How TurnOut is Mobilizing Communities to Support Queer & Trans Movements

Executive Director of TurnOut, Jack Beck, recently joined us to dig into his efforts at TurnOut, why he started the organization, and more.

How TurnOut is Mobilizing Communities to Support Queer & Trans Movements

June is pride month, and what better way to celebrate than with one of our non-profit partners who supports LGBTQ initiatives? TurnOut connects volunteers with queer and trans organizations to help achieve their missions.

Founder and Executive Director, Jack Beck, recently sat down with us to dig into his efforts at TurnOut, why he started the organization, and more.

Can you tell us about TurnOut’s goals?

At TurnOut, our mission is to mobilize our communities to support queer and trans movements. It has really been queer and grassroots groups who have stepped up to support these communities whether it's monetary support or community support. After working at those organizations for a long time and meeting people in the community who wanted to support but didn't have a good way to do it, I started to think about what a project would look like that could make those connections, and that's how TurnOut was created.

I talked to a bunch of my friends in queer and non-profit groups, folks who cared about these issues, and people really resonated with it. I left my job in 2015 to start TurnOut.

We work with over 100 organizations now and they're doing such cool stuff. It's exciting to work with queer and trans people who are pushing the boundaries of what we can do all the time. It's amazing. I feel blessed to be around the folks that are part of our network.

What do you look for when selecting nonprofits to partner with?

We really will work with any nonprofit that has queer or trans people in their mission statement or is working on an issue that disproportionately affects trans and queer people. For example, incarceration disproportionately impacts trans women and black and brown queer individuals, so we work with organizations who support queer and trans folks who have been incarcerated, such as Flying Over Walls, TGI Justice Project, and more.

For anyone who wants to get involved with supporting queer and trans communities, we find ways to plug them in with those organizations to make an impact on the issues they care about.

How do you work with volunteers?

We go out and try to connect with people who care about queer and trans issues. Once folks join our network, we send out new opportunities to get involved with queer and trans nonprofits. We also support pro-bono volunteering for professionals who have skills they want to offer. Basically, we send out new opportunities every week. If people have specialized interests, they can always email us and we’ll do our best to match them with a relevant opportunity.

Can you tell us about your Queer Board Match Program?

We found when we were working with a lot of nonprofits, they would always need board members in addition to volunteers. On the opposite side, corporate groups that were looking for group volunteer opportunities tended to also ask about open board spots. We identified that there's a real need for making the connection, but people aren't talking about it.

In 2019, we launched our Queer Board Match program to make this connection, and we've been able to bring together hundreds of people with queer and trans nonprofits looking for new board members. We’re able to bring together queer and trans nonprofits and individuals interested in learning about board service. There’s also an education component. Our two-month queer accelerator program ensures board members have all they need to succeed with flying colors. We talk about why boards are important, what's required of a board member, what's expected of the various roles, and more.

It's important that people know what they're getting into and what fiduciary responsibility means. We host 1-2 big events a year, we have a monthly newsletter, and we'll host smaller events throughout the year. We have 5-6 non-profits reach out looking for new board members every month.

We found a lot of people have heard of board service and they're not really sure what it means. The truth is a lot of people who are currently serving on boards aren’t really sure either. Often community members are stepping up because they want to help, but don't often have the training or support they need

People think you need to be at the pinnacle of your career, and rich. When in reality, there are plenty of people at the beginning of their careers serving on boards. There's a huge opportunity for people of all levels of experience to really dive in and ensure nonprofits have what they need on their board to drive their organizations forward.

What fundraising challenges have you faced? Do you have any recommendations for other organizations fundraising?

I think about this all the time. The biggest challenge we've faced is the work we do is not legible to grantmakers. Foundations and grantmakers are focused on direct service provisions, for example, nonprofits that provide direct medical services or that provide housing for people who need it. For an organization like us, providing support for the nonprofits themselves instead of direct client services, it can be difficult to secure grant funding.

When people create foundations, they have a sense of what kind of impact they want to make. Supporting a front-line organization is very direct. Those are really powerful metrics. It's a little more diffused what we do — it's almost a B2B model.

The cool thing about what we do is while it's hard to get grantmakers to get what we do, individual donors immediately understand why our mission is important. Most of our donors have had their lives changed — or saved — by nonprofits like the ones we support. We also understand that those organizations don't get a lot of support. We want to help the organizations that have helped us. I think people get it. I'm really grateful for that.

What's the impact of a financial donation made to TurnOut?
All of the donations we get support our year-round core programming. We are able to support thousands of volunteers to do service at over 100 local queer and trans nonprofits each year. We're able to help queer kids get involved with front-line service work, get exposure to stuff they're interested in, but might not get to engage with otherwise.

Any donation of any amount makes a difference. We're a scrappy organization. We do a lot with a small budget and we're able to support a lot of organizations.

How many volunteers have you engaged for Pride month?

We generally make about thirty volunteer referrals each week to our different partner organizations. One of the things we do is coordinate volunteers for big LGBTQ+ events — we just had San Francisco Pride recently. We worked with about 200 volunteers there. Oakland Black Pride is coming up at the end of June. And there are a whole host of smaller events happening across the Bay Area. By the end of June, we'll probably have worked with 300-400 volunteers.

How can individuals, organizations, and nonprofits get involved with TurnOut?

Join our mailing list!
You can also follow TurnOut on Facebook and Instagram.

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