Welcome to my home …

Posted: August 19th, 2016 | Columns, Featured, Profiles in Advocacy | No Comments

By Ian Morton | Profiles in Advocacy

So, I get to work in an amazing place and it’s about time that I talk a little about my “home away from home,” the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF).

Established by a group of concerned LGBT San Diegans, this grassroots foundation’s mission has always been to stimulate and promote responsible philanthropy both to and by San Diego’s LGBT community.

Beginning in 1996 with a $29,000 endowment from the family of San Diego architect and community leader Lincoln Aston, SDHDF continues to seek out ways to enrich our community in the present, while being mindful of our future.

SDHDF supports many HIV-services groups around the county every year; John Brown and the author are far left, second row, respectively (Courtesy SDHDF)

SDHDF supports many HIV-services groups around the county every year; John Brown and the author are far left, second row, respectively (Courtesy SDHDF)

As we see certain victories for equality being won by our community, it is wonderful to lean into the jubilation, but it behooves us to avoid a shortsighted view of the landscape of equality.

I discussed why there is still a need for an LGBT-specific foundation with John Brown, SDHDF’s executive director.

“We simply cannot predict the future, or know what the next needs for any group under the LGBT umbrella will be,” Brown said. “What we can be sure of, is that our community will need to be equipped, with both numbers and funds, to address these needs. While our allies are extremely valuable, like any social justice movement the impacted community must be prepared, in all ways, to bring those needs to light.”

It’s fair to ask exactly what a foundation like SDHDF does and the simplest answer is that we seek creative and flexible ways to support the LGBT and HIV communities in a responsive manner.

How this goal evinces itself is a bit more complex. Sometimes it simply means mentoring a newer nonprofit endeavor in how to successfully create a board of directors or compose a grant.

It can also mean serving as the fiscal agent for projects that do not have their own nonprofit status, but are important to the San Diego community — such as the AIDS Memorial Task Force — to help them become eligible for grants and tax-exempt donations.

Of course there are also the grants and sponsorships that we bestow ourselves, which can cover such things as helping a college set up an LGBT center, to funding direct HIV/AIDS services, to sponsoring events — large and small — by the many agencies and programs that serve our community.

SDHDF also engages with San Diego’s LGBT philanthropists to help facilitate responsible giving. We understand that donors want to make sure their philanthropic funds are being leveraged toward maximum impact and it is important to us that this is actualized.

We have resources to help ensure that the agencies or projects in which a donor may want to invest are run prudently, the funds are primarily impacting the under-served community, and that there are not questions or concerns surrounding the legitimacy of the entity’s nonprofit status.

In addition, SDHDF holds several “donor advised funds,” which are grant-making funds established by donors and managed by the foundation, through which these donors do their giving, secure in the knowledge that their giving choices have been thoroughly vetted.

We understand that not everyone is quite ready to open a fund, so we also engage in fundraising events, which provide an enjoyable way for San Diegans to support their LGBT community foundation while enjoying a fun night.

In 2016, we have been thrilled to feature a trio of groundbreaking women as our celebrity entertainers.

For the San Diego Women’s Chorus concert fundraiser in May, which supports both the chorus and our Lesbian Health Initiative, we had Grammy-award winning lesbian singer/songwriter Janis Ian. At our most recent event, The Reunion Party, which raises funds for LGBT senior services programs, groundbreaking comedian and “Love Goddess” Ms. Judy Tenuta was there to provide the laughs.

Coming up in December, we are so excited to have Lea DeLaria (Big Boo) from “Orange Is the New Black” bringing the comedy and jazz tunes to our Aston-Brooks Gala stage. And for those who love a craft beer or cocktail, keep an eye out for Bar AIDS, a fundraiser for the San Diego HIV Funding Collaborative, on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1).

The lead on many of these fundraising events is development director, Janelle Hickey. Having been with SDHDF for five years, Hickey has been privy to the changes and growth, and looks forward to the next steps in our evolution.

“Whether we are raising funds to support our LGBT senior friends; hearing the incredibly brave stories of those living in countries where it is still illegal to live as who you truly are; seeing works of art brought to life through dance, stage, song and written word; or witnessing our friends living with HIV/AIDS meet our elected officials to advocate for the life-saving services needed in San Diego; each day brings a new experience, a new chance to help uplift the voices that need to be heard,” Hickey said.

“I look forward to seeing the many new things we as a team will accomplish together — increased services and opportunities for our transgender friends, new platforms for LGBTQIA youth to succeed, and more services for women in San Diego and increased support for our friends who live in North County, East County and the South Bay,” Hickey said.

In 2015, we were able to support local organizations to the tune of nearly $550,000; act as fiscal agents for eight grassroots efforts; and manage 23 donor-advised funds.

SDHDF will continue to grow and evolve in response to our community’s needs, and we look forward to increasing the involvement of our San Diego family.

To find out more about the ways we contribute and how you can get involved, go to

—Ian D. Morton is the senior program analyst at San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and produces the Y.E.S. San Diego LGBTQ youth conference. To nominate an individual or nonprofit for this column, please email the information to

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