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Protecting a brand or taking a stand?

Every year, the LGBT community gets whipped by our opponents in the fundraising game. Have you ever wondered why? How do they raise so much money from their members? Could it be that their leaders honor their mission statements above their brands?

Take Focus on the Family, for instance. They are one of the largest and most well known anti-gay campaigns with an annual budget of $140 million. (That’s $100 million more than the largest LGBT civil rights organization.)

Quick! Someone describe the Focus on the Family logo! You probably can’t do it. Why is that?

It’s because no matter how large Focus becomes, in terms of both dollars raised and members recruited, they never forget what they are standing for. Its culture is identical to its mission, which lives in the hearts and souls of its leaders, members, and donors. And Focus on the Family respects that unyieldingly.

I wish I could say the same about our most recognized LGBT organizations. It’s a shame that the best-known equality proponents say they are out to make a difference, but spend most of their time (and your money) posturing for their own namesake instead.

It reminds me of Starbucks. Remember when Starbucks offered a delicious cup of coffee and a unique place to relax? Somewhere along they way, they sold out the quality of their product to foster efficiency and a stronger image. Now, their stores are cookie-cutter, and their coffee is average. But you can’t blame Starbucks. They know that we consumers will pay for a mediocre cup of coffee as long as it’s convenient, and we get to be seen drinking from their cup.

Coffee is one thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way with equality. When it comes to your civil rights, you don’t have to spend your money on an organization that is obsessed with its own image rather than what really matters to its members and volunteers.

If you look past the logos and bumper stickers, you‘ll see how the people who lead the foremost LGBT equality organizations in San Diego are extremely willing to accept checks and volunteer hours with one hand, while slapping its very lifeblood in the face with the other. You’ll start to see how shallow their million-dollar sound bites really are. You’ll notice how appreciation, acknowledgement, and contribution interest them far less than looking good and avoiding looking bad.

San Diego doesn’t have to tolerate this Starbucks-style mediocrity, which is masked by claims of working for your rights. We can interrupt this brand-first mentality of those who lead our wealthiest organizations.

Before you purchase an opportunity to be seen drinking from their cup, find out what the LGBT organization is doing for you. Are they even relevant in your community? Dig around to see how they treat their volunteers; do they appreciate them, or do they monitor them? Do they simply plan galas, bar socials, and fundraisers, or are their leaders willing to grab a clipboard, walk door-to-door, and have real conversations about real issues with real people? Do their leaders get upset when deprived of proper credit, or do they openly demonstrate a willingness to work alongside other organizations; lifting them up along the way? Are they committed to socializing and drinking, or is it your civil rights that motivate them?

Is the organization to which you impart your generosity taking a stand, or protecting a brand?

Arlon Jay Staggs received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Mississippi College School of Law in 2000. He is a professional writer, business owner, professor, and activist. Even though his opinions are usually spot-on (we'd guess about 98.6% of the time), they are not necessarily the views of SDGLN.com, the baby Jesus, or God. He can be reached at arlonjay@arlonjay.com