It’s easy to think that because our friends and families are socially enlightened that the majority of the world is as well. After all, Obama unambiguously stated his support for gay marriage, and well-respected public figures like Anderson Cooper are stepping proudly out of the closet and into the spotlight. I asked Robin McHaelen, the Executive Director of True Colors Inc (TCI) to pick one thing she wishes the public was more aware of. She told me:
“That things are both better – and they are not. Some LGBT youth come out and the people in their lives go, ‘whatever’. Those youth go on to lead happy and productive lives. Others come out and get thrown out, or beaten or even exorcised… Those youth use substances, attempt suicide, run-away, are truant, sexually act out and are homeless at significantly higher rates than their peers.”
This is (and should be) an eye-opener for modern Americans. It certainly was for Robin. While completing her master’s at UConn, she researched LGBT advocacy groups in the Hartford area. There was one group. Broaden that search to the entire state of CT: two groups. To use Robin’s words: “In short, LGBT adolescents were an invisible and under-serviced minority.”
To fill this gap, TCI was born. Since its inception in 1993, TCI has “educated more than 25,000 participants; provided resources and training to hundreds of school and agency programs; contributed to the formation and/or continuation of the more that 160 existing Gay/Straight Alliances; launched and manages CT’s only LGBT youth mentoring program. Our work has helped to create a safer, more inclusive environment for LGBTIQ youth in school, at home, and in the community at large.” They’ve managed to do this by rolling out a variety of programs and initiatives, including:
- One-on-One Mentoring Program
- Annual Conference
- Youth Leadership
- Safe Harbors Task Force/Foster Parent Recruitment
- Cultural Competency Training
- Spiritual Institute
Managing this many initiatives demands, of course, a reliable stream of funding. When I asked Robin to elaborate on some of her fundraising successes and failures, she candidly told me that they’d had so many bad fundraising experiences that they started calling them ‘fund-losers’. TCI runs three fundraising events per year that Robin refers to as “marginally profitable, but don’t bring in anywhere near the kind of income they should.”
When we discussed online fundraising, Robin informed me that TCI brings in about 20% of their individual donations through a ‘donate’ button on their website, and that this should be an area for significant fundraising potential. Since TCI utilizes facebook & twitter in their mentoring program and their mission is to help young people, they’re already well on their way to activating a substantial group of new fundraisers.
By leveraging their social media assets, TCI should be able to foster an even greater sense of community and solidarity for the kids they support. They can also grow their networks of kids, mentors, supporters and resources by letting their kids use their social media acumen to recruit new donors and believers. Increasing awareness, accomplishing mission goals and raising funds are all essential in helping TCI succeed. We’ll be launching a WeDidIt campaign with them in the coming months, but you should get involved today:
And check out some photos from TCI’s annual conference:
TCI’s annual conference is the largest and most comprehensive LGBT youth issues conference in the nation. Nearly 3,000 youth, educators, social workers, clinicians, family members and clergy participate in more than 150 workshops, films, activities and events over the course of the 2-day event.