By Karen Ocamb
The sudden resignation of Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia on Monday, Oct. 10, surprised many. And though promised, the EQCA board has yet to announce a transition plan as of Tuesday. Oct. 18.
Now comes word that National Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Michael Mitchell told that group’s board of directors on Oct. 17 “that he’s leaving when his current contract ends at the end of the month,” according to MetroWeekly.
Jerame Davis, Stonewall’s affiliate services director and co-founder of The Bilerico Project, is stepping in as interim executive director.
The nation’s economic picture and its impact on nonprofit fundraising, as well as the challenges of finding funding for Stonewall Democrats in an increasingly pro-LGBT Democratic Party, have caused fiscal headaches for Mitchell and the group.
”Like many nonprofit organizations, we’re struggling, and I’ll just come out and say that. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a secret,” Mitchell says. ”In this economy, and, with the way politics has been going, we’ve been struggling to get donations in. We’ve seen a recent uptick in that, which is heartening. I’m excited about that, but we have struggled.”
A lack of funding led to Mitchell being informed that he was going to be laid off at one point earlier this year, until the board was offered and accepted a last-minute anonymous donation that enabled the organization to keep Mitchell on board.
Debate over the donation was heated, however, and several board members have left the organization since then. Currently, only six of the 15 possible board seats are filled.
In a comment for Frontiers on Palenica’s resignation, Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of Garden State Equality, said:
“Equality California is not alone. This is part of a bigger structural problem in our movement. Many state organizations are in deep financial trouble, not only because of the economy, but because many national donors view state organizations as temporary campaigns, rather than permanent organizations, to pull in and out of, in and out of, as the ebbs and flows of imminent victory or defeat warrant. Am I saying there’s something wrong with that philosophy? Yes and no—I think it’s a nuanced dynamic, just like I think many subjects of discussion are more nuanced than a polarized debate would indicate. But this I am sure of—the rollercoaster funding dynamic causes havoc on organizations beyond their losing funding for dormant campaigns. The dynamic affects everything, including ebbs in the roller coaster that threaten the most basic advocacy and services vital to our community’s health.”
One wonders if there are more LGBT organizations in turmoil, and if so, what does that mean for the political health of the LGBT civil rights movement?