What do-nothing nonprofits can learn from GOProud

When conservative gay rights advocacy group GOProud announced that they would cease all operations this week, some interpreted the announcement to mean a failure by the group to find a true place within the Republican Party and conservative movement.

That is not the case, according to the group’s co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia.

“We were wildly successful in accomplishing our objectives,” LaSalvia wrote in a blog post Tuesday titled “Authenticity.”

LaSalvia makes an important distinction about the group and its mission.

“We had very simple goals – demonstrate that all gays aren’t left-wing liberals AND all conservatives aren’t anti-gay homophobes.”

“All you have to do is look at the very public engagement we did with well-known conservatives such as Ann Coulter or Andrew Breitbart, or see the nearly 1,000 people who attended our event at the RNC Convention, or countless other examples,” LaSalvia writes, pointing to the group’s success.

Instead of lambasting GOProud for closing their doors, people should hail the organization for having the guts to evolve before turning into a shell of it’s former message.

Many political nonprofits, on the right and the left, emerge at particular moments in America when a certain group’s voice is underserved. These groups often fill important vacuums in the conversation. But what happens when that conversation shifts and these needs and priorities of Americans are no longer embodied by the group’s mission?

Nonprofit groups, having no profit or market mechanism to respond to, almost never pack up their bags and go home when they are no longer responding to real needs of Americans, or when the marketplace has changed.

Instead, they often invent new crises to raise money off of, becoming an institutional nonprofit clinging for relevancy.

Washington, D.C. is flooded with these types of legacy institutions, employed by young idealistic college grads eager to make a difference in the political landscape, that feed off of money from old people scared about what the future of the country looks like.

By closing up shop, and taking time to regroup their mission and their purpose and the future of their fight, GOProud will not be one of these groups.

In an email to The Bilerico Project, GOProud executive director Matthew Bechstein defended his organization’s decision to get out, regroup, and return with clearer goals, and a more directed message.

“The fact is, in order to continue promoting the conservative principles upon which this organization was founded, change is needed …One of the changes under discussion is a switch to a different legal type of organization — basic paperwork that requires dissolution and immediate subsequent reorganization,” he wrote.

“Technically, as some argue, this would be a legal closure … But if it were to actually happen, it would only be momentary and certainly not the end of our organization.”

LaSalvia, who exited GOProud in early 2014, lamented the closing of the group.

“I left GOProud last year and handed the reigns over to a young team that I hoped would bring fresh ideas and a new vision. It turns out that they just wanted to try to fit our outside-the-box brand into a conventional box. It didn’t work, so they are closing. That’s too bad,” LaSalvia wrote.

But maybe it did work.

In the five years since GOProud was founded in 2009, the mood within the Republican Party on the issue of gay marriage has begun to change. A recent study showed, that over 61 percent of young Republicans, the future of the party, support gay marriage.

In the upcoming election cycle, there are three openly gay Republicans challenging Democrats for congressional seats; Republicans with clear messages, conservative principles and an evolving stance on gay rights within the party.

However GOProud chooses to re-brand, or if it ultimately disappears the D.C. non-profit scene altogether, their decision to halt what they are currently doing to readdress their mission should be commended.

Maybe the non-profit sector could even take some advice from Neil Young’s hit song, “Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black).”

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”


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