Arcus, NoVo Foundation Announce Groundbreaking Philanthropy Initiative to Improve the Lives of Transgender People

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Arcus, NoVo Foundation Announce Groundbreaking Philanthropy Initiative to Improve the Lives of Transgender People
The Arcus Foundation, a global foundation dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world, and the NoVo Foundation (, one of the world’s largest private foundations supporting efforts focused explicitly on girls and women, today announced a five-year philanthropic initiative focused on improving the lives of transgender people worldwide.
With lead funding from Arcus, the Global Trans Initiative will deploy grants and philanthropic resources totaling at least $20 million dollars to transgender activists and organizations as well as work intended to ensure that all transgender people live in a world where they are recognized, valued, and supported by their families and in society.
Transgender people and the violence and other challenges they face have become increasingly visible in recent years, but this has yet to translate into greater safety and opportunity.
  • Globally, more than 1,700 transgender murders have been reported in the past seven years alone and many cases have involved extreme violence and torture;
  • In the United States, transgender people are twice as likely as other Americans to earn $10,000 a year or less; and
  • In the United States, 20% of transgender people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

These and other grim realities facing transgender communities are amplified for those who are also marginalized based on their race, ethnicity, gender or class.

“The Global Trans Initiative is a coordinated response to the alarming and pervasive range of disparities found within transgender communities,” said Kevin Jennings, Arcus’ Executive Director. “Together with our partners, we are committed to delivering increased and necessary resources to those in the field working tirelessly to end the violence and discrimination facing transgender people around the world.”
The Global Trans Initiative emerged from a two-year listening and learning effort with frontline transgender activists and other interested funders. The initiative was developed by a core planning team at Arcus and informed by consultation and guidance from the NoVo Foundation and other funders committed to transgender issues.
The Global Trans Initiative aims to support transgender activists and organizations in their drive to address the following three goals prioritized by these leaders:
Increase awareness and understanding of the diversity, complexity, and intrinsic worth of transgender people, leading to acceptance and support among public and social institutions;
  • Grow the number of pathways to economic opportunity and security for transgender people, ensuring their full legal and social equity, well-being, and safety; and
  • Deepen the understanding of transgender-specific disparities in philanthropy and increase the number of funders integrating gender identity issues in their funding priorities.
  • Much of the work will focus on those most affected by violence and discrimination, including transgender women of color who live in the United States and transgender communities in the Global South.
“Ending violence against girls and women everywhere has always been at the core of the NoVo Foundation’s mission, and our support for the Global Trans Initiative is an important opportunity to deepen our longstanding work,” said Pamela Shifman, executive director of the NoVo Foundation. “The epidemic of violence facing transgender women and girls across the globe is a crisis by any measure, and we are determined to partner with others to help address this urgent need.”
The Arcus Foundation and NoVo Foundation are founding partners of the initiative. Arcus will commit $15 million over the next five years toward a range of activities. NoVo will commit $1 million to the initiative, and other partners will contribute at least $4 million. Among the activities, all partners will manage a pooled grantmaking fund.
Funding for transgender issues remains severely limited despite recent progress made to expand support. Transgender causes receive less than one penny for every $100 awarded by foundations, according to a study produced by Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
“Through this global effort, we aim to reach leaders in the field of philanthropy and deepen their understanding about transgender communities,” added Jennings. “We invite our colleagues at peer foundations to engage with us and consider integrating gender identity issues within their own funding priorities.”
Over the next 12 months, the Global Trans Initiative will begin to ramp up its operations while continuing to engage and involve transgender stakeholders. The pooled fund will issue an initial Request for Proposals focused on the United States in 2016 and expand its reach internationally by the following year.
The Arcus Foundation has granted more than $10 million dollars to transgender issues since its founding in 2000 and will, apart from this initiative, continue to support this work under its current funding strategy.
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