We’re excited to be kicking off a new Q&A series that will highlight several Grapevine Giving Circles and the meaningful differences they’re making for the organizations, individuals, and communities they support. First up is the Visibility Impact Fund, a Giving Circle dedicated to empowering bi+ people. Read on to learn about how the Visibility Impact Fund got started, how the work they’re doing is helping to address some of the unique challenges that bi+ people face, and how bi+ communities can be supported and celebrated all throughout the year.
Your Giving Circle supports nonprofits doing important work for people who are bi+. Can you share why this cause is so meaningful to you?
All of the founders of the Visibility Impact Fund are bi+ community organizers. Our community is made up of folks who are attracted to more than one gender and use labels such as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, and queer. We’ve faced the lack of funding for our community firsthand as we’ve tried to provide safe community spaces and services. LGBTQ organizations and spaces often include bi+ folks in name only, not providing any specific programming or outreach. Bi+ people typically don’t feel connected to the LGBTQ community although we make up over 50% of people who identify as LGBTQ.
We’d love to hear your origin story. How did your Giving Circle come to be?
Neil Aasve brought us all together to start the Visibility Impact Fund. He’d been corresponding with an organization that connects foundations and other funders who specifically support LGBTQ organizations and programming. For many years, bi+ community organizers have been trying to find ways to interface with this group to communicate the specific needs of the bi+ community and help funders understand how their current grants and systems are barriers to funding for bi+ organizations. Eventually, the person he’d been talking to said that starting a Giving Circle would allow themthat giving circle to join this organization and participate in their conferences and meetings. Neil didn’t know a lot about Giving Circles then, but immediately started learning about them and finding others to help him start the first ever bi+ Giving Circle.
What are a few of the unique challenges some bi+ communities face, and how do you feel the work you do in your Giving Circle helps mitigate some of these challenges?
Bi+ folks have not been well understood or historically accepted in either straight or gay and lesbian spaces. The stereotypes about bi+ people are assumed to be true, and we have many studies which show that the programs aimed at the general LGBTQ communities are not having as positive an impact on the mental and physical health of bi+ folks. We know there’s discrimination in the workplace against bi+ folks from the disparities we see in promotions, compensation, and employment opportunities. Physical and sexual violence is much higher against bi+ folks than against gay and lesbian people.
In looking closely at our community, increasing the understanding of who bi+ folks are and what needs they have seemed to be a good place to start—hence our focus on visibility. No one organization can fund or meet the needs of such a large community, so we hope through education to make funding more accessible to the bi+ community while we also provide direct support ourselves.
You’ve helped empower many people through your work, and every story is special. Would you be able to share some stories or examples of impact?
We’ve finished our first round of granting and are now accepting applications for the second round. In our first round of giving, we were very pleased to partner with three organizations seeking to raise the visibility of the bi+ community or provide direct services. FreeState Justice will be using grant funds to create a recurring training series about the community as well as increase bi+ visibility through their social media. In the past, these types of trainings provided by other organizations have had significant impacts on how LGBTQ organizations step up to serve the bi+ community. All three organizations are deeply connected to the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community which represents an important intersection in our work. Our first grantees will be providing a short narrative to us in September about how their grants impacted their work, and we look forward to sharing those on our website.
What are some ways you help create a sense of connection and togetherness among your Giving Circle members?
Right now, members of our Giving Circle are primarily connected through their shared connection to the bi+ community. While we’re working to expand our circle, current members are connected to the founders or other work we’ve done in the past.
Certainly the bi+ community should be supported and celebrated all year ‘round, not just during specific times of the year. What are some ways to help make this happen?
People can help support the bi+ community in many ways: disrupt jokes and stereotypes when you hear them, donate your time or funds to bi+ organizations in your area, include the bi and pan pride flags when you display the rainbow and trans pride flags. Most importantly, when someone tells you they are bi or pan or queer, believe them and support them. Don’t question their experiences or their self-identification.
How does it make you feel to think about the incredible impact you’re having on the communities and nonprofits you’re supporting?
Our leadership council still has a buzz of excitement whenever we work together. Knowing we’re the first of our kind and that we can have both tangible impacts now with our donations and lasting impacts with the education we’re providing to organizations and other funders makes us feel like we’re addressing some of the root causes of a lack of safe spaces and services for our community.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to start a Giving Circle but aren’t sure where to begin?
There are so many excellent resources online. We’ve been really appreciative of all the information and support provided to us by Grapevine.
To learn more about the Visibility Impact Fund—including the organizations they support or how to make a donation—you can visit their Giving Circle page.
If you’re an individual donor, Giving Circle, foundation, company, or nonprofit interested in setting up your own Grapevine Giving Circle, you can get started right here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.