At a summer launch party June 28, Spruce Foundation announced it has added an LGBT program area and will fund one group this grant cycle, as well as raise awareness for and support a number of others.
The five-year-old nonprofit this past spring dispersed $20,000 in grants to four organizations that work with youth in the areas of arts and culture, health and wellness and education.
Spruce Foundation raises funds largely through events aimed at young professionals, cultivating a new generation of philanthropists while garnering dollars for local youth.
“We found that a lot of nonprofits cater to an older crowd so we try to attract a younger audience,” said Spruce Foundation events chair Menakah Hughes. “We focus on people in their 20s who are younger professionals just starting out and who don’t have a ton of money but who still want to give back. We try to keep things fun and casual while still raising awareness and money for youth.”
The concept of an LGBT addition was raised in the fall by J. Rudy Flesher, who learned of Spruce Foundation at a local youth event.
“One of my first questions for their leadership was, ‘What are you doing for LGBT youth?’ and we had a really wonderful first conversation,” Flesher said. “Outside of LGBT communities, there isn’t always the same level of awareness around issues like suicide, homelessness and bullying. The moment they heard about the disparities LGBT kids face, it was just a question of where to go from there.”
Flesher joined the agency’s board in May and will serve as officer for the LGBT program.
Hughes, whose parents are gay, said the addition of the LGBT component resonated with the agency.
“This was something that was very meaningful to me and to a lot of people on the board,” she said. “We felt like this was a long time coming.”
The new program is open to LGBT agencies that work with youth as well as mainstream organizations whose programs serve LGBT youth.
Letters of intent are due to the organization July 15, and the four selected partners will be announced Aug. 1.
One of the four is guaranteed the $5,000 grant, but Flesher noted the other organizations can also benefit from increased awareness, manpower and support culled from Spruce Foundation events throughout the year.
“We want to drive volunteers to these organizations,” Flesher said. “They can join as board members, lawyers can offer pro-bono assistance, accountants can offer their help — we’re looking to help support the full range of things that organizations need in addition to just funding.”
Flesher is planning an LGBT-specific fundraising event this fall that will showcase a number of LGBT youth leaders — and grow the network of supporters for at-risk LGBT youth.
“We want to spotlight these organizations and these youth and connect them with people who have passion, skills, excitement and donations,” Flesher said.
For more information or to submit a letter of intent, visit www.sprucefoundation.org.