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  • Writer's pictureMitch Stein

How an historic LGBT organization is evolving their mission - and their fundraising

The Center is the heart of the LGBTQ+ community in NYC, an innovator in digital DAF fundraising and Chariot’s Cause of The Month for Pride 




“Everyone needs to know exactly what we do and just how critical it is for the health and safety of the entire LGBT Community,” shares Dr. Carla Smith, the new CEO of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York City - more commonly referred to as just “The Center.”


From its founding in the height of the AIDS crisis in 1983, to the fight for marriage equality throughout the 2000s, to the immense challenges faced by queer people during the COVID pandemic, The Center has been continuously evolving to meet the unique and diverse needs of the vibrant LGBT community of New York City.


One of the biggest evolutions of The Center has been to more explicitly & effectively meet the significant needs of people of color (POC) & trans / gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals. This is a particular focus for Dr. Smith, who joined the organization in February as the first Black CEO of The Center and previously did her Ed.D thesis on improving access to emergency domestic violence shelters for trans people surviving intimate partner violence.


"With mounting attacks on LGBT folks around the country, I want everyone in our community to know there’s a place for them here - and for everyone to know how their financial support of The Center translates into life-saving work"

“With mounting attacks on LGBT folks around the country, I want everyone in our community to know there’s a place for them here - and for everyone to know how their financial support of The Center translates into life-saving work,” adds Dr. Smith during a lunch meeting in the West Village - the neighborhood that’s home to The Center’s iconic building on West 13th street, filled with history, priceless queer art and a helping hand to anyone that needs it. 



I’ve been a supporter of The Center ever since my first time participating in Cycle for the Cause in 2016, and a board member since 2019. Biking in the epic Northeast AIDS Ride with my dad, in honor of my late Uncle Marlin, changed everything about my life.


The tragic experience of losing her twin brother at such a young age, and experiencing all the hate & discrimination that he received in the process had a profound impact on my Mom. It understandably made my coming out process, 20 years later, a lot more difficult for the family.  



Joining the ride helped us all honor Marlin’s memory while experiencing the joy of community and acceptance. It created a positive outlet for all the emotions we’d all been holding onto for decades and gave us a way to engage everyone in our lives in the important work of breaking down HIV stigma.



Dr. Smith and I shared a teary-eyed moment reflecting on my personal connection to The Center’s work - and how it’s just one story out of a million like it that each queer person and their families have in New York City. 



I agree with her that it is critical for more people to be aware of the ground-breaking queer-specific mental health services we offer, the only youth substance use counseling programs we run, the only LGBT-specific Iftar service during Ramadan, etc.


But I also want everyone to appreciate that The Center is more than an amazing physical building and a powerful collection of life-saving services & life-affirming events. 


It’s home. 


It’s home to anyone that needs it. And I think that everyone in the broader LGBT community has needed that kind of home at some point in their lives. I’m so grateful that Dr. Smith - or Dr. Carla as I’ve come to prefer calling her! - brings lived and deeply-researched experience with the community members that are feeling that need most right now - our POC and TGNC siblings. 



Dr. Carla has hit the ground running - and biking - taking on speaking engagements throughout Pride month and training for her first Cycle for the Cause ride in September. This event brings together hundreds of riders for 3 days and 275 miles from Boston to NYC to bring an End to AIDS and the stigma of HIV. It’s also a huge fundraising event for The Center, generating over $2.2 million last year. 


Thanks to the new partnership between Chariot & DonorDrive, The Center will also be benefiting from digital DAF giving for the first time in this year’s fundraising! In the DonorDrive fundraising platform that powers Cycle for the Cause, donors can now give through DAFpay on every rider’s campaign page.



“We’ve seen growing DAF support for The Center in recent years, but there’s never been as much DAF giving to Cycle specifically"

“We’ve seen growing DAF support for The Center in recent years, but there’s never been as much DAF giving to Cycle specifically,” shares Renee Colombo, The Center’s Chief Development Officer. “We’re really excited to see how DAFpay can bring in more revenue and help us better engage a critical segment of donors in the peer-to-peer setting.” 


Dr. Carla is an incredibly energizing force that we all need - especially at an organization that is truly The Center of the LGBT community in NYC. On behalf of the Chariot team, I’m excited to support her ride with a DAFpay donation from the company - and encourage everyone else reading this to give it a try themselves!



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