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Advancing LGBTIQ support through small donors

Emily Pfiester

LGBTIQ support protest
Photo: Margaux Bellott (Unsplash)

Challenges faced by the LGBTIQ community in Europe

As Pride month closes out in Europe with festivities and parades continuing into summer and beyond, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the hard work undertaken by the organizations supporting LGBTIQ rights in an increasingly conservative and right-leaning political atmosphere. While European political parties have adopted initiatives to try and combat hate speech and exclusionary policy, the real battles take place within individual countries where local laws and actions by far-right governments constantly threaten the LGBTIQ community. This underscores the need for organizations that defend their rights, promote inclusionary practices, and foster a sense of belonging.

The impact of digital organizing

In this challenging landscape, one example of resilience and success comes from a prominent LGBTIQ rights organization in Poland, the Basta Foundation. Operating in a politically hostile environment, the foundation experienced remarkable growth financially and in community participation after adopting digital organizing tactics, with a particular focus on small-donor fundraising. Traditional grassroots organizations often face limitations due to financial constraints and limited human power, thus restricting their reach and effectiveness. Not only that, but LGBTIQ organizations in countries such as Poland often receive minimal government support, heightening the importance and reliance on small donors to sustain the organization financially and foster community backing.

The idea of adopting digital organizing tools can be daunting to some practitioners that haven’t yet been exposed to the potential benefits for their team and outreach efforts. The example of the Basta Foundation and their quick adoption of digital organizing can serve as a powerful testament to the transformative potential of digital strategies for LGBTIQ rights movements across Europe and beyond.

The Basta Foundation’s mission and Bart

Founded by the charismatic Bart Staszewski, the Basta Foundation’s mantra is “We monitor the media”. The organization’s mission is to combat propaganda in the Polish public media by monitoring the news and TV channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week for homophobic and hate speech.

Bart’s activism began with protesting against the lack of rights and protection for the LGBTIQ community, including the movement against the LGBT-free zones propagated by Polish municipalities. Although progress has been made with the disappearance of these zones due to the EU’s funding threats, Poland remains a hostile climate for the LGBTIQ community, where the government allows discriminatory propaganda to spread through state-owned channels. This dangerous environment, fueled by unchallenged toxic rhetoric, restricts the community’s freedom to express their identities and participate in social movements without fear for their safety.

Bart Staszewski's photo from Facebook
Photo: Pawel Spychalski photography

There is a system in place for TV viewers in Poland to file a complaint on what they see or hear in public media through the national broadcasting council. The reality is, no action is typically taken for many of these complaints as they can be categorically denied as being “hate speech”. Realizing the need for action, the Basta Foundation takes complaints filed by TV viewers in Poland to the Polish court, bringing the issue of discriminatory and hateful speech into the public realm and demanding legal consequences for those responsible.

Bart started the Basta Foundation to try and curb the hateful rhetoric towards the LGBTIQ community, bringing to the public forefront what is happening and holding the offending stations and channels responsible for their hateful content as they cannot be above the law.

The adoption of small-donor fundraising

Initially alone in his quest for change, Bart has a huge mission to make Poland a safer place for the LGBTIQ community. The ECDA Incubator team started working with Bart, getting him set up with digital tools from which he could launch a digital fundraising platform based on small donors. By integrating digital campaigns, the foundation effectively communicates its message, attracts new supporters, and increases fundraising efforts. These digital organizing tactics allowed the Basta Foundation to:

  • Increase communication efficiency- Reach out to current supporters and attract new ones more effectively.

  • Boost fundraising- Utilize email communication and online platforms to accept donations and attract small donors who want to contribute to the cause.

  • Expand reach- Use online platforms to communicate with their base and inform supporters of recent news or ways to support the movement

  • Empower the community- Enable more people to get involved in the movement through donations or by participation in actions.

The impact of these strategies was immediate and significant. With a more effective means of reaching people, Bart discovered a surge of support for his cause. The new digital platforms not only allowed the foundation to engage with its community but also facilitated the filing of complaints against public media, encouraging supporters to participate easily and immediately. Within a few months, the subscriber list exploded, growing ten times in a short span as increased digital communications led to more media mentions and increased awareness about the cause.

Small-donor fundraising allows people to donate what they can on a reoccurring basis, enabling the Basta Foundation to maintain frequent communication with its community- a necessary tactic for an organization driving social change that relies on constant support.

Many individuals have joined petitions, begun filing complaints through the foundation’s website tool, and expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate. As a result, donations have poured in, revealing the overwhelming support for the movement both morally and financially. With this exceptional growth, the Basta Foundation experienced remarkable expansion, allowing them to hire full-time employees, invest in media monitoring tools, and engage legal expertise to enhance their activity. “We are able to hire a lawyer, we can also afford professional reporting and monitoring tools. This is a huge change from how we operated before,” said Bart Staszewski. “Our innovative approach has been widely noted by the media”.

Notably, a petition with 25,000 signatures has garnered national attention, along with Bart’s recent court victory against the National Broadcasting Council.

The future of small donors for LGBTIQ organizations

Bart, who previously operated alone, answering emails and filing complaints, now has a full team and a larger community supporting the Basta Foundation. This growth is made possible through small donors and the adoption of digital organizing tools. The increased community backing for the foundation’s mission demonstrates the overwhelming desire to eliminate hate speech from the Polish public media but also gives the LGBTIQ movement in Poland an unwavering confirmation of support. The moral boost that building such a community can do for an organization is invaluable.

The remarkable transformation of the Basta Foundation, from a one-person fight against hate speech to a thriving community of dedicated individuals and supporters, serves as a testament to the potential of small-donor fundraising and digital organizing. Going beyond support for the particular actions that the Basta Foundation undertakes, the inclusive platform that they provide for their community allows for unified support of LGBITQ causes. This model serves as an inspiration for other marginalized communities facing discrimination and limited governmental support. By harnessing the power of small donors, these organizations can build their cause and establish enduring networks, uniting individuals who share a vision of a more inclusive and accepting society.

For a further read on the current political situation in Europe for LGBTIQ rights, we recommend the latest annual report by ILGA Europe, read the summary or full article by clicking here.

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