Our questions included their top three priorities for 2013, the top three things individuals can do to help them achieve those priorities, the biggest misconception about their organization, and the single most important thing that would help them achieve their mission.

We also asked about the size of their staffs and budgets (see story, Page 6) to offer perspective on the resources they currently have, as well as what might be needed. While marriage equality has become the highest-profile issue for our community nationally — thanks to pending Supreme Court cases and major victories in other states — you won’t find it on these lists.

Instead, what emerged was an LGBT agenda for Georgia that might appear on first glance to be more modest than what activists are pushing for in other states, but that could actually mean profound changes in many of our lives and pave the way for even bigger changes to come.

BATTLING MISCONCEPTIONS

Despite Georgia’s large LGBT community and extensive gay social scene, most of the organizations surveyed said that a key way supporters can help them achieve their goals is by countering misconceptions about their missions.

For Atlanta Pride and Savannah Pride, that means moving past the idea that they only exist to produce a festival one weekend each year — and that the festival’s impact begins and ends there.

“We work year-round on the festival and all of our other undertakings to support and engage our community,” said Buck Cooke, Atlanta Pride executive director.

The Health Initiative, which focuses on LGBT wellness, wants to refute the misconception that they only care about Atlanta or women — both of which have roots in their founding as the Atlanta Lesbian Cancer Initiative, and later the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative.

Positive Impact wants to change the myth that you have to already be HIV positive to access their many mental health, education and support services, while AID Atlanta strives to counter the idea that the agency, the largest HIV agency in the Southeast, is only an HIV testing clinic and producers of the AIDS Walk.

STAND UP, SPEAK OUT

Organizations cited misconceptions not only about their scope, but also about the overall state of LGBT and HIV awareness in Georgia.

“We need people to reach out and educate elected officials at all levels of government on the realities of our lives here in Georgia,” noted Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT political group.

“We know that we have LGBT people in all parts of the state, yet there is still a misperception that we all live in Midtown or Decatur. “

AID Atlanta also worries about misinformation, and asks supporters to work hard to challenge those ideas.

“Many people don’t realize that HIV rates are continuing to rise here in metro Atlanta, especially among young people and women of color,” said Cathy Woolard, interim executive director, advocating for HIV to become “part of everyday conversation in Atlanta. “

Atlanta Pride’s Cooke stresses how his organization, as well as the community as a whole, “still struggles for equal rights for LGBTQ citizens everyday.”

“Until that battle is won, it is imperative that we stand up, en masse, and make a statement that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not just going to sit by and accept second-class citizenship,” he said.

WHO WE SURVEYED

For our activism survey, we chose to focus on LGBT organizations whose missions include at least some advocacy, as opposed to those who focus more exclusively on providing services or social activities (like PALS, which supplies pet supplies to those with critical illnesses or the elderly, or any of our numerous LGBT sports, social or spiritual organizations).

In the case of health organizations, we also chose to focus on those whose missions are specifically focused on LGBT issues — like the Health Initiative or Someone Cares, which serves African-American and Latino LGBT people.

We also included two of Atlanta’s largest HIV agencies, AID Atlanta and Positive Impact, both of which feature LGBT leadership and a large client base of men who have sex with men.

Finally, we reached out to three national organizations that either have headquarters in Atlanta or an Atlanta office.

Participants include Georgia Equality, Atlanta Pride, Savannah Pride, the Health Initiative, Lost-n-Found Youth, AID Atlanta, Positive Impact, Someone Cares and Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation.

Surveys were not returned by YouthPride, MEGA Family Project, In the Life Atlanta (organizers of Atlanta Black Gay Pride), Augusta Pride, South Georgia Pride, Lambda Legal-Southern Regional Office and National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities.

GEORGIA EQUALITY
FOUNDED: 1995
STAFF: 3 full-time / 0 part-time

Mission: To advance fairness, safety and opportunity for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities and allies throughout Georgia.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Passing policies, ordinances and legislation to address workplace fairness
  • Creating safer schools through enactment of policies and supporting Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including expansion of Medicaid, to maximize the benefits to LGBT individuals and people living with HIV/ AIDS.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Join our Action Alert Network and respond to alerts when they are posted.
  • Join our Speaker’s Bureau to educate the public on our issues.
  • Become a monthly donor to ensure a steady stream of funding to advance our priorities and position us to respond to urgent issues as they arise.

ATLANTA PRIDE
FOUNDED: 1970
STAFF: 1 full-time / 1 part-time

Mission: To provide lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered and queer persons with cultural and educational programs and activities which enhance mental and physical health, provide social support, and foster an awareness of the past and present contributions of LGBT persons, through community activities and services, including an annual Pride event.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Community outreach and engagement
  • Social justice
  • Organizational sustainability.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Volunteer their time and talents
  • Donate money
  • Spread the message that Pride is still needed

THE HEALTH INITIATIVE

FOUNDED: 1996
STAFF: 2 full-time / 2 part-time

Mission: Improving the health and wellbeing of Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community through education, support, access to care and advocacy.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Expand access to the Health Fund statewide, by increasing partnerships with low cost providers throughout the state.
  • Increase health, fitness and wellness programming opportunities.
  • Expand the Board of Directors to represent increased broader community and geographic demographics.    

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Refer LGBTQ-friendly providers to the Health Initiative, particularly those who are outside the metro area and/or willing to become a Health Fund partner.
  • Make a financial contribution to support the Health Initiative.
  • Get involved. Consider volunteering or applying to join the Board of Directors.

LOST-N-FOUND YOUTH

FOUNDED: 2011
STAFF: 1 full-time / 1 part-time

Mission: To take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths off the street and transition them into more permanent housing arrangements.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Helping more youth by expanding our capacity.
  • We need space for emergency shelter, drop in center, more transitional housing , and starting a fostering programming.
  • Exploring new sources of income via grants, foundations, thrift store, etc.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Volunteer
  • Give money
  • Donate items – see ways to help on our website

SAVANNAH PRIDE

FOUNDED: 1999
STAFF: 0 Full-time / 0 part-time

Mission: To provide LGBT persons and their allies with cultural and educational programs and activities which enhance mental and physical health, provide social support, to foster an awareness of the past and present contributions of LGBT persons, through community activities and services, including an annual Pride Celebration, to promote a forum for sales and advertising for LGBT persons and allies to generate a profit and to promote Savannah’s history, heritage and culture.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Our top priority this year, is really to better assimilate our organization with the surrounding community. People know we exist, but are unclear what it is we actually do, or how we help.
  • As always, our second goal would be to make our festival in 2013 bigger and better than ever. What makes this so important, is that the Savannah Pride festival is held in the heart of downtown Savannah — we are visible, proud, and invite the entire town to join in celebrating that with us.
  • The third priority for us would be to increase our philanthropic efforts. Savannah Pride is only successful because of community support, any chance we get to pay that forward, we will.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Donate. We are still a small organization, and rely solely on donations and sponsorships to fund our events throughout the year, and of course the Savannah Pride festival.
  • Also, volunteer, come out and show your support by lending a hand. The festival is one day, but it takes all year to make it happen. We have events all year, and can always use an extra person.
  • Finally, spreading the word, telling people what Savannah Pride is all about, what we’re up to, and why what we’re doing is so important.

THE BEN COHEN STANDUP FOUNDATION

FOUNDED: 2011
STAFF: 1 full-time / 0 part-time (Staff member not paid through Foundation budget)

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Increase and strengthen the StandUp brand and issue awareness
  • Diversify and build social media outreach platform
  • Deepen relationships and outcomes with grantees

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Continue to support StandUp by helping us build the brand, telling others about our brand and our mission.
  • Financially support the Foundation through donations, attending events, buying a shirt, subscribing to the magazine.
  • Encourage friends and influencers to follow the Foundation on Facebook and twitter and promote the stories that we share.

AID ATLANTA

FOUNDED: 1982
STAFF: 84 full-time / 13 part-time

Mission: AID Atlanta has developed a broad range of services to support our goals of reducing new HIV infections and improving the quality of life of our members and the community. 

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Improve health outcomes for all of our members.
  • Identify the key barriers to HIV prevention and care and implement a structural intervention plan to address those barriers.
  • Incorporate harm-reduction techniques into 100 percent of our programming.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

POSITIVE IMPACT

FOUNDED: 1992 (direct services began April 1, 1993)
STAFF: 32 full-time / 14 part-time

Mission: To eliminate the risk of HIV transmission and to empower those affected by HIV through culturally competent and inclusive prevention, education, mental health and substance abuse treatment services.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Increase client access to services in order to reduce the impact of HIV in Atlanta and begin to end the epidemic.
  • Increase individual donor support to provide more flexibility for client services
  • Implement a unified agency-wide database, combining 32 programmatic databases, in order to more efficiently track client experiences.

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Educate themselves on risk behaviors via the agency’s MISTER program
  • Help a friend or someone they don’t know by becoming a monthly donor at whatever level is comfortable for their budget.
  • Encourage their family and friends to educate themselves about healthy behaviors and risk factors for HIV.

SOMEONE CARES OF ATLANTA EDIC (Early Detection Intervention Clinic)

FOUNDED: 1996
STAFF: 3 full-time / 2 part-time

Mission: To empower the African American/ Latino  LGBT communities at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS and other health disparities through support services, research, education, advocacy, prevention, and treatment; in order to assist them to take control of their lives in making sound health decisions.

Top three priorities for 2013:

  • Fundraising
  • Mental health program
  • HIV/STD clinic

Top three ways individuals can help with your priorities:

  • Donate money
  • Grant writing assistance
  • Volunteer services

 

Top photo: Positive Impact and the Ric Crawford Clinic joined forces to administer HIV tests in Piedmont Park during Pride 2012. In 2013, Positive Impact wants to change the myth that you must be HIV positive to access their mental health, education and support services. (by Bo Shell)

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