Sunday, December 19, 2010

Another Kind of Coming Out During This Season of Giving

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Re-posted from the GLBT IBMers & Friends Community Behind IBM's Firewall

I almost didn't go. Ultimately, I became convinced to show up by reminding myself how much I had enjoyed every other event I'd ever been to that had been hosted by Thinking Out Loud, a lesbian professional group that had been started by some great women at Ernst & Young in New York City.

December 15th, all day, was a busy time at work -- when isn't it? -- and yet I deserved the gift of seeing the group; I'd had a work-meeting conflict with the prior event this past spring and wanted not to miss another one. The invitation went, "Being near the holidays, we thought it timely to talk about women and our role as LGBT leaders in giving back. Our guests to lead the conversation will be Ellen Glazerman, who heads EY’s foundation, and Jane Canner, president of non-profit, Classroom Inc."

Maybe all of you are super-open about your philanthropic inclinations, but historically, I've only told if asked, and hardly anyone has ever asked.

There was a smaller crowd than usual, perhaps due to the bitter cold, or the less central location this time, or that others felt similarly shy about discussing how they gave philanthropically, but in any case, 10 of us introduced ourselves, including:

* For which firm we worked
* To which GLBT organizations we contributed.

Nine other women listened to, or at least witnessed, my list: "[In terms of the GLBT Community,] I give to NCLR [the National Center for Lesbian Rights] through United Way, and we give to Lambda Legal and to our GLBT synagogue, Beit Simchat Torah, and that's it." (We give the token donation here or there, when asked, e.g., to AIDS rides, but I was referring to Pat's and my mutually-designated organizations.)

Ellen Glazerman of EY quoted the Institute for Gay & Lesbian Strategic Studies and a Harris Poll, saying, "Gay donors tend to give 2.5% of personal income..." compared with "...the general population, which tends to give 2.2%...." GLBT people give it, she continued, as follows: 25% to GLBT issues; 23% to political party/candidate; 22% say it's important to give to politicians who support us.

She also told us that a Denver-based research organization, Ordinary Magic, stated, "20% of lesbians surveyed said they didn't give because they weren't asked..." and that openly-lesbian and openly-gay people give more than those who are not out.

IBM, like most firms, I'd guess, has a no solicitation policy, and this blog-entry [remember, this blog-entry is also sitting behind the IBM firewall, on an IBM server] is not a specific solicitation, certainly. It's more so another coming out on my part.

Like sexual orientation, historically, money-topics have been a bit taboo, depending on the people you're with and I guess I'm challenging the taboo with this entry.

Annually, for years, my IBM colleague, David Chase, has done the most constructive thing related to this charitable giving topic. He has informed U.S.-based IBMers of the GLBT organizations already on IBM's United Way list, and also has provided guidelines on how to apply to have a favorite GLBT organization added, if it is not already there.

After the session ended, I confessed to one of the participants that I almost didn't come because I was uncomfortable with talking about my charitable giving.

She was compassionate in response. Finally, I was glad I went because like with any truth-telling, I felt less heavy afterward.


Allison said...

PFLAG. Made a difference for my mother. Touches in a way we can't.

Sarah Siegel said...

My mom belonged to PFLAG for a short bit, too. IBM is an active PFLAG sponsor/donor.