LGBT Community Needs Assessment Data Presentation and Conversation at Donors Forum on Friday, March 8

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

From October through December of 2011, in partnership with The LGBT Community Fund of The Chicago Community Trust, Morten Group conducted the Chicago LGBT Community Needs Assessment, a comprehensive needs assessment of the entire Chicagoland LGBT community. 

The project team used a four-part strategy to gather responses from more than 2,000 unique participants in just 11 weeks: online surveys, paper data cards, focus groups, and interviews. The LGBT Community Fund, established in 2010, is currently in the process of using the information gathered in order to guide their grantmaking priorities and strategies as they work on raising their first million dollars.

Among the survey’s key findings:

  • 68% of data card respondents reported feeling safe at school/work but only 56% said they felt safe within the city at-large
  • 66% of survey respondents ranked healthcare/health insurance as their number one concern
  •  63% of data card respondents have access to both physical and mental healthcare services (conversely, this means that approximately 1 in 3 respondents report not having access to such services)
  • 43% ranked issues related to access to government rights and services (including marriage equality) as their number one concern
  • 33% ranked employment as their number one concern

When controlling for demographic variables such as race and age, percentages often shifted from those found in the general survey population. For example, of the one in five survey respondents who reported being unemployed or underemployed (not earning a livable wage), nearly half were people of color. Regarding individual income, when controlling for age (looking only at data from respondents 24 and younger and 55 and older) more than half of respondents reported earning less than $15,000 individually per year, whereas only 25% of overall survey respondents reported falling into this income bracket.

Supplementing the quantitative data were qualitative accounts illustrating individuals’ perspectives on numerous aspects of daily life. Such anecdotes ranged from difficulty obtaining employment, to conflicts with law enforcement, to experiences with “safe spaces” throughout the city and positive connections formed in those spaces. Unexpected similarities were found across demographics; for example, youth, and seniors reported many similar needs, and both groups reported experiencing age discrimination within the LGBT community.

LGBT needs assessment meeting
Morten Group and The LGBT Community Fund of The Chicago Community Trust at the Donors Forum Data Presentation on March 8. Left to right: Bob Eichinger, The Chicago Community Trust; Evette Cardona, Polk Bros. Foundation; Roger Doherty, Horizons Foundation; Prue Beidler, The LGBT Community Fund; Mary Morten, Morten Group; Jim Alexander, The LGBT Community Fund; and Dr. Keisha Farmer-Smith, Morten Group.

On Friday, March 8, Mary Morten, President, Morten Group and Dr. Keisha Farmer-Smith, Methodological Lead and Consulting Associate, Morten Group, presented the data in a lunchtime meeting at Donors Forum. Moderated by Prue Beidler, Co-Chair, The LGBT Community Fund, and introduced with remarks by Evette Cardona, Vice President of Programs, Polk Bros. Foundation, the presentation to Donors Forum grantmaking Members and advisory Associate Members led to a robust conversation about ways in which the data gathered for the assessment can guide LGBTQ community funding here in Chicago.

During the discussion, much attention was paid to the topic of investing resources in training non-LGBT-specific organizations to better serve LGBT members of their communities, as well as focusing on LGBT-specific organizations, since many LGBT-identified Chicagoans receive services such as healthcare from organizations serving the general population. Given the prominence of healthcare-related concerns in the study’s findings, attendees also discussed the necessity of disseminating report information to healthcare funders specifically.

Other topics of discussion included philanthropic giving within the LGBT community alongside ally giving, the difference between lack of resources and presence of resources which people feel unsafe to access, and comparisons with similar citywide studies in New York.

Want to take a look at the report? Just click here. For last September’s blog Donors Forum guest blog entry about the project, click here. If you have any questions, please email

 -- The Chicago LGBT Community Needs Assessment Project Team, Morten Group
Mary Morten, President
Dr. Keisha Farmer-Smith, Methodological Lead, Consulting Associate
Jessica Kadish, Project Coordinator