Earlier this month, I participated in something historic: for the first time ever, LGBTQ leaders from across North Dakota came together to connect, strategize and build a strong movement in their state. Equality Federation member organization North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and their partner Dakota Outright hosted nearly 80 people in Bizmarck for the inaugural North Dakota LGBTQ+ Summit.
From Williston in the western oil country to Standing Rock Indian Reservation to Fargo on the Red River, a remarkable group came together. The energy in the room was buzzing. People were so excited just to be together, to feel a part of a bigger community, and to see how they can work together to make their state a better place.
I served on the planning committee and facilitated the first half-day of the event. As I helped the group map their strengths and the challenges they face as a community, I was struck with the remarkable amount of work that’s happening in a state with no full-time employees dedicated to LGBTQ work in any organization. Passionate volunteers are building community with tea and coffee gatherings in Minot, training dozens of organizations and employers on creating safe spaces in Bizmarck, and meeting the needs of LGBTQ seniors in Fargo, to name just a few.
That base is a powerful foundation for building LGBTQ power, and that’s why Equality Federation is working with North Dakota Human Rights Coalition as part of our Emerging States Project. They are already doing remarkable advocacy and organizing on LGBTQ, refugee, and Native American issues with just one part-time organizer, Barry Nelson. I’ve been working with Barry and his board to boost their fundraising capacity and strengthen the organizational infrastructure they need to accomplish their important goals.
Equality Federation Institute, thanks to support from an anonymous donor, has given them intensive support this year, plus a professional fundraising coach, and a $20,000 matching grant to super-charge their individual donor fundraising.
I’m thrilled with the progress they’re making both in building up their organizational strength and in building the kind of partnerships across the state that are critical to progress. Our investment in North Dakota and other Emerging States will continue.
We know winning equality is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need talented leaders and strong, sustainable organizations on the ground in every state to keep us in the race.