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Key fact: LGBT community centers serve almost 2 million people annually

Despite the slow economic recovery, LGBT community centers manage to provide vital resources to 1.7 million people annually, according to a comprehensive report.

The “2012 LGBT Community Center Survey Report: Assessing the Capacity and Programs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Centers,” released by CenterLink and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), surveyed 79 LGBT community centers nationwide.

Centers showed good revenue growth over the past two years, resulting in combined 2011 revenue of $106.8 million. However, centers remain thinly staffed, with almost one in five relying on no paid staff at all.

San Diego is blessed to have the nation's second oldest and third largest LGBT community center. Here is how The San Diego LGBT Community Center describes itself on its website:

The Center is led by a 20-member board of directors, employs over 40 paid staff and utilizes more than 800 community volunteers to achieve its twin goals of promoting LGBT health and human rights. The Center provides direct program services to the many different facets of the LGBT community, including men, women, youth, seniors, families, LGBT Latino community members and their families, and those struggling with HIV. Last year The Center provided more than 50,000 direct service visits to San Diego community members, and through its events, activities and advocacy, touched the lives of thousands more.

Clients and diversity

* LGBT community center clientele is diverse and often not specifically served by community centers that serve larger local populations: 86% of LGBT community centers offer specific programming for transgender people, 86% for LGBT youth, 73% for LGBT older adults and 62% LGBT people of color.

* LGBT community center patrons are racially and ethnically diverse, with 40% of centers reporting that more than half of their patrons identify as people of color. **

“In many regions, community centers are the only resource where LGBT community members can access not only indispensable services but also break isolation and build a network of support,” said Terry Stone, executive director of CenterLink.

“This report surfaces how centers serve the most vulnerable members of our communities, especially LGBT youth, and enrich the lives of LGBT people in multifaceted ways.”

Services and programs

In many regions, local LGBT centers are the only organizations serving the LGBT community, offering a variety of much-needed resources including:

* Physical and Mental Health Programs: Large centers spent about a quarter of their 2011 budgets on physical and mental health programs, including general health and wellness programs, health and
mental health care referrals, STI and HIV/AIDS-related programming, and facilitated support groups.

* Information and Education Programs: Centers provide patrons with a variety of informational and educational resources, and 71% have in-house libraries. In response to the economic downturn, a quarter of centers offer directories of local jobs and employment counseling or job training.

* Legal Services and Programs: While two-thirds of centers provide LGBT-friendly legal referrals, only 20% provide direct legal assistance such as legal document preparation.

* Social and Recreational Programs: LGBT community centers provide patrons with opportunities to socialize and connect with other LGBT people.

* Community Outreach and Civic Engagement: LGBT community centers provide referrals to LGBT-friendly local resources such as schools and healthcare providers. Half of centers (51%) also engage directly in policy work, including public education efforts and partnerships with local LGBT and allied organizations to advance safe schools and anti-bullying policies, transgender-inclusive protections and HIV/AIDS work. One-third of centers help register voters and conduct get-out-the-vote drives.

* Computer Centers: Many LGBT community centers (88%) provide patrons with computer resources; 97% of large centers offer patrons access to computers compared to 72% of small centers. Large centers are defined as those with 2012 expense budgets of $150,000 or greater, while small centers are centers with expense budgets less than $150,000.

Staffing and revenues

Many LGBT centers rely on a small number of staff to provide these services.

Of the 61 centers that provided information about staff, 18% have no staff and rely entirely on volunteers, and 41% have five or fewer paid staff. Small centers face particular staffing challenges; 46% have no paid staff, and the remaining 54% have between one and five staff.

Both large and small LGBT centers reported revenues increases from 2010 to 2011; small centers experienced a 20% increase in revenues from 2010 to 2011, compared to a 13% increase for large centers. 46% of 2011 revenues were from government grants, followed by 18% from individual donors and 10% from fundraising events.

“From health education and policy advocacy to employment counseling and legal services, community centers provide lifelines to many underserved LGBT communities,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “We’re encouraged to see growing financial support at so many centers, and hope to see even greater investment in the vital role these centers play in the lives of LGBT people across the country.”

The full report is available online HERE or HERE.