Community conversations inform funding

Community conversations inform funding

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Nearly 6,000 people participated in more than 450 conversations Oct. 17 as a part of On The Table Philly —  an engagement initiative designed to “elevate civic conversation” and foster community.

A project from Philadelphia Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, On The Table Philly aims to make local and regional communities “stronger, safer and more vibrant” by gathering groups, individuals, businesses, nonprofits and area residents to talk about topics including education, race, health, the LGBTQ community, youth and arts culture. 

Juan Franco, executive director of LGBTQ nonprofit Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, led one such conversation at William Way LGBT Community Center last week during a day-long celebration and conversation series that is part of an ongoing project. Franco brought together grantees, community members and other stakeholders to talk about the emerging needs of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community. 

Because DVLF is a leading funder addressing LGBTQ issues in the city, Franco said he wanted to have the conversation to “ensure that our funding decisions and outreach efforts” align with the priorities of the queer community. DVLF has given “nearly $1 million” to fund LGBTQ initiatives since its founding. 

Franco said community responses were “candid, honest and informative,” embodying the mission of On The Table events. During small group discussions, Franco told PGN that participants gave concrete suggestions for how DVLF can improve outreach efforts. They also highlighted urgent funding needs, such as programs that empower and are led by transgender individuals and mental health and suicide prevention programming.

On June 7, Philadelphia’s Deputy Sherrif Dante Austin died by suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Health reports LGBTQ adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition and at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and ideation. 

In 2019, the Human Rights Campaign reports 21 transgender people have been violently killed, including Philadelphia’s Tameka “Michelle” Washington, and transgender rights have been compromised under the Trump Administration. Along with the trans military ban, on Sept. 19, the Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court stating that federal law “does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status.” 

“Community members expressed their concerns about perspectives without fear of being judged,” Franco said. He emphasized how impactful it was to see the attendees’ collective effort to define pressing LGBTQ funding needs and ensure DVLF’s funding aligns with those needs. 

Franco said he hopes participants “took with them a sense of being heard and empowered and knowing that their perspectives, experiences and concerns will help guide our grantmaking review and decision process for our LGBTQ+ Emerging Needs grant cycle.” 

While Franco looks forward to future events with On The Table, DVLF’s next major event is its annual TOY drive on Dec. 14. Last year, the event, which donated gifts to social services group Action Wellness and celebrated grant recipients, had more than 250 attendees. 

To learn more about On the Table Philly 2019, visit For more information about DVLF, visit

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