Celebrating Pride Month
June is Pride Month around the world and here at AFP Greater Madison we wanted to highlight some of our members that are part of the Madison LGBTQ+ community and are also making a difference in their own communities.
Led by our Diversity Officer, Arlen Moss, our chapter continues to improve our vision of the world through a JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) lens and we are grateful to all of our members, including Jake and Adam below, for sharing their experiences with us.
With that being said, we are always looking for insight, stories to share or advice from all of our fundraisers of varying backgrounds and experiences. Keep us in the loop and share your story today, right here!
Hear more from Jake Immel (Olbrich Botanical Gardens) and Adam Erdmann (Alliant Energy Foundation) below as they share about their work, the communities they serve and how they think fundraisers can approach and address challenges to the LGBTQ+ community and their fundraising efforts.
Donor Engagement & Grants Manager, Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Tell us a little about the work you do: I manage the nonprofit side of the Gardens (Olbrich Botanical Society/OBS) donor stewardship – including developing and structuring donor and membership-related affinity groups, giving and recognition programs that include naming opportunities on-site, sustaining/recurring giving, and relationship management across affinity groups and giving programs. I also manage the grants program for OBS.
Can you share something you are most proud of professionally: My integrity and personal philosophy on philanthropy. It is driven by equity and community need, tying into the Gardens’ mission of sharing the joy, knowledge, and diversity of plants and gardens with the world.
Given the growing and more visible challenges for the LGBTQ+ community, have you seen a change in donors, giving, and support? Even in the last 6 years of working at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, I’ve noticed more gay and lesbian individuals and households show a level of pride and higher comfort in their identities – within philanthropy and in visitorship. It still tends to skew entirely within a cisgender spectrum, unfortunately. Visitorship to the Gardens ranges widely, and to me, that’s beautiful and shows some cultural progress! There’s a much larger and seemingly permanent societal change needed around why philanthropy skews toward cisgender and white folks in the LGBTQ+ community.
What are you hearing from your donor communities and those in the populations you serve? How can fundraisers be more at the forefront of addressing those concerns? In fundraisers addressing such concerns…it is mission and leadership-driven. I can only control myself and offer the experiences I have, and express empathy in advocating for folx in my community, and hope that I am heard. Understanding and living values of inclusivity and love, to me, should be entirely woven into a nonprofit’s values, specifically and intently – and therefore – instilled in the integrity of philanthropy itself.
What do you appreciate most, either personally or professionally, about LGBTQ+ efforts in our Madison community? Organizations exist locally, and statewide, in abundance in Dane County and Greater Madison. GSAFE, Freedom Inc, Fair Wisconsin, the Outreach LGBTQ Center, Orgullo Latinx of Dane County, and Community Shares of Wisconsin, among a number of other missions, have worked and fought, and fight-forward. Those organizations and leaders inspire me – they provided me confidence to live and learn my own truths, and they give me hope for the future.
Anything else you’d like to share with our community of fundraisers: Oh goodness… plants make people happy! Accessibility continues to be a barrier, but get out in nature, buy a plant for your apartment/home/office, get your hands in the dirt! It can heal and comfort your soul.
Sr. Program Manager, Alliant Energy Foundation
Tell us a little about the work you do: Through my work, I build partnerships with nonprofit organizations in communities served by Alliant Energy in Wisconsin and Iowa. I love what I do, because I get to meet and work with amazing volunteers and nonprofit staff who are really passionate about their communities and their work. The best days are the days when I get out of the office to see and participate in the work these agencies do. It inspires me and motivates me to get through the daily grind.
Can you share something you are most proud of professionally: I’m currently the co-chair of Alliant Energy’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group and a member of our company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Team. I’m very proud of the work we have recently done to update our job applicant tracking system and our employee records. We’re now providing a non-binary gender option and allowing people to voluntarily identify themselves as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Through these efforts, we’re making sure our LGBTQ+ employees are seen, heard and valued, so they can bring their full selves to work and live up to their greatest potential. Not only are the results of this project valuable for our employees, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. At Alliant Energy, we often ask: How big is your team? My team working on this project over nine months was huge! I learned a lot about managing and communicating an initiative of this magnitude with our 3,300 employees.
Given the growing and more visible challenges for the LGBTQ+ community, have you seen a change in donors, giving, and support?
Our employees are more interested and engaged in DE&I issues than ever before. They want to be part of the solution, but many of them don’t know where to start. They want to know their investment, even if it is small, will have an impact. I think this is an opportune time for organizations to educate donors about their work, demonstrate impact, and optimize giving potential. But don’t forget about stewardship! If you want to turn them into repeat donors, you have to keep showing them how your DE&I strategy is making a difference.
What do you appreciate most, either personally or professionally, about LGBTQ+ efforts in our Madison community?
When I worked for nonprofits in Dane County, values around diversity and respect were always present in the workplace. I’m grateful for my many colleagues who created spaces that were emotionally safe and supportive, that allowed me to grow as a professional.
The nonprofit community in Dane County is at an advantage when it comes to DE&I issues, because it witnesses daily the challenges and struggles faced by minoritized populations. Nonprofits typically have created more welcoming and safe spaces at work for the LGBTQ+ community to thrive. But when we look at our for-profit community, where many do not see or experience the challenges of diverse populations every day, we have to keep it front and center. Now is the opportunity for nonprofits to lead the way, showing businesses how to create inclusive workplaces and develop a culture where differences are embraced.