From the President’s Desk

January 8, 2018Blog

Phoenix Pride had an incredible and successful year. I’m extremely proud of the work we have accomplished in 2017. With the help of our dedicated Board of Directors, wonderful staff, committee managers and hundreds of volunteers, I am both humbled and grateful for our success.

Our organization is fiscally strong as we move into 2018 with a very robust strategic plan. We have the community’s support for the great work we do, evidenced by the highest attendance ever at the 2017 Phoenix Pride Festival and Parade, breaking the already substantial records set in previous years.

We are set up for success in 2018. Phoenix Pride continues to push forward into new territory, as we should, and as our predecessors have done. As we move into 2018, we have listened to community feedback. We’ve taken steps to make transparency a central part of what we do. The Board has made the decision to publish our financial information to our website for public review. We continue to engage independent auditors to review our finances annually, as well as our policies and procedures.  I’m thrilled to report that these audits continue to reveal that we are operating efficiently, effectively and appropriately. You can find these audits available to the public as well.

As it relates to our leadership, we have expanded the membership of our Board of Directors to ensure that the viewpoints of our board represent the viewpoints of as much of our diverse community as possible. We have re-established the committee system for the Board, which includes bringing members of the community to actively participate, so their unique perspectives can be heard and internalized.

We have also worked with a parliamentarian to update our Bylaws and Standing Rules, so they align with nationally established non-profit best practices. The Board is committed to participating in regular, ongoing continuing education sessions, so that we can stay in touch with the challenges facing our community and find practical solutions to address them.

Additionally, over the past year we have hosted four successful social events attended by our board members, to make ourselves as accessible as possible to the members of our community.  We believe the most important part of being a community organization is to build bridges, hear concerns and engage with the members who are vital to Phoenix Pride’s interests and efforts.

This fall, the Board of Directors spent a great deal of time and effort working collaboratively with our staff to determine the long-term strategy and direction of the organization.  We built out our strategic plan for the next three years creating attainable, comprehensive goals and objectives for both the Board and Staff.

  • Our first goal is to enhance and expand the impact of Phoenix Pride’s philanthropic investments in our community.
  • Our second goal is to provide relevant programs and services to the LGBTQ community in line with our mission. As such, we are in the process of partnering with other agencies in the Valley to complete a community-wide needs assessment that will feed into program development and implementation.
  • Our third goal is to continue to build the Pride brand to increase the LGBTQ community’s — and the general public’s – awareness of Pride’s programs, services, philanthropy, and impact; as well as the political, social and economic issues impacting the LGBTQ community.
  • Our fourth goal is to achieve best practices in board governance aligned with the Piper Trust Good Governance standards, which we are already working to follow.
  • Our fifth goal is to ensure that all Phoenix Pride events are managed with best practice quality, safety, profitability and visibility.

This is obviously just a high-level overview of our goals and how we intend to reach them, but please know that I’m happy to discuss with anyone interested in knowing more about our plans for 2018 and beyond.

After much discussion, the Phoenix Pride Board is happy to announce the restoration of our Community Grants program. Many of you know that over the years, our organization has relied on local non-profit organizations to help staff beverage booths at our events. We depend on the revenue from our beverage sales, not only to cover the costs of our events, but to ensure that we are able to give out much needed financial support to our community. As we look to enhance the experience for our event guests, the need for the beverage grants program is no longer there. However, our commitment to the community is stronger than ever.

With the help of our Education and Outreach committee, the Board is confident that we have designed a program that increases our relevance and sets us up to continue being a premier funder for the important causes that serve our community. This new program is designed to provide even greater levels of community grants than we have been able to in past years, and we are committed to seeing that through.

At present, the Board has identified four focus areas for community grant funding:

Health and Education

  • Supporting LGBTQ health and education programs through public education or through organizations that provide direct services to the LGBTQ community.

Community Development

  • Meaning the development of programs and services that provide opportunities for LGBTQ community members through projects or community partnerships.

Social Justice and Inclusion

  • Supporting organizations that have a dedicated focus in the field of coexistence –– the proactive embrace of diversity and difference in the pursuit of equity for all people.

LGBTQ Arts, Culture and History

  • Supporting artistic, historical or cultural experiences that enhance the LGBTQ community, or extend the benefit of the arts to organizations that support LGBTQ Arts, Culture and History.

We believe that these are vital elements of achieving Pride’s mission, and more detailed information about our revamped Community Grants Program will be updated on our website soon!

In addition, Phoenix Pride will continue to support and expand our Phoenix Pride Scholarship Fund, with the goal of eight Scholarship Recipients in 2018, as well as continue to offer our Phoenix Pride Volunteer Grant Program.

Detailed information about both ongoing programs is available by clicking here.

As Tracy Lawrence’s song “Time Marches On” so eloquently puts it, “The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.”

This is as true in the world of Phoenix Pride, just as much as it is in the world around us.  Thus, our former Executive Director Justin Owen has left us and is moving on to the next step in his career.

The role of Executive Director is both challenging and demanding, and Justin’s steadfast commitment and unwavering dedication has led the organization through a period of tremendous growth, success and expansion. He has been a dedicated member of the Pride community for more than two decades, and his commitment to our community is unquestionable. That is why we are very happy to share that although he has made the decision to depart from his professional role with Phoenix Pride, Justin will continue to volunteer his guidance, leadership and counsel to the agency as a member of our community, even as he moves into the next phase of his professional career.

On a personal note, I’m proud and honored to have built what I know will be a lifelong friendship with Justin, that will carry on as he moves forward to his next adventure. Thank you, Justin, both personally and on behalf of the Board, staff, and entire community that makes Phoenix Pride what it is.

To even attempt to fill the shoes that Justin leaves behind, we knew that we would need to find an incredibly dedicated and integrated community member, with both the professional experience and the personal passion to continue down the path that Justin has forged.

Fortunately, we have just such a person who has already been serving on our board and has already dedicated many years of his life to serving our organization and community.

Our great friend and dear community member Mike Fornelli has stepped into the role as our interim Executive Director, in a full-time capacity. Mike’s long presence in our community as a business owner, community leader and local icon for LGBTQ rights provides a phenomenal platform from which to continue the momentum Phoenix Pride has built as an agency.  We look forward to writing the next chapter in our history with Mike as the organizations Executive Director. Mike was an integral participant in our strategic planning process, has the skillsets necessary to keep us on track and is well loved by our community.  We are looking forward to the next chapter in Phoenix Pride’s success and making a bigger impact than ever over the next year!

We look forward to our community, family, friends and allies embarking upon this journey with us! Thank you for supporting Phoenix Pride!


Mark Leeper
President of the Board