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Generation gap- differing opinions as to future direction for San Diego Pride

(SAN DIEGO) On January 10 several hundred people from the San Diego LGBT community gathered at The Center to discuss the future of the local 501(c)3 nonprofit organization San Diego Pride.

While San Diego Pride means many things to many people, the opinion as to how the organization should move forward is greatly divided. Those involved with Pride in the 80s have called on the need for Pride to “go back to its roots,” calling for the return of a past focus- in which its sole function was to produce a parade and festival.

“I have been concerned about the focus of Pride on fundraising,” said Jeri Dilno, former San Diego Pride Board member and an organizer of San Diego’s 1975 Pride march. “Again, this change in philosophy was taken without input from the community at large. The original concept was to put on an event where the community could celebrate and educate. The funds charged for participation (booth and parade fees and admission) were designed to pay for the event. Pride had no assistance from any governmental sources. Each year after the event, 80% of the projected cost of the next year’s event was set aside and surplus was given back to the community. A few years ago, it seemed there was a change in that philosophy. Pride began soliciting and raising funds along with raising the costs to participants and ending the policy of admitting active service members for free.

“Now, there is an active fundraising component to Pride, with the hiring of a development director and soliciting funds through United Way and other fundraising programs,” adds Dilno. “They state their purpose is to fund activities in the community, but in my opinion, it sets up a competition for donor dollars. For instance, if I donate to Pride and their intent is to pass that on to community organizations, what percentage of my donation is used in administrative costs and how much actually gets to the community? It seems I would be better off giving directly to the service organization.”

Larry Baza, another former board member who served in the late 1970s agrees. “A year ago when Pride began fundraising, I felt guilty for my silence. Pride is not supposed to be fundraising. Pride should not be competing with women, AIDS organizations, or The Center.”

“Pride has expanded the definition of the organization and is now competing with The Center,” added Jess Durfee, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. “When a year ago I saw they began fundraising, I feel bad I was silent. This year they radically cut back the money they were giving back to the community. In a sad sort of way, I’m happy [this meeting brought on by the community after being made aware of the misappropriation of charitable funds to Pride Board Chair Phillip Princetta]. I’m glad we’re having this discussion about having to retool this organization.”

“The work of fundraising also takes away staff time and resources from planning the event and actually adds to the administrative costs of the Pride organization.” continued Dilno.

Other nonprofit leaders disagree, citing that expansion and growth are in line with Pride’s mission statement of “fostering pride and respect for all LGBT communities, locally and globally.”

“It sounds to me, according to [Pride’s] mission statement that the forward movement of the organization is in line with that,” said the Executive Director of the San Diego chapter for a well known national non-profit, who wished to be unnamed. “I think every organization needs to reflect its purpose and mission, and should move forward with decisions enabling the organization to breathe life into their mission statement.”

A number of people in attendance at the Town Hall felt Pride should have put the decisions regarding the purchase of a building, hiring a director of development, and the addition of new programs, up to a community vote.

“In terms of constituents voting on all a non-profit’s issues, all that will accomplish is grinding the organization to a halt,” continued the unnamed Executive Director. “You wouldn’t make progress if that were the case. It’s not realistic. What is realistic is to have forums to allow the people to share how they’d like to see the organization move forward, and it’s up to the leadership to take that under advisement.”

Dilno noted that during her tenure and under the leadership of former chairs like Judi Schaim, Larry Baza, Larry Ramey and others, town hall meetings were held to get feedback from the community. A number of people involved with Pride in years past have indicated the desire to have this practice reinstated.

At the same time, however, the real voting may come in the form of dollars raised.

“The people who donate- that’s how votes of confidence in the direction of a fundraising non-profit are really counted,” adds the Executive Director. “They have the ability to decide whether they give their money or not. If you’re watching television and you don’t like the program, you turn the channel. If the organization sees a downturn in the amount of funds raised, that’s how they’ll know if their on the wrong track.”

Pride volunteers more closely associated to Generation-Y feel the forward movement of Pride is the best way to go.

“After attending the Town Hall meeting and hearing from different generations of LGBT members of our community, it has become very clear to me that the generation gaps between past leaders of Pride and the current volunteer base will be an increasing issue of concern as the future of the San Diego Pride organization continues to heal from the latest scandals,” said Brian L. Lyons, San Diego Ambassador of Pride and Pride volunteer.

“Several past board members (ranging anywhere from 10 to almost 30 years back) spoke about the grassroots purpose of the organization, and while I value what they did to lead the way for equal rights, and celebration of diversity, I believe the older generations don’t see the value in the growth. Back in the 70s and 80s, the LGBT community was a much, much smaller group of people whose mission was to get together as volunteers and march for equality. But as with many other organizations, businesses, or even social behaviors, times are constantly changing. And part of that change is growth. San Diego Pride has grown to accommodate the growing needs of a growing community.

“With additional platforms and programs, San Diego Pride can reach out and touch the lives of many more people than just the few who are the bold activists. Its support of programs like HIV/AIDS Awareness, Youth Housing, and many other awareness programs, has given San Diego Pride the responsibility to expand its mission,” concluded Lyons.

“I believe in utilizing the wisdom of years and experience of our previous generations of LGBT leaders. However, having said that, I would hope that those generations would also feel the value in the next generation of leaders. Our current volunteer base is the spirit of the organization. We work very hard to assist San Diego Pride reach every person possible through its various programs. It is my deepest desire that the generations can close the gap and work together to keep the mission of San Diego Pride moving forward. This organization is bigger than them, or us. But together we can lead the way to ‘Foster Pride in and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities, locally and globally.’”