BJ Smith, president of the Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Team, takes the lead in a contest at the fifth annual Queen City Drag Race on Saturday.
BJ Smith, president of the Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Team, takes the lead in a contest at the fifth annual Queen City Drag Race on Saturday.
BJ Smith, president of the Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Team, takes the lead in a contest at the fifth annual Queen City Drag Race on Saturday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A flurry of activity across the community this weekend kept local LGBT organizations and causes on their feet, following a busy week of online fundraising for the national Give Out Day.

On Saturday, several sport- and fitness-related fundraising events were held across the city, including the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s LGBTQ Spring Olympics. About 60 people participated in the event, featuring hoola-hoop contests, sack races, three-legged races and other traditional “field day” fitness activities.

Across town, the fifth annual Queen City Drag Race was hosted at The Bar at 316. Organizers estimated about 300 people came to the event, with donors and teams raising $6,500 for various charities represented by teams who came to compete in an obstacle-style course — all while wearing wigs and high heels.

Charities represented included: the Battered Women’s Shelter, Campus Pride, Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Team, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, Leukemia Society.

That evening, community members rallied behind the Royals, as they held their annual “prom dress” match.

Saturday’s activities followed more than week-long effort to raise awareness and fundraising for LGBT causes on national Give Out Day, May 15-16.

Giving out and back

Dozens of groups across the Carolinas participated in national Give Out Day, a coordinated, online fundraising campaign which netted close to $1 million for LGBT groups and causes across the country.

In the Carolinas — and across the South — nine LGBT groups in South Carolina led the way.

South Carolina Equality and eight other organizations partnered in the lead up to Give Out Day to coordinate their local fundraising efforts. Their collaboration included joint marketing and four jointly-produced parties across the state.

“We had standard Facebook memes that had all nine logos,” SC Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson explains. “We had a poster and table tents we put up at bars, restaurants and coffee shops — all mutually shared. Then, each group did their own efforts to their own base.”

South Carolina’s collaborative fundraising has been recognized as a model by Give Out organizers, says Wilson, and they’re still the most organized state in the country.

In total, South Carolina groups raised over $45,000 for their various causes. Wilson says the partnership was well worth it, allowing each group to set goals and assist other groups in reaching theirs.

“We are lifting everyone up because we’re trying to win for South Carolina,” says Wilson, who noticed several groups shifting gears at the end of the May 15-16 Give Out event to assist those who hadn’t yet reached their goals.

The partnership, he says, also helped build a broader community base.

“My view is that any dollar raised for the movement in South Carolina is going to benefit my work,” he says. “If the Harriet Hancock Center is strong and can answer calls from people in crisis, then when those calls come to my office, I can refer them to the center. The center has the resources in their database that I don’t keep track of. I don’t plan Pride festivals; I just show up and do outreach there. We need people planning them.”

Wilson says the joint fundraising and marketing model works for South Carolina, and other states and locales are also experimenting with it. Utah, he says, had five organizations working jointly to raise funds this year.

“It’s about rethinking — do you really need the money in your pocket or do you need the money in the movement?” Wilson asks. “A strong movement in South Carolina is going to make our advocacy work more powerful when trying to pass a law or when we are trying to put a rally together.”

In the end, South Carolina Equality came out on top of the southern leaderboards — counted by the number of unique donors engaged with each organization. The Palmetto State advocacy group raised more than $18,000 online with 391 unique donors. They also won a $4,000 bonus and attracted some $4,000 in offline contributions. Columbia’s Harriet Hancock Center came in fourth.

In North Carolina, the Charlotte-based national non-profit Campus Pride came in second in southern leaderboards. They raised more than $12,000. Including bonuses and other gifts, Campus Pride raised more than $15,000.

Southerners on New Ground came in third with more than $6,000 and the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality in fifth, also with more than $6,000 raised.

Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, says the Give Out Day efforts are valuable to organizations. His group also placed seventh in the nation and received bonus money for its second-place finish in the South. Most importantly, the online giving model, he says, doesn’t include the overhead of a larger fundraising event and allows more donors to engage with smaller gifts.

Other organizations also participated, raising various amounts of money. The eight South Carolina groups partnering with South Carolina Equality included: AIDS Benefit Foundation, Charleston Pride, GenderBenders, Harriet Hancock LGBT Center, Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services, South Carolina Black Pride, Southerners on New Ground and We are Family.

North Carolina groups participating in Give Out Day, among others, included: Charlotte Pride, Equality NC, Freedom Center for Social Justice LGBTQ Law Center, Gay Christian Network, LGBT Center of Raleigh, LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, PFLAG Charlotte, PFLAG Greensboro, Time Out Youth and Youth Outright WNC.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.