Each year, in the final days of June, Toronto’s Barbara Hall Park transforms into a bedazzled, sweaty, outdoor beer garden known as the Green Space Festival. I always look forward to venturing through the masses of glittering queers crowding the city’s Gay Village, searching for the end of the lineup that will grant me access to the massive outdoor event. Green Space is Toronto’s queer and trans watering hole during Pride month—it’s also a fundraising behemoth for Canada’s largest LGBTQ2 community centre, The 519.
The 519 reports generating $1.5 million in fundraising from the Green Space Festival in 2019. Those funds pay for programs and services the organization runs year-round to support our communities. Their activities touch on everything from housing services and newcomer settlement to book clubs and athletics.
The 2020 Green Space Festival? You guessed it: Not happening due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And gone with it is a wealth of fundraising potential.
It’s a story echoed around the world. Pride season is the most important fundraising period of the year for many LGBTQ2 organizations. This year, due to physical distancing protocols, many Pride festivals have been cancelled, scaled down or have shifted online into untested waters. The full impact of this loss of fundraising opportunities remains to be seen.
As marketing communications manager at Xtra, an independent, queer-owned and operated publication, I’ve been able to see the significance of the work community organizations do to support LGBTQ2 people. The critical services they provide are accessed by our readers, friends, families and staff alike.
That’s why Xtra is trying to do what we can to help offset the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on non-profit and charitable LGBTQ2 organizations that rely on fundraising. For the duration of the summer, Xtra will be donating ad space across our site to as many of these organizations as possible. It’s like a B2B extension of our DIY Pride coverage.
If you work at an LGBTQ2 organization and your fundraising has been disrupted by COVID-19, Xtra wants to help. You can fill out an application to receive free ad space on our site here.
Our initial focus will be on assisting North American LGBTQ2 organizations doing work at a national or international level. (We love local organizations and the work they do is essential, but we can offer more impressions—and therefore greater impact—to groups with a larger geographical reach.) Our first priority is groups that support youth, trans and BIPOC communities, and organizations whose fundraising has been hit hardest by pandemic measures. When we’re able to, we’ll open the offer up to a wider range of organizations.
As a reader, here’s what you can do to support this initiative: Help get the word out. Get this project on the radar of your favourite LGBTQ2 organizations. Tag them on social media, or send this article to organizers in your network. We have a running list of organizations to reach out to already, but it’s by no means exhaustive.
Deactivate ad blockers running on Xtra. The more impressions we serve, the more organizations we can support. Turning off ad blocks also goes a long way in supporting the independent, free, queer journalism Xtra produces.
Most importantly, support these organizations when you can. There are countless groups out there doing work to support our communities. We need to support them, too—whether through donating, volunteering or by amplifying their messages. Free ad space isn’t going to solve all their problems, but I hope it can be a start.
So how are we able to give away all this ad space? Well, right now Xtra is in a unique position. Pride season is the time of year when the most eyes are on our communities; it also tends to be when Xtra readership is at its highest. And in any other year, Pride season would be when the most advertisers are looking to book advertising campaigns on the site.
COVID-19 shutdowns have left many of Xtra’s regular advertisers unable to run campaigns with us this summer, but our site traffic is higher than ever. This means we’re anticipating a surplus of unsold ad space, and we’d like to use that space to support the invaluable work of organizations supporting LGBTQ2 folks.
We may not always be in a position to support community organizations this way, but right now Xtra has the opportunity to do some good. So we’re going to try to do what queers do best: Take care of each other.
Participating organizations include: The Arquives in Toronto, the world’s largest independent LGBTQ2 archives; AVI Health and Community Services, a community-based AIDS service organization supporting people on Vancouver Island infected and affected by HIV and hepatitis C; The 519 community centre in Toronto; Friends of Ruby, an LGBTQ2 youth support centre in Toronto; It Gets Better Canada, a national network supporting LGBTQ2 youth through storytelling and community building; Matthew Shepard Foundation, a Wyoming-based education and advocacy charity fighting hate and promoting equality; McLaren Housing Society, which provides housing support for people with HIV in British Columbia; Out on Screen, the group that produces the Vancouver Queer Film Festival; Quadrangle NL, an LGBTQ2 community centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; Saige Community Food Bank, a trans, 2-Spirit and gender diverse safe space providing barrier free access to healthy food and support in Vancouver; and Tone Cluster, a queer choir in Ottawa. (This list will be updated as we partner with more organizations.)