Originally published in Lavender Magazine, August 2020
In the 1980s, members of the LGBTQ community battled complete isolation. It inspired a Minneapolis-based nonprofit to form, and they are still working to ensure we can all live free from discrimination.
The PFund Foundation started in 1987, in response to the AIDS crisis. At the time, the ignorance of many in society was combated by Pfund, who decided the LGBTQ community could provide for itself and ensure no one fights the battle alone.
PFund continues their mission where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are celebrated and live free from discrimination, violence, invisibility, and isolation.
Today, the PFund Foundation is a premiere LGBTQ grant maker in the Upper Midwest, providing money to individuals, small businesses, and organizations from Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
PFund is helping the LGBTQIA community survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing micro grants. “We’ve had requests for rental and utility assistance, food and other necessities,” said PFund Executive Director A. Charlene Leach. “From organizations and small businesses, we’ve had requests for trauma-related services and PPE equipment.”
Those grants have supported people who may have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Ms. Leach said, “There are many gig workers in our community that remain out of work due to social distancing and our overall goal is to maintain a safety net to ensure the stability of the community.”
Due to the wide array of circumstances COVID brought forth, PFund has no requirements on how funds are used, however, an application is required. Anyone is welcome to apply on their website.
PFund is expected to dispense $250,000 in COVID-19 micro grants, with the hope to add more funds as social distancing mandates continue.
In addition to grants, PFund creates and develops leaders within the LGBTQ community. “The definition of leadership varies depending on the person,” Leach said. “It will look different for someone who is recently leaving university than it does for a mid-or-senior career professional.”
PFund offers scholarships to those looking to continue their education, but that doesn’t mean you need to be enrolled at a traditional college or university. The nonprofit grants leadership awards, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, to people invested in the LGBTQIA community, seeking to maintain work as a community activist or organizer or who may need financial support attending conferences and workshops.
According to Leach, “We define leadership as someone actively engaged in advancing LGBTQIA equity, whether though paid work, volunteering or investing.”
Applications for scholarships typically open in January each year. There’s no age limit on who is eligible.
The PFund Foundation is funded by individual donors, other foundations, corporate sponsors, and an endowment. “There are a number of foundations that are long time funders of PFund, but also fully invested in LGBTQIA equity,” Leach said. “Some of those funders have supported the work of PFund for many years.” PFund also receives state government funding.
Ensuring everyone is heard
As PFund looks ahead, elevating voices of the Black community, along with Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color who identify as LGBTQIA remains top priority. “Aside from financial investment through our scholarships, we recently launched our Emergent Leaders Initiative, a program designed to assist with the development of young leaders by providing professional development, coaching and networking,” Leach tells Lavender. The initiative is in partnership with Quorum, the Twin Cities’ LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Leach also pointed to the wide array of opportunities that can open up thanks to the help of a scholarship. “According to the CDC, Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth. While there are many factors that contribute to that number, PFund Foundation was able to provide a scholarship to the second African American midwife in the state of Minnesota. While that doesn’t solve all the issues, it’s a step that I hope others will follow in recognizing that representation is also part of the problem.”
PFund is also working to diversify the voices within its organization. “I will also add that for the first time in PFund’s 32 year history, it has a Black woman at the helm,” Leach said. “I think it speaks to the commitment of the Board of Directors in our quest for equity.”
Like so many businesses, COVID-19 has taken a toll on how PFund can serve its neighbors. “Like most organizations, we have seen a decline in giving but we remain steadfast in our work for equity,” Leach said. The nonprofit accepts online donations for those looking to help support others in the LGBTQIA community.
And there are other ways to help besides opening up your wallet: “Anyone interested in getting involved can join the Board of Directors or serve on a Board committee, assist with grant review for our scholarships, or volunteer at an event, once social distancing has been lifted,” Leach said. “We are also accepting volunteers who would be interested in sending care packages to our scholars who are college students.”
PFund ignited during one crisis, and is steadfast during this one.
“As long as the rights of anyone in the LGBTQIA community are at risk, we will be there, fighting for their rights and fighting for equality,” Leach stated. “We have new programming and enhanced trainings, we’ve diversified our funding, and are growing exponentially. We invite the community to engage with us as we create the world we want to leave for those behind us.”
To donate to PFund, or to apply for a COVID-19 micro grant, head to www.pfundfoundation.org.