How can corporate volunteers help the LGBTQ+ community? Join our conversation with the nonprofit All Out
In our last interview for the Pride Month #transcend campaign with LGBTQ+ thought leaders, we spoke to Matt Beard, Executive Director of All Out.
All Out is a global organization focused on political advocacy for the human rights of the LGBTQ+ community. In this interview, Matt talks about the challenges his team of 17 people faces and how corporate volunteers can help.
Watch the interview
Or you can read what we talked about.
Can you tell us a little bit about the global movement of love and equality at All Out?
A: We are an organization working for LGBTQ+ human rights around the world. Our mission is to work towards a world in which nobody anywhere has to sacrifice their family, their freedom, their safety, or their dignity, because of who they are or who they love.
We do it through three big activity areas: campaigning, training, and crowdfunding.
What motivated you to do so much work for the community?
A: What motivates me and my team is the sense that there is still so much injustice and inequality in the world. We are working to stand up and defeat injustice and inequality.
We’re optimists. We believe that the world is on a long, bumpy, difficult journey. But it is a journey that’s still progressing towards equality everywhere. So, we bring together that sense of optimism with a sense of wanting to change the world positively.
Andre Banks and Jeremy Hymens founded the organization back in 2011. Their vision was to create a space where millions of ordinary citizens around the planet could participate in LGBTQ+ equality work. I’ve been the executive director of All Out for a fun five and a half years.
They saw that there wasn’t a place where folks who wanted to do something, (but not necessarily give their blood, sweat, and tears and all their time) could sign a petition, make a donation, go to a fundraiser, etc. Up until that time, it was a small number of people doing very large things. They wanted to flip that. So, we’ve developed this global community.
Now we have about a million active supporters around the world, people who we can call on to do small things. When lots of small voices come together, it makes a very loud noise – changing hearts, minds, and conversations.
Talking about your journey, what are some challenges that you face as a member or an ally of the community?
A: First, It’s very difficult to maintain the funding streams necessary to do our work, year after year. LGBTQ+ right is an area that is underfunded compared to many other areas of charitable work. So, the funding challenge is very big.
As for the second challenge, I would like to use a metaphor I used earlier – the long, bumpy road to equality. In the last few years, the bumps have become pronounced and more difficult to maneuver. We’re seeing a backlash in so many countries such as Hungary, Poland, etc.
LGBTQ+ people in Cameroon, Uganda, and Ghana are facing arbitrary arrests. As we take two steps forward, we are constantly forced to take one step back and sometimes even two steps back. This is the second challenge
The third challenge is that sometimes it is hard for small organizations like ours to achieve awareness for our cause. We’re just 17 people. We’re distributed around the world, we work virtually, but we were still only 17 people. With our limited budget and staff members, it’s hard to work with a partner to bring an issue to the public’s consciousness.
What are a few things that you wish people knew about the community?
A: We would love to be able to get the stories of individual members of the community to a wider audience. I’m not referring to the dry and slightly boring details of legislation around equality, but more about individual lives. It’s about people’s careers and their families. We want to bring the stories of individual LGBTQ+ members to a wider audience. We think that’s important.
We’d also love to communicate more about working with us as a volunteer to do some kind of community fundraising and how those funds can have such a significant impact.
Partner organizations that we work with help us with crowdfunding where very small amounts of money could make a very big difference. These are organizations that work on a shoestring.
Volunteers only have budgets of a few $100 every year. But when the partner companies run a community fundraising event for the All Out community, this amount could get much bigger. That could create a significant impact.
We’d love to be able to communicate more about how small acts of fundraising can make a big difference on the ground to LGBTQ+ lives.
How can corporate volunteers support the community better?
A: By standing in solidarity with pride movements around the world.
An example is how we’ve been supporting Uganda. Year after year, the attempt to celebrate pride in Uganda has been brutally attacked by the government forces and by the police. One thing that we’ve done in response to that at All Out is to run simple solidarity actions, where people, for example, would kind of just stand with a sign “I stand with Pride.”
We send those solidarity photographs to Uganda so that they can see support pouring in from around the world. That is very motivating for them. But the issue is the chronic underfunding that is taking place particularly in Africa, but also elsewhere.
There are other areas that we focus on as well. One is translation work. We operate in six core languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. We have professional translators for those languages. But occasionally, we need to operate outside of those six languages when we’re working with a partner in a different country.
In the last 10 years of your work, what is one thing that you take pride in?
A: We crowdfund to raise money for our partners and enable them to celebrate pride in difficult environments. Environments where being gay is criminalized. And one of those countries is a very small country called Eswatini of Swaziland near South Africa. It’s the last absolute monarchy in Africa.
In Eswatini, it’s illegal to be gay. It’s not exactly the ideal place to try and run the first-ever pride. But our partners from there asked, “Will you help us run Pride?” We loved the audacity of this idea. So we said yes and promised to help raise money for it.
Soon enough, we raised enough money to enable them to pay for security, logistics, catering, and entertainment. I had the privilege to travel to Eswatini to bring that message of love and solidarity from 1000s of people. Everyone contributed small amounts of money – an average of $10 – that enabled Pride in Eswatini.
In 2018, around 300 people assembled on the sports field in the capital, Mbabane, to celebrate their first-ever Pride. People told me that not only was this their first Pride ever, but the first time that more than 10 of them could come together at the same place at the same time.
As everyone stood in solidarity, I could feel people’s personal batteries being charged. When we were ready, we marched onto the streets for the first time. It was peaceful. We did face some threats of violence. But thankfully, nothing happened.
Around the 300 people who participated sang beautiful, Southern African freedom songs. And we marched through the streets for the very first time. It felt incredibly special. And I was very proud.
Thank you, Matt, for sharing this beautiful and emotional story.
Volunteer for All Out
As Matt rightly said, when lots of small voices come together, it creates a very loud noise – changing hearts, minds, and conversations.
You can help All Out through campaign fundraising or by sharing your story.
If you’d like to volunteer virtually for All Out, please talk to us here.