I’ve never met a nonprofit professional who didn’t take up the mantel of this work because of a personal drive to make the world a little bit better. Me? I joined Taproot in 2009 because I was drawn to a vision that philanthropy could mean dollars and skills supporting the social sector. I’d spent my career—up to that point—working in theatre. Making the move to a capacity building organization was challenging. Taproot isn’t focused on a single issue. We look to serve the entirety of the social sector, and being issue agnostic can be frustrating. So it was with surprise that I learned about Matt O’Grady Day. Annually on June 19, every year, Taproot closes our offices to celebrate the wedding anniversary of a founding staff member who was able to marry his longtime partner in the period of time when gay marriage was legal in California – before Prop 8 and prior to the Supreme Court decision of 2013.
Equality for all
What was Taproot doing? We weren’t an LGBTQ+ organization nor did we have any particular focus on equality. But our founder—a straight white male—Aaron Hurst believed that equality should be a human right. He put his organization on the line in 2008, during a time when gay marriage was not the law of the land.
While progress is never fast enough, I am proud to be part of a society that is able to evolve to get closer and closer to achieving our ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
While much has changed since 2008, there remains a vast inequality in our society where you can be fired for being gay or transgendered. We still need Matt O’Grady Days; in fact we need them more than ever now. And what Matt O’Grady Day said to me was that the Taproot Foundation was a place where I—as a lesbian—was expected to bring my whole self to work. That those of us passionate enough to make a career as a nonprofit professional, who are also privileged—however you define that privilege—need to stand up and fight for everyone in our field to be able to bring their whole self to work whether they are an immigrant and regardless of religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Aaron did that when he proclaimed Matt O’Grady Day.
Be true to yourself
We can make real change when we’re able to bring our whole selves to work. Like the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles, who uses music and art as a critical tool in self-confidence and definition, bringing performances to low-income neighborhoods. Working with Taproot they updated their logo to better connect with the newest generation of the LGBTQ+ community. And the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, who shines a spotlight on the very real danger that too many members of the LGBTQ+ community face daily. A pro bono aficionado, NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project has completed a myriad of pro bono projects aimed at building infrastructure, including strengthening their board, building an organizational strategy, and strengthening their messaging. And Pride Films and Plays which builds the cultural heritage of the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago through the development of new theatrical works, thereby educating and engaging diverse audiences. Given the changing landscape of the organization’s audiences, Pride Films and Plays used pro bono support to evaluate and update their messaging to better reach their intended viewers.
So, Happy Matt O’Grady Day everyone! Now, how are you going to bring your whole self to work? And how are you going to help others around you do the same? And what is the change you’re going to make happen?
Let’s keep striving towards progress. Join the community of pro bono by giving or getting support on Taproot Plus.
Elizabeth Schwan-Rosenwald is Taproot’s Chief External Relations Officer.