Editor’s Note: Spencer Jenkins contributed to this story.
Queer Kentucky spoke to Dr. Bernadette Barton (she/her), board secretary for JustFundKY and a Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Morehead State.
JustFundKY was founded in 2006 and funds educational projects that promote equality and visibility for the LGBTQ community in Kentucky. This last grant cycle, the fund awarded a total of $89,880 to initiatives like Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, the Faulkner-Morgan Archive, and the Powell County Library, among others.
The fund begins its annual grant review process each March.
How did JustFundKY start?
The idea was born in 2006, and it was the product of a collaboration between Ernesto Scorsone and Debra Hensley. Ernesto Scorsone is the incumbent Fayette County Circuit Court Judge, and the first openly gay member of the Kentucky Senate, and Debra Hensley has an insurance business and is very involved in social activism in Lexington. They got a hold of Cliff Todd, who donated $500,000 to create an endowment, and then campaigned for matching funds until they got the amount up to $1 million. We’ve been funding projects for the past 10 years, since our first grant round in 2011.
How much do you award each year, and to each grantee?
Usually, we fund about $50,000 worth of projects a year. This last year we funded close to $90,000 worth of projects. We had a little bit of extra, given everything going on with COVID, we just wanted to give as much as we could to help support the local groups working for fairness across the state.
Our typical amount that we give to a group is around $5,000, and we’ll give more or less depending on what they ask for and what we have available.
How does the grant application process work, and who’s eligible?
Organizations who apply are required to have 501(c)(3) status, and we have a grant rubric and funding guidelines on the website. If a group is confused about whether they are eligible to be funded, we’ll answer any questions about that. Applicants send a letter of inquiry by March 1, and then we invite them to submit a full application based on that.
I wouldn’t say that it’s really competitive because most people who apply get some money. We try to fund almost everything, or at least a little piece of people’s projects.
Board members and members of the community meet to talk through each application, and usually there’s about 10 to 15 of us reviewing the application. When we can’t fund something, we give feedback to the organization so they can apply again the next round.
What kind of projects do you fund?
We try to fund projects all over the state, and not just Lexington and Louisville. We support racial diversity and trans projects, so we’re really interested in supporting all queer Kentuckians. We’ve really done some exciting work. For example, the Powell County Library has an LGBT section and Drag Queen Story Hour now because of us. We funded a tour of Silas House’s play This is My Heart for You through high schools in Eastern Kentucky, which was really transformative and exciting.
How has the pandemic affected the fund’s work?
Many of our grant recipient’s projects have a face-to-face component. Because grants were due in March, before we had awareness about COVID-19, we had a lot of contingencies but also leeway. We gave folks the money saying “We’ll release the money when you can use it,” and we gave folks extensions on when they could use it so that we could keep up the momentum of the grant giving.
What are you hoping for the future?
Our plan is to grow the endowment so we can fund more through planned giving initiatives—the bigger the endowment, the more interest we have and the more projects we can fund. An issue we’ve had with the organization is the people who are the most aware of what we’re doing are older queer people, so we want to get the word out to young people. We know they’re not the people that are gonna be donating because they don’t have any money yet, most of them, but we want them involved and excited about JustFund, thinking about applying for grant money, and maybe donating as they have financial means.
2020 Grant Award Recipients
This year, 20 Kentucky LGBTQ+ initiatives were granted funds. Only one of the grantees is a BIPOC led organization, RADIOLEX, was granted money, Barton said. She added that no other BIPOC organizations applied this year.
“This year PCSO in Lexington is hosting workshops on ‘all about isms,’ Bluegrass Community College is hosting a symposium co-hosted by the LGBT and students of color groups, and the Josephine Sculpture Park will be bringing in artists doing multi-cultural work for the porch project,” Barton said.
In previous years JustFundKy has funded projects surrounding race including:
-A statewide survey of the legal community that featured questions about race, gender and sexual orientation/identity. This was the first professional effort to gauge the existence of racism (along with other isms) in Kentucky’s legal system.
-Lexington Community Radio to develop and feature programming on the lives of LGBTQ people of color.
-PCSO and Bluegrass Black Pride to conduct a statewide LGBTQ needs assessment, including a survey to assess the needs of LGBTQ people of color in Kentucky.
-A keynote speaker for Bluegrass Black Pride’s: Let’s Talk Seminar- Intersection of Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation.
-Speakers and community workshops that advance discussion and action regarding LGBTQ racial justice and health.
-Workshops and presentations that recognize diverse identities and address bias and discrimination in the LGBTQ+ and broader communities.
Barton also said that JustFundKy acknowledges that their board is made up of all white people.
“…there are no people of color on the board,” she said. “We have been trying to recruit POC for the past few years with no success. We recognize this as a lack and are continuing to work on it.”
The JustFundKY Board is pleased to announce the 2020 Cliff Todd Endowment Grant recipients. After careful review and screening, the Board’s Grant Committee has approved the following grants:
$2500 to support their annual event
$3500 to help educate the public on the harms of conversion therapy
$3950 to host a Building Bridges conference
$10,000 to create a LGBTQ mural in downtown Lexington
$3000 for statewide education and outreach from Louisa
$1500 to help print the graphic novel Cosmic Giggles by artist Charles Williams
$5000 to host interactive art youth workshops
$5000 for Rainbow Crosswalks in downtown Lexington
$1600 to support screening films
$8050 to host a Transgender Wellness Summit
$2500 for production costs on a film about Henry Faulkner
$4600 for educational workshops and youth drag camp
$5150 for annual events
$5000 for media, Drag Queen story hour, book clubs and book events
$4800 to support stories from the Hispanic LGBTQ community
$2500 for Out and About monthly interviews with LGBTQ people
$5000 to host a LGBTQ film festival
$5000 to create a documentary on trans and nonbinary people
$5000 to host monthly meetings for LGBTQ youth
VETERAN’S AFFAIRS LGBT HEALTH
$1230 to fund a speaker for transgender week of remembrance