit spending on its budget despite the massive increase in revenue. He said the organization is now trying to change that.

Munar said a big factor in the deficit spending is the volatility of prices in the healthcare industry.

"Our expenses have grown at a faster clip than the growth in overall revenue. And then the restrictions have also increased. So a smaller percentage of that gross revenue is is unrestricted. And we rely on the restricted dollars to cover some of the cost categories where we don't have a dedicated funder," Munar said.

Munar said that besides the layoffs, the biggest impact is on Equitas Health's ability to mount effective education and advocacy campaigns around some of the threats to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly at the Ohio Statehouse.

Munar said the donor space is "dynamic" and people have changing habits with charitable donations.

"(People are) changing their priorities in terms of their giving and in some cases because of inflation and other economic pressure, pulling back on charity. But I think there's also a lot of competition for charity, charitable dollars," Munar said.

Munar said a change in the White House or in Congress this election could also put federal funds for HIV-related care at risk.

Munar said despite Equitas' struggles, he is glad to see other LGBTQ+ organizations thriving on increased revenue.

"We do need a real diversity of organizations involved. And to see peer organizations get larger and stronger is fantastic because that's what our community needs and deserves," Munar said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.