Building Networks to Survive and Thrive

May 14, 2019

Group photo of GUTC Fellows and Alex Lee, GUTC Project Director & Borealis Board Member, after solving all the clues at the Escape Room

Aldo Gallardo, the Program Associate for the Fund for Trans Generations at Borealis Philanthropy, was recently named to the second cohort of the GUTC (Grantmakers United for Trans Communities) Leaders Fellowship. The fellowship, which began in 2018, was designed to address an urgent need for leadership development and support for trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary staff in the field.

Read Aldo’s reflections on what’s meaningful to her about the fellowship, her hopes for the GUTC pledge, and lessons learned from her experiences in philanthropy:

  1. What is most meaningful to you about the GUTC fellowship?

Getting to build relationships and friendships with other trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary folks in philanthropy is meaningful. We’ve shared our journeys, how we’re navigating philanthropy, some of our discomforts and challenges, and built a sense of individual and collective belonging. Most of all, we can just be, exist, and get each other.

There is a legacy of trans and queer folks of color building support networks to survive and thrive. Being part of this fellowship and network of support feels like we’re carrying on that legacy and honoring our transcestors/ancestors.

  1. How do you think the fellowship will impact your comfort and leadership working in funder spaces?

Funding Forward 2019 Plenary. Co-sponsored by Arcus Foundation, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Borealis Philanthropy, and Foundation for Justice Society, this plenary brought together Karolina Lopez (Mariposas Sin Fronteras), Ola Osaze (Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project), and Marisa Franco (Mijente) in conversation with Alisha Williams (Arcus Foundation) and Aldo Gallardo (Borealis Philanthropy)

As the adage goes, there is strength in numbers. Sharing space with other transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary folks in philanthropy is empowering: we can support each other in navigating this field, lift each other up, and share approaches to grantmaking. This March, I co-moderated a plenary panel on trans and queer migrant justice organizing at the border at the national Funders for LGTBQ Issues conference, Funding Forward, in Tucson, AZ.

A couple of days earlier, I had asked the other fellows to attend the plenary. Sure enough, I saw them scattered through the large conference room. Seeing their faces calmed my nerves, and reminded me of the collective trans power we’re building. I hope that this is only the beginning; I envision us creating our own spaces for trans-led groups to convene and strategize, collaborate and present at conferences, and offer ongoing, informal support.

  1. What are your hopes for the GUTC pledge, which asks foundations to make a commitment to be more transgender-inclusive in both their grant making and internal practices? How do you want to see funders shift their commitment to funding trans-led organizing and work?

Being in this work as a trans femme of color and holding what trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary communities of color are facing, and also knowing that “for every $100 awarded by US foundations, only 3 cents focuses on trans communities” feels jarring.

The GUTC Pledge offers an opportunity for allies in philanthropy to show up in solidarity with trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary communities. One goal of the GUTC Pledge is to “increase our grantmaking for trans communities, with a commitment to trans-led organizations.” This includes creating and configuring grantmaking to reduce the administrative burden on trans organizations to apply for grants, and to report on grants awarded.

Borealis Philanthropy team at Funding Forward 2019

Other priorities include hiring and retaining trans talent, specifically Black trans women and nonbinary femmes, shifting organizational culture by creating inclusive workplaces, and implementing policies that support trans folks to show up as their best, authentic selves. Nico Calvo Rosenstone, a past GUTC fellow, has written about transforming the workplace to be transgender inclusive. I feel really lucky to work alongside other trans people of color on staff, in management, and on our board at Borealis—it feels like there is a leadership pipeline. Knowing there is trans leadership at various levels of the organization is reassuring and it is a privilege to learn from people who remind me it is possible take on leadership roles in philanthropy.

  1. At Borealis, you are the Program Associate for the Fund for Trans Generations—what are some lessons learned from your work that you want to share with other funders?

For those who are curious about trans-led groups, look no further than our FTG grantee partners, who are leading powerful, strategic, and resilience-building work across the United States.

A majority of our FTG grantee partners are emerging groups, many with all volunteer staff. Making sure application processes are accessible, insofar as is possible, makes it feasible to apply for funding. We’ve seen modest $15,000 general support grants go a long way for small budget organizations (under $100k). For instance, material support has allowed trans-led groups to secure physical spaces to bring together participants. For so many of us, just walking down the street as our authentic selves exposes us to verbal and physical violence. Having a physical space where we feel safe, our identities and pronouns are affirmed, and where we can exist alongside our siblings is significant. Spaces like these are crucial for community building and planning organizing campaigns.

  1. What does it look like for funders to meaningfully share power with trans-led organizations on the ground?

There are trans folks leading organizing efforts that sustain entire communities. If you’re working in education, housing, health and wellness, gender justice, racial justice, there are trans people and trans-led organizations leading in this work that could use resources. Tap them to be on your advisory committees, and pay them for their expertise. You can learn more about participatory grantmaking from Trans Justice Funding Project’s approach to grantmaking.

At FTG we have an Advisory Committee, which consists of five transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary leaders. I see this as one way for us to share power through collective decision-making and bring more folks to the table. It also allows funders to learn more deeply about trans communities and provides an important space for relationship building and field learning. One of our FTG Advisory Board Members Karolina Lopez says, “Being on the advisory committee for the Fund for Trans Generations reminded me that I have a voice and can make change. I felt inspired, like we are all constructing a new model for grantmaking and growth.” In working with Karolina, we have been able to practice our commitment to language justice and accessibility by having all of our forms in Spanish and having simultaneous interpretation at our grantmaking meetings.

Imagine what shifts can occur when more trans, gender nonconforming, and non-binary folks are brought into philanthropy. What if their voices were heard and supported? In this moment, funders have the opportunity to see these questions through by signing onto the GUTC pledge.

GUTC Leadership Fellows group selfie