Leaders from two of the nation’s largest gay rights funders will help raise money for students and organizations in Montana at a fundraiser at Corby Skinner’s historic “Castle” on Friday, January 25 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Kris Hermanns, the Executive Director of the Pride Foundation, and Tim Sweeney, CEO and President of the Gill Foundation, will speak about the state of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality movement in Montana and the impact of recent marriage equality wins in the region.
Sweeney, a Billings native and graduate of the University of Montana, joined the Gill Foundation as executive director in October 2007, bringing three decades of leadership experience in the movement to advance equality for all Americans. Prior to joining Gill Foundation, Sweeney worked to build national efforts to support the rights of lesbian and gay couples to civil marriage and provided support for organizations implementing a California law that safeguards the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
From 1986 to 1993, Sweeney led the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, helping to build the largest community-based HIV/AIDS service, prevention, and advocacy organization in the world. Under his leadership, the organization formed a national coalition to press Washington to pass antidiscrimination legislation. Working with allies, they secured passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Ryan White Care Act.
Hermanns is a self-described “country girl” from rural Wisconsin, with nearly two decades’ experience and expertise as a program manager, fundraiser, and nonprofit administrator. Before joining Pride Foundation last year, she was the deputy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Prior to that, she was a program officer with The Rhode Island Foundation, where she created Equity Action, a field-of-interest fund for LGBTQ concerns, and developed the grantmaking program for the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. Hermanns earned a master’s degree from Harvard University and a B.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to her professional work, Kris served on the board of directors of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and is a partial owner of the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League.
Skinner, a Pride Foundation volunteer, will provide appetizers and beverages in the “Castle,” located at 622 N. 29th St. The event is free, but donations to support Pride Foundation’s grants and scholarships in Montana are encouraged.
Seattle-based Pride Foundation has made a big splash in Montana since hiring on-the-ground staff two years ago. There are now six times as many donors in the state, and an active statewide board that includes Shelley Hayes of the Billings Clinic and Aaron Browning, principal at Hilltop Public Solutions. Last month, Pride Foundation awarded $23,000 in grant funds to ten Montana organizations, including Billings-based Yellowstone AIDS Project and TAP 365.
According to Montana Regional Development Organizer Caitlin Copple, Montana is part of a larger national trend toward greater acceptance of people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“From the inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in Missoula and Helena to the increase in the number of high school Gay-Straight Alliances around the state to the changes in both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms, Montana is rapidly becoming a friendlier place for gays and lesbians,” Copple said. “Most importantly, more of our heterosexual family, friends, and colleagues are also ‘coming out’ as supporters of full equality for all Montanans.”
Founded in 1985, Pride Foundation is dedicated to inspiring a culture of generosity to connect and strengthen organizations, leaders, and students who are creating LGBTQ equality across the Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. To learn more, visit www.pridefoundation.org or email Caitlin@pridefoundation.org.