Introducing the Rustin Fund

Linking US-based individuals and foundations directly to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) activism in low-and-middle income countries.

Although LGBTI equality and rights are making tremendous strides in some parts of the world, the reality is quite different in other places. LGBTI people face especially harsh forms of stigma and discrimination in some settings. In 75 countries around the world, same-sex acts are criminalized, and even more countries criminalize being LGBTI in other ways. In eight countries, the death penalty can be applied for people accused of being LGBTI. LGBTI people in many places face rejection from their families and communities, extortion, harassment, and other forms of harm. In the face of these alarming realities, global civil society actors are working hard to advocate for and to protect the rights of LGBTI people. The past decade has seen an encouraging rise in the number of activists, organizations, and networks working in countries around the global to promote the equality and well-bring of LGBTI. Their work is an inspiration.

We are making progress in the United States, and it is time for us to join hands with those working around the world. The Rustin Fund for Global Equality is a way for you to connect with and to support these global activists, who often work with tremendous passion and professionalism but meagre resources. Through the Rustin Fund, you can support our partner organizations—those working tirelessly on behalf of homeless LGBTI youth in Jamaica or transgender people in Thailand. The movement is growing, and you can play a pivotal part.

Vision of the Rustin Fund

A world free from stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or biological characteristics in which LGBTI individuals enjoy equal rights and well-being and in which LGBTI organizations are active partners in a thriving civil society to impact the decisions that affect their lives.

Mission Statement

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality galvanizes financial and political support for LGBTI individuals, organizations and movements in low-and-middle income countries through innovative, direct fundraising efforts in the United States.

Core Values

Trust in local, participatory decision-making; Transparency; Credibility and legitimacy; and Accountability


Current funding for LGBTI movements in low-and-middle income countries is insufficient to achieve their goals of social justice, rights, and access to health for all. While several public and private foundations have been providing financial support in this sector for decades, increased direct investment is needed, especially opportunities for US-based individuals and foundations to support LGBTI grassroots activists directly.

The current moment represents a critical window for LGBTI movements for a number of reasons. Both mass and social media report and spread information concerning LGBTI rights more quickly than ever before, allowing progressive individuals based in the US to feel connected to issues that are happening in settings far away. There also has been a rise in US-based anti-LGBTI activism making rapid gains to quash LGBTI rights in places as disparate as Uganda and Russia. As some Americans work powerfully to export anti-LGBTI ideologies, there is also a need to expand counter-vailing means for Americans to support pro-LGBTI activism and movements in ways that are meaningful and effective in local contexts around the global.

Even if Americans can support global LGBTI activism, these are not the best placed people to know what strategies and approaches are likely to change the hearts and minds of disparate places. That knowledge sits with the activists, organizers, and movements operating to confront the denial of LGBTI rights in low-and-middle income countries. While momentum might be global, action will necessarily need to happen as close to the ground as possible. LGBTI and other human rights defenders in countries around the world already have the capacity, the know-how, and passion to fight for their rights; what they too often lack is the financial support to initiate and to sustain human rights activism and service delivery to LGBTI people.

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality directly links US-based individuals and foundations to credible actors in low- and middle-income to sustain their work to promote LGBTI rights. Working with a global board of advisors to ensure transparency and legitimacy, the Rustin Fund will both work proactively to fundraise for selected organizations while also serving as a mechanism for organizations that are looking for US-based tax-exempt organizations to receive donations on their behalves.

Implementation Strategies

1. Investigate and raise awareness regarding critical needs and gaps in LGBTI movements.

Working through global board of advisors who represent key constituents in LGBTI movements throughout the world, the Rustin Fund will investigate and raise awareness about success and challenges of LGBTI individuals, organizations and movements in low-and-middle countries. After meeting specific criteria developed collectively with the global advisors (most of whom currently reside in low-and-middle income countries), the Rustin Fund will provide core support to organizations working in the sector.

2. Provide a platform for US donors to invest directly in LGBT individuals, organizations, and movements.

The Rustin Fund will primarily use a web-based platform and social media to connect US-based supporters with global LGBTI causes, detailing various organizations and individuals that US-based individuals can select for financial investment. The platform will offer a menu of options for support—detailing the various organizations’ missions, visions, and ways of working—as well as provide real-time updates on the organizations’ progress.

3. Generate attention and funding in moments of need to respond to political and social challenges to LGBT rights and to strengthen and sustain movements.

In response to crises and challenges that LGBTI movements face at national and local level in low-and-middle income countries, the Rustin Fund will also conduct fund-raising campaigns to galvanize crucial support at the right time. The Rustin Fund recognizes that political and legal trends can arise quickly and that urgent support is needed for LGBTI movements to respond and to sustain their activities. The Rustin Fund will provide funding for organized movements to develop advocacy campaigns and to provide urgently needed services in their settings—including providing legal and other support to human rights defenders in trouble and working to influence public opinion in favor of the rights of LGBTI people.

Fundraising Strategies

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality will set as its goal to ensure that individuals donors’ contributions can, to the extent possible, go directly to the grassroots organizations that it is working with. To that end, it will always seek to maintain the smallest administrative structure necessary to ensure efficient operations. It will also seek to leverage funding from institutional donors to offset operating costs for the fund, allowing for 100% of individual and foundation contributions to be given directly to the recipient organization or individual.

In its first few years of operations, the Rustin Fund will experiment with various fundraising strategies to determine what works for various initiatives. Potential strategies to explore will include: celebrity-driven gala events; cash calls at performing events (potentially various versions of gay games); crowd-sourcing; college campaigns; and merchandizing, among others.


The Rustin Fund recognizes a number of existing agents of change that it will work in partnership to further its goals. As mentioned, the Fund will work through a global advisory panel in vetting organizations as well as partner with US-based institutions such as the Astraea Foundation, American Jewish World Service, the Fund for Global Human Rights, OutRight Action International (formerly IGLHRC) among others to maximize synergies. The Rustin Fund will also form a strategic partnership with, to assist in linking individuals with LGBTI-led organizations in low-and-middle income countries. The Rustin Fund for Global Equality is independent of the Bayard Rustin Fund, Inc., a non-profit organization established by Rustin’s surviving partner Walter Naegle to further recognition of Rustin’s work and to educate the public about his life.

About Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality has been established to honor the legacy of Bayard Rustin, in consultation with the Bayard Rustin Estate. Rustin was a master strategist and tireless activist most well-known for his role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. His later work included a heavy focus on refugee affairs. Rustin served as Vice Chairman of the International Rescue Committee, helped to found the National Emergency Coalition for Haitian Refugees and was Chairman of the Executive Committee of Freedom House.

To read more about the life and legacy of Bayard Rustin, visit:

About Us

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality was founded and legally registered in New York State in April 2015. Currently, the Tides Foundation provides fiscal sponsorship. Current board members include Mark Canavera, Tapiwa Chisakaitwa, Amanda Donnell, Elissa Jacobs, Anna Kirey and Kent Klindera.

Contact: or +1.212.470.7915


Currently we are supporting several partners including Alternatives-Cameroon, Equality for All/Jamaica (formerly J-FLAG), Insight Ukraine, the Thai Transgender Alliance, HELEM, the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) and Lavender Acres.

Your donation today will go to directly helping organizations like these in their efforts to advocate for LGBTI rights and/or deliver services for various LGBTI communities.

The Rustin Fund for Global Equality currently receives fiscal sponsorship from the Tides Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. No goods or services were provided in exchange for your generous financial donation.