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Canvass for a Cause retools

SAN DIEGO, California -- Although you may not see them in front of Target stores anymore, the grassroots organization Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) is still hard at work getting people to change their minds about LGBTQ issues.

Through education and partnerships CFAC advises the public on political and social issues, hoping to get people to rethink their opinions on key issues.

The CFAC has had its share of controversy in the past, from being accused of bombarding shoppers outside of Target stores to an allegedly unscrupulous executive director. However, Anna Prouty, communications director for CFAC, assures the community that the organization is on the right track and continues to change the minds of those who oppose human-rights issues.

“CFAC helps the community on the streets, in the classroom and through grassroots political activism,” Prouty said. “Our activists engage in face-to-face conversations to change hearts and minds and build support for the progressive movement in San Diego by educating the public and having persuasion conversations with non-supporters.

"Our persuasion rate is 22%, meaning that after speaking with us, one out of every four people our activists speak to will change their stance to support LGBTQ rights. Our field team works with GSAs at middle schools and high schools around San Diego to educate and empower youth on queer and trans* issues.”

Prouty says CFAC is a safe place for LGBT youth who have been ostracized or abandoned because of their identities. Through the organization’s programs, these youth can be in a nurturing environment while learning important job skills and receiving a steady paycheck.

With marriage equality on its way to becoming accepted nationwide, it would seem that the LGBT community has finally won the battle over equal rights and therefore the CFAC shouldn’t have too much work left to do. But Prouty disagrees with that assumption.

“Canvass for a Cause has worked on issues in the past few years including passing and continuing to support AB-1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act which allowed transgender students access to the sex-segregated facilities that matched their gender identities," she said.

"Most recently, we helped to pass Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which eliminates felony sentencing for low-level nonviolent crimes and reallocates up to $250 million annually away from the incarceration budget and towards K-12 schools, mental health and drug treatment programs. We are always keeping our ears open to new legislation to help support, with a particular emphasis on legislation that benefits trans* youth.”

The CFAC has had to work hard to convince the community that any unethical activities the organization may have had in the past is not indicative of the organization as it stands now or will in the future. Although Prouty says that alleged misuse of funds happened a long time before she joined the organization, she is confident that CFAC is moving in the right direction.

“From what I understand, there was a kind of 'revolution' within the organization in 2012 in which others within CFAC grew frustrated with the executive director’s policies and pushed him out of the organization. Since then, the executive director position has been held by much more financially responsible people. As it stands, the issue of the organization’s leadership misusing funds has been resolved. In my time at CFAC, I have never seen a single purchase made that was not absolutely integral to our work as an organization," she said.

"As an entirely small-donor funded organization still working on LGBTQ rights after the passing of marriage equality, it has grown more difficult to find financial support. In my time at CFAC, we have not had the money to spend on anything other than what we absolutely need in order to complete our work.”

Some critics have accused the CFAC of piggy-backing other group's causes and then taking credit for the results. Again, Prouty is quick to defend.

“I am unfamiliar with such a characterization of CFAC. If anything, I would say that our presence in activism has been understated given all that we do. Unlike many other canvassing groups, we do not have paid canvassing contracts with larger, more well-known organizations. We canvass to engage in public education and persuasion conversations to build support for LGBTQ rights, and use whatever money is leftover to visit local GSAs and sponsor events such as We Are Here, an explosion of queer and ally art and music, and Guerilla Pride, an alternative to the mainstream pride parade focused on both empowering queer San Diegans and educating the public on progressive issues,” she said.

As for the future, Prouty says that since November 2014, CFAC has been in a period of restructuring, and as of August of last year the organization has gained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. She explains that CFAC can expand their resource pool.

“Currently, CFAC is entirely small-donor funded, which has led to us having to somewhat limit the programs and events we can hold. As a 501(c)(3), we will be able to increase the work done by our field team. We will expand our GSA outreach program, begin activist training classes, and build further partnerships with organizations around San Diego to support LGBTQ youth and create support for the progressive movement,” she said.

To see how you can support the CFAC, visit their website HERE.