3/24/2009

An Explanation

On the HRC webpage donations and fundraising take precedence over actual direct volunteer actions. Even the volunteer actions are primarily related to fundraising events.

On my post about the HRC Gala in Phoenix I had a comment about my prejudice against HRC. I will admit that I do hold a long standing prejudice against HRC as a national organization and I won't apologize for that because I feel it is a legitimate gripe. I will apologize if my beef with the national organization is inaccurate at the local level and am open to having my mind changed.

So, let me explain why HRC as a national group can get under my skin.

In 20 years I can't recall a single communication I've received from HRC that didn't ask for money. That's not terrible in itself, but in all that time they've never asked for my labor. Other than "click here to send a message to" in an email HRC has never sent forth a call for volunteers to work in my own community (be it back in SC or here in Tucson) for direct change.

Oh, I'm sure they may have at some point and I'm sure someone will find a mention of a volunteer call in all those years to "prove" how wrong I am. That's fine, but if I received one (and I honestly don't think I did) it was certainly not compelling enough to move me to action, or it required me travel to some place on a trip I could not afford.

As any group that I work with can tell you, I will work like a dog for change. Need someone to type members into a database? I'll be there until I develop Carpal Tunnel. Need someone to stand for hours on a street corner getting signatures on a petition... I'll be there until I drop. Need someone to write letters to the editor in support of equality? I will burn up my computer composing them. Need someone to knock on doors in neighborhoods? Just give me a call. Need someone to man a booth handing out literature? I'm there.

What I can't do is spend money attending cocktail parties, dinner parties, theater nights, and the other hundred fundraising events. I just don't have that kind of money and I resent the implication that because I can't afford it that I'm somehow not a "real" member of the LGBT community or doing my part.

Beyond that, I don't care for cocktail parties and dinner parties as political action. If I'm going to spend 4 hours I'd rather spend it doing something directly for the community. To me it's a question of whether whatever I'm doing is engaging the public about our causes and changing the way the world sees us.

I'm sure there are probably things HRC does that are just great. The problem is, I don't see them. Yes, they launched a new website to refute the lies of the right wing. I covered that on RFS and thought it was great. I'm proud of them for doing it.

When I have an extra $10 or $20 I will donate to a group. However, I'm very picky about who gets that little bit of money I can afford. I choose those groups who have asked me for my labor first and my cash second (or sometimes last). I choose those groups that I see at EVERY event working the crowds and promoting ways every single person, regardless of economic level, can help out. I donate to those groups who spend that hard earned money directly without using most of it to fund another fundraiser or pay salaries to ad companies and consultants. In short, I choose groups who give me the most bang for my buck as it affects my life in my local community.

On the HRC website for an upcoming Gala ($350 a person) it seems that Prop 8 and Prop 102 are afterthoughts and they feel that we're all better off anyway.

In addition to the money race, HRC's agenda seems to be that of the Democratic Party. I'm by no means a Republican - in fact a lot of Democrats are too conservative for my tastes. But what I mean is that HRC often seems to put stroking Democrats and working for the party ahead of our own issues. On the day after Prop 8 and Prop 102 passed, HRC in California sent out a giddy email over Obama's election. Sure, we were all thrilled, but most of us also had a sinking feeling in our stomach over the anti-gay measures passing around the country. HRC as a supposedly LGBT group seemed to be out of touch with its own community. Their giddy cheerleading for Democrats made them seem almost callous. It seemed they were saying out rights didn't really matter much as long as we elected nice Centrist Democrats to office as a trade-off.

I'm sorry if that upsets people who work with HRC. But, they need to realize that there are very, very large sections of the LGBT community who look at HRC and see nothing but a fundraising machine that values big dollar donors first and foremost.

Maybe that's the wrong perception, but it is my perception and the perception of many in the community who aren't "inside" HRC. I think the onus is on HRC to change that perception rather than continuing on with business as usual and dismissing the rest of the community's concerns or opinions.

I even signed up again on the HRC website as a volunteer to be sure I was getting all the communications from all their alert lists. Here are the highlights of what I got back as thanks for being a volunteer:

In the meantime, there are many ways that you can take action TODAY! Here is a list of just a few things that you can do to get involved:

Join or Renew Your Human Rights Campaign Membership. This important act of supporting HRC as an active member provides the Human Rights Campaign power on Capitol Hill and across the country when we lobby for equality. You can join or renew at the following links: www.hrc.org/join or www.hrc.org/renew

Host an HRC House Party for your friends, family, and neighbors. HRC House Parties are a fun way to educate and introduce people in your life to the Human Rights Campaign and its work. By hosting an HRC House Party as a volunteer, you can help to increase our voice and visibility across the nation, sign up new HRC members, raise needed funds to support HRC’s work, and help identify others in your area who would be interested in getting involved in volunteering for equality. The HRC House Party Kit includes invitations, materials, and HRC membership forms to make your party a success. Order your HRC House Party Kit at www.hrc.org/houseparty

So, there you have it. The "volunteer" opportunities they initially sent were ways for me to give them money and make money for them, the "House Party" in particular struck me as Fundraising as Multi-level Marketing.

Here's an invitation to HRC and specifically HRC in Arizona: Call me up the next time you're doing something that is not a fundraiser in Tucson and you need help. I'll be there with bells on and I will work like a dog for you. And if that call doesn't come, please don't accuse me of being unfair in my perception of the organization.






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