The Checkwriters

4.6.2008

By Shana Naomi Krochmal

The power of a pen can change a movement for generations to come -- when carefully applied to a checkbook. These three insider players -- two computers geeks and a former front-lines activist -- are often more invested in keeping their names (or that of the foundations whose money they manage) out of the news. That allows the lucky recipients of their funding to take the credit for major victories at the ballot box and in the courts.

Ric Weiland: An early Microsoft employee, Weiland gave millions to groups in his home state of Washington and nationally for years, often preferring to remain anonymous. But it was only after his death in 2007 that the tap was really turned on: A $65 million bequest from his estate to LGBT and AIDS organizations in February was the largest collective gift of its kind ever. The sheer size and scope of grants to 10 national LGBT groups -- $46 million total -- guarantees an immediate and long-term impact on their work. The balance of the money goes to the Seattle-based Pride Foundation, with $3 million earmarked for scholarships to queer students.

Urvashi Vaid: While at the Ford Foundation, another major giver to LGBT groups, Vaid greenlit $40 million in grants. Now the onetime activist (E.D. at the Task Force) and author (1995's Virtual Equality) is running the Michigan-based Arcus Foundation. Along with Arcus founder Jon Stryker (No. 39 on our list), Vaid signs off on the bread and butter funding for dozens of progressive groups -- but only if they meet Arcus' strict commitment to gender identity policies. No joke: Vaid's partner is comedienne Kate Clinton.

Bruce Bastian: The Orem, Utah'based co-creator of WordPerfect hosts the state's one truly gala gay fundraiser, a dinner at his $3.5 million mansion to benefit HRC, on whose board he also sits. The group's fancy D.C. building never would have been built without Bastian's early $1 million capital campaign donation. Among his quiet passion projects: Financial backing for eye-opening arts projects such as the Sundance Grand Jury'nominated documentary For The Bible Tells Me So and the Utah-to-off-Broadway play Facing East.

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