In the mid-1990s, friends and colleagues came together to discuss the idea of forming a “financial support system” for organizations providing programs and services to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) programs in central Ohio.
“It was clear that we needed to find a way to have a local endowment that could sustain the GLBT community during the hard times and help us thrive in the future,” said Lynn Greer, Legacy Fund founding member. “Throughout the late 1980s and all of the 1990s, our entire movement was focused on our response to the AIDS crisis. At the time, it was at the expense of our own community organizations—we needed to have a sustaining source of funding.”
Established in 2000 as a Field of Interest Fund, The Legacy Fund created a 21-member advisory board to oversee the distribution of funds. The board includes a cross-section of the community, and over the years has consisted of men, women, and transgender people of all ages and ethnicities.
“Many people had assets but not readily defined estate plans. We were looking for a way to pool our resources to provide future financial stability to our gay institutions,” said founding member Scot Dewhirst. The Legacy Fund doesn’t focus on fundraising activities, but primarily relies on planned gifts to build its endowment. The fund has received gifts in excess of $1 million since its inception, and over the years has proudly invested in community organizations including the Columbus AIDS Task Force, Buckeye Ranch, Stonewall Columbus, and Kaleidoscope Youth Center. It has provided key support for special programs like the Trailblazers Program of Stonewall to create programming, education, and assistance to senior members of the GLBT community. In addition, the fund supports students pursuing higher education by offering scholarships to GLBT individuals attending college in central Ohio.
“The grants haven’t just gone to gay organizations,” Scot explained. “We have also provided funding to groups that are doing something responsive to GLBT issues, whether that be education, programs, or networking opportunities. We’ve tried to step up and be responsive to the specific needs in the community.”