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Impact grant supports LGBTQ+ community needs assessment

Andrew Snyder in front of a rainbow pride flag
Andrew Snyder, research program coordinator at Kent State University's College of Public Health

A recent impact grant from the Gay Community Endowment Fund will help to shape future investments in the local LGBTQ+ community for years to come.

In March, the fund awarded a $10,000 grant to the Kent State University Foundation to support the Greater Akron LGBTQ+ Community Needs Assessment. This comprehensive assessment is the first of its kind in Greater Akron and will collect and analyze data surrounding key measures of health in the LGBTQ+ community, including education, housing, nutrition, employment, safety and recreation.

The results of the study will inform the strategies of local funders and service providers as they allocate resources and deliver programs to improve the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community in Greater Akron. A diverse group of more than 50 government, business and nonprofit organizations have signed on to participate in the project.

"Our goal is to analyze the strengths and unmet needs of the local LGBTQ+ community so we can provide a benchmark that will help decision-makers more confidently allocate scarce resources where they are needed most," said Andrew Snyder, research program coordinator at Kent State University's College of Public Health.

Snyder said the final product – a full community report that is slated to be released by August 2022 – will paint a picture of the community's current status, including not only deficits and unmet needs, but also the many strengths and accomplishments that can be harnessed to address priority findings.

"I believe there will be many levels of community impact, not just from the result of the community needs assessment, but through the community-based participatory approach itself," Snyder said. "The more important impact the project will have is creating a platform for organizations and community members to sit down at the table and have their thoughts, feelings and experiences heard. This will strengthen partnerships within the local public health system – partnerships that may not have formed without such a platform."

The assessment will collect and analyze data surrounding key measures of health in Greater Akron's LGBTQ+ community.

Snyder emphasized the importance of bringing all voices to the table during the assessment, including those of people who have been historically marginalized, such as people of color, transgender individuals, and people from low-income communities.

"In my experience, many local organizations that work on the front lines to help disenfranchised members of the LGBTQ+ community have valuable insight into the unmet needs and barriers people face in the pursuit of health and happiness," he said. "Breaking the mold of traditional, top-down, geographically bound needs assessments and inviting the community itself to the table to equitably participate in the needs assessment process can ensure that precious resources and investments in the LGBTQ+ community are appropriately allocated to make the most significant impacts."

Going forward, the results of the assessment will help to guide the grantmaking strategies of area funders like the Gay Community Endowment Fund.

"We are honored to be in a position to assist Andrew and his research team," said Julie Jones, chair of the Gay Community Endowment Fund. "We are certain the work being done at KSU will benefit GCEF and our community by helping us expand our reach and better identify areas of need where we can provide assistance and support to those who need it most. We have been impressed by their important work thus far and anxiously await the assessment findings."

After learning about the impact grant, Snyder expressed gratitude for the Gay Community Endowment Fund and the broad community support this project has received.

"I couldn't be more grateful for the Gay Community Endowment Fund's support," Snyder said. "I know this project will ultimately contribute to making the day-to-day lives of Greater Akron's LGBTQ+ community members a little better – and that is why I do this work."

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