A new statewide fund aims to support organizations in Arkansas serving the LGBTQ community.
The Bentonville-based Walton Family Foundation announced Thursday it’s partnering with the Arkansas Community Foundation to distribute $1 million dollars worth of grants to groups working to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ Arkansans.
Walton Family Foundation spokesperson Luis Gonzalez says it’s designed to include members of the community in the process.
"We also wanted to ensure that [the Arkansas Community Foundation] were supported in that process while they oversee the fund by a selection committee that includes leadership and representation from the LGBTQ community to ensure that they can also review the grants as the applications become available," Gonzalez said.
The announcement comes more than a month after the end of an Arkansas legislative session that passed multiple bills that discriminated against LGBTQ communities, in particular, Arkansans who are transgender. Walmart and its political action committee have also been one of the largest corporate donors to organizations and state lawmakers who supported anti-LGBTQ legislation this year.
Gonzalez says the new fund is an effort to counter the increasing challenges faced by members of the community.
"When it comes to specific contributions, the foundation as a private foundation, we don’t engage in efforts to force specific legislation or elections. So I think the role that philanthropy can play here is what we’re doing… to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ Arkansans by supporting the organizations who are already doing this work," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez says a selection committee within the Arkansas Community Foundation will oversee the distribution of the grants, which will total at least $25,000 each. National groups with a local, established presence in the state can also qualify.
Arkansas Community Foundation Chief Program Officer Sarah Kinser says there are certain criteria they are looking for in an application.
"We’re specifically looking for organizations that offer legal, health, education and advocacy services or other high-demand needs within the community," Kinser said.
Kinser says the organization aims to have more information for prospective applicants later in the summer, including how to apply and what that application process will look like. She says she suspects the applications will be accepted on a rolling basis as opposed to a hard deadline.