Most LGBTQ Foundation Staff, Board Are ‘In the Closet’, Study Finds

Most LGBTQ Foundation Staff, Board Are ‘In the Closet’, Study Finds

More than half of LGBTQ people working at private U.S. foundations are "in the closet" at work, a new report from Funders for LGBTQ Issues finds.

Funded by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the report, The Philanthropic Closet: LGBTQ People in Philanthropy (PDF, 28 pages), is based on findings from nine hundred and forty-seven respondents from thirty-six foundations to the inaugural Diversity Among Philanthropic Professionals (DAPP) Survey, which was conducted in partnership with SMU DataArts. According to the report, while gay, lesbian, and bisexual people represent 16.2 percent of staff and board members at private foundations, the majority of LGBTQ people working in philanthropy are "in the closet" at work, meaning they have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to all or most of their co-workers. In contrast, 54 percent of LGBTQ people in the corporate sector are "out." LGBTQ people in philanthropy were more likely to be out, the survey found, if they held a senior position within the organization, with almost three-quarters of those who said they were out serving as board members and 62.5 percent serving as CEO or a member of senior staff.

The report also found that roughly 10 percent of LGBTQ people indicated they had left a nonprofit job due to feeling the workplace was "not very accepting," while nearly a third said they were depressed at work on account of the organizational climate. In addition, the report found that the percentage of LGBTQ people varied depending on a foundation's focus, with gay, lesbian, and bisexual people accounting for 22.8 percent of the staff and board at foundations with a social justice or LGBTQ focus but only 11.6 percent of people at foundations with a non-social justice focus.

"The Philanthropic Closet: LGBTQ People in Philanthropy." Funders for LGBTQ Issues Press Release 10/15/2018. "Study: Nonprofits Not Accepting to LGBTQ Staff." The NonProfit Times 10/22/2018.